What are the trends in endings for YA dystopian novels?
December 16, 2016 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for information about how common various endings are in the massively popular genre of YA dystopian novels. Bonus points for scholarly analyses, both quantitative and qualitative, but also people's personal reflections based on their own reading are welcome. Open to more nuance, but most crucially: how often does the dystopia get overthrown in the end?
posted by overglow to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know the answer to this, but the scholarly children's book people hang out on this listserv.
posted by the_blizz at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2016

I also have no answers for you, but as a librarian who serves that population I have read a veritable crapload* of dystopian novels. One thing that's interesting to me is that while more often than not the dystopia is overthrown, the protagonist often fails to meet their original goal. Like, the protags of YA dystopians rarely set out to overthrow the dystopia - they're trying to rescue a sibling (Hunger Games, Blood Red Road, Legend), stay with their True Love (Delirium, Matched), escape an oppressive community (Knife of Never Letting Go, The Giver) or just not personally die (Maze Runner, Unwind, also all the other ones listed). If the dystopia does get overthrown, it's a side effect, which is SO INTERESTING. And in lots of those books, the protag fails to achieve their actual end, which is really interesting too (Hunger Games is my favorite example of this, because of how totally brutal it makes the series).

Also interesting to look at: if the dystopian regime is overthrown, what is it replaced with (if we see the aftermath), and (how) is it better than what they started with?

* scientific terminology
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:20 PM on December 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

goodbyewaffle is totally correct. I don't think I have read any stories where the ruling group stays the ruling group in the end. I think that would be pretty unsatisfying and result in some backlash if the story was longer than a single book because people get really invested in series. Something has to change for the better, even if the main character dies at the end of it all.
What got the protagonist involved in the rebellion tends to vary quite a bit and like gw said, the resolution of that situation varies even more widely and isn't usually straightforward. They still become part of something larger than themselves and triumph in the end, even if they die and/or lose those they love. This hope for the future is a big part of the genre's appeal and can end up in a formulaic story.
posted by soelo at 9:51 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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