The Cardus Daily

Dystopian Beach Reads

Alissa Wilkinson  |  July 4, 2011  |  Literature

Today’s a holiday here in the States—a holiday that means beach-going for many people here in New York. In an attempt to beat the crowds, my husband and I decided to swap out Thursday for Monday, so last Thursday we made a trip out to Rockaway Beach (about an hour from us by subway, in Queens). It was a great choice: the weather was perfect, the beach was clean and beautiful and not too crowded, and the papers have been full of news about the new food stands on the boardwalk, several of which are outposts of some favorite Brooklyn joints (clearly, the hipsters are en route).

Beaches mean reading, and not heavy reading, either. But I didn’t have anything around I wanted to read. After some thinking I came up with two options: Emma Donoghue’s Room, or Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. But I couldn’t decide, so I polled my Twitter followers, who came down emphatically on the side of Hunger Games (and perhaps you were among them: if so, thank you). I bought the trilogy on my Kindle and packed up for the beach.

I finished the first of the three books later that night, having read most of the day. I won’t write a review, because you can easily look it up, but it had all the elements I like best when it comes to sort of scifi/fantasy literature: it’s a compelling read, with a very spunky protagonist, a reasonable sort of romance, a connection to “my world” (that is, a setting that I don’t need to stretch too far to understand), some great connections to history (in this case, the Roman empire), and, above all, a future dystopia, something I (somewhat inexplicably) adore. Plus, it brings up a lot of good ethical points without getting pedantic, mostly about a very important question: what will happen if we become so entertainment-obsessed that we lose our humanity?

Part of what made it a great beach read is that it’s really Young Adult fiction, something I’ve recently gotten back into. I have a number of friends who write and publish YA fiction; one of them, Sara Zarr, who was nominated for a National Book Award for her book Story of a Girl (which, incidentally, she started writing at the Glen Workshop years ago), wrote a great piece for the Image Good Letters blog in response to a recent widely-buzzed-about article that said that young adult fiction is too dark. Her response: YA fiction saved me. It’s well worth the read.



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