A few years ago you couldn’t walk into a bookstore without being swamped by the young adult dystopian fiction section. Titles such as The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent and countless others stared out at us with their glossy covers and ‘now a major film’ stickers prominently positioned.
If you walk into the same bookstore today, books that dominated the market in the early 2010s aren’t nearly as well represented on the shelves. So what happened?
Dystopian young adult fiction has been around for a while, The Giver by Lois Lowry was published in 1993. However, it doesn’t seem to be until The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was published in 2008 that the genre really took off. This was shortly followed by The Maze Runner by James Dashnerin in 2009. The massive success of these books saw publishing houses pick up more and more young adult dystopian novels.
2012 was a massive year for young adult dystopian fiction. We saw the publication of popular series such as Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Selection by Keira Cass, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi and countless others.
So what happened? In recent years there hasn’t been the same quantity of dystopian young adult fiction on the market as there was even 5 years ago. The movie sequel to Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, was a box office flop. Around the same time, we stopped seeing as many dystopian young adult books on the shelves.
I think the same thing might have happened to this genre that befell the vampires.
You know what I’m referring to. Twilight by Stephenie Myer and the massive vampire craze of the following years. Vampire Academy, The House of Night, Evernight and countless other books and series abounded featuring our toothy friends. Then readers had enough.
Market saturation. When there’s many books about the same topic it gets a little boring to read after a while. That’s not to say anything against these books, they’re great books! However, they were all competing for our attention and eventually, we needed a break. We needed to read about something different.
Now I don’t mean to say that there has been no dystopian fiction written or published in the last five years, but we haven’t seen the same level of hype around this genre since.
So is that it for the young adult dystopian genre? I don’t know. Suzanne Collins has recently announced that she will be publishing her prequel to The Hunger Games, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The book will be released in May of 2020 and it will be interesting to see what happens in the genre as a result.
The financial success of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is almost a given. Fans of both the original book series, and now the movies will pick up copies. There has been enough time I think for readers to want this book, and to have recovered from the dystopian boom a few years ago. My reading preferences will have changed no doubt since I read The Hunger Games several years ago, but that’s an interesting experience as a reader regardless.
Does this mean the genre is making a comeback as a whole? I don’t know. Suzanne Collins is a hugely successful author and her books have sold very well. Just because she has been given the green light to write another dystopian young adult book doesn’t mean less well known, or new authors will be.
The same can be said of vampire books; while they’re still being published, the majority of the books being sold in the mainstream bookstores are from bestselling authors such as Renée Ahdieh, who has written The Beautiful. There is an anthology due to be released next year, Vampires Never Get Old, collated by Natalie Parker and Zorida Córdova, which will feature a range of authors including Victoria Schwab.
These authors are all established and have been writing in other fantasy genres for some time. Their success means that they already have a loyal readership who will likely be willing to give these vampire and dystopian books a fresh go.
Perhaps it’s nostalgia for the books we enjoyed a few years ago driving this resurgence. Regardless, it’s going to be interesting to watch what happens in these genres. I personally am excited to return to Panem when A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is released next year, and I will hang onto the Twilight books on my shelf because they represent a time for me as a reader.
I don’t know if we’ll reach the same feverish demand for dystopian fiction, or vampires that we did a few years ago. That remains to be seen. I am a firm believer that for every book there is a reader for it somewhere. These genres will never completely go away, but like all trends, will rise and fall in popularity over time.
What do you think? Do you want a resurgence of dystopian books and vampire books in young adult fiction?
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