There's a lot of ranting going on in the blogosphere today due to The Broke and the Bookish's weekly Top Ten Tuesday meme. Today, the prompt was the top ten most frustrating characters ever. Originally, I wasn't going to participate in the meme this week. If, when reading the prompt, several ideas don't spring naturally to mind, I usually skip that week. I don't have top ten frustrating characters in mind (although reading other blogger's list definitely reminded me of what I hated and loved to hate about some characters); however, this topic happens to coincide with a post I've been wanting to write about my frustrations with a particular genre.
I may upset some fellow bloggers, but I've got to say it. Friends...I'm sick of dystopia.
That doesn't mean I haven't read some FANTASTIC dystopian novels over the past few years: Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy and Megan McCafferty's Bumped and Thumped for example. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and The Giver by Lois Lowry are also favorites of mine. Recently I finished reading Ally Condie's Matched trilogy, which I liked, but also highlighted for me how overexposed the dystopia genre and its key plot points are: the technologically savvy but overly oppressive government (Capital, Society), the female protagonist who chafes under the government's rule and ultimately decides to break out, the, often unequally weighted, love triangle.
Partly what's exhausted me isn't the books I've read but the books that are popping up on TBR and debut lists everywhere I look. Peruse a publisher's latest catalog or the bookshelves at your local bookstore - dystopia is taking over! Although the unique aspect of world-building continues to intrigue me, I can't bring myself to pick up yet another dystopian novel, even if it explores the cognitive highway of our memories like Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans, because the "new world" setting is merely masking the same old tired storyline and characters.
Also, many of these dystopias are series, usually trilogies, which means I am investing significant time and energy in not one book but three or more that may ultimately leave me unsatisfied. Part of my frustration is in the unnecessary cliffhanging that drags the plot on for two to three more books. An epic story like Rowling's Harry Potter deserves its seven books, but currently I am aching for a good standalone, preferably of the contemporary variety.
A final underlying conduit of my frustration may be the obvious move on the part of many authors and publishers to cash in on the latest craze in YA lit. When Twilight went blockbuster, suddenly the Teen sections of bookstores were awash in black and blood-red covers of pale, moody guys with sharp incisors hovering protectively (or provocatively) over a beautiful and innocent (but inwardly strong) heroine. The craze began leaking into contemporary Adult lit as well. After the success of The Hunger Games, vampires are duking it out with tough, rebellious chicks and their hunky, and occasionally sensitive, love interests in an apocalyptic battle to establish a new and improved literary society. It's making my head spin.
As a remedy, I've found myself returning to the classics. I've finally gotten in a rhythm with Anna Karenina, and I love it. Les Miserables is on tap next, followed by Bel Ami, with maybe a little bit of historical fiction thrown in. I'm also currently reading Steve Luxenberg's memoir, Annie's Ghosts, about discovering the existence of a maternal aunt only after his mother's death. But this book is more than a rehash of family secrets. It explores immigration pre-, during, and post-World War II as well as mental health assessment and care during the early and mid-twentieth century. Finally, I'm reading Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, which I picked up solely because it was illustrated (by Maira Kalman), but it turned out to be just what I needed: a regular teen girl trying to parse out, you guessed it, why she and her boyfriend broke up.
So guys, if you've stuck with me this long, am I crazy? Justified? Should I give dystopia another chance? A cooling off period? I need some perspective here!