Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Dystopian Teen Novel Review Checklist
Alright, that’s it. It’s about time that someone made a checklist-style book review so I can stop suffering through all these popular dystopian teen books.
This summer I decided to let my pop-culture embarrassment catch up to me. As much as it pains me to say it…I had not read any of the Hunger Games books up until recently. So finally I acquired a library copy and read the first installment. My official book review is thus: not bad. I found it entertaining, even if it was a bit of a downer eighty-five percent of the time. If I’d bought the book, I would have kept it.
Unfortunately, this venture made me want to look deeper into this area of contemporary culture. Not the Divergent series, though—I’ve heard enough from that sector, and judging by the movie reviews I hear, the whole assembly is in its death throes. I did remember that another popular book had hit the theater screen recently, though. That’s what led me to pick up 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. The reviews were so positive it was intimidating. I was nearly breathless with anticipation when I turned the dust jacket aside.
Surely my whole family remembers that week. Certainly my well-read older sister does. That was the week I would not stop complaining. My most spoken sentence? “Oh, COME ON!” I could predict the outcomes of entire chapters. I can predict the whole rest of the bloody series if I feel like it. Like FUN it was a new take on alien invasions. The writing itself claimed to be not your standard alien invasion, but it was. It was the PEOPLE who changed. Rick Yancey made every character—I hit upon the right word this morning—witless in the devastation’s wake. Yes, I know an alien invasion of that level has catastrophic effects and world-shaking implications. But it seemed the sole duty of every character (90% are teens) to b**** about it on every page. There were no buck-up people who weren’t evil somehow. There was chronic mournfulness around every corner. Call me a sadist or unsympathetic (I won’t contradict you), but all I could think about while I was reading was a quote by Rocket Raccoon: “Oh boo hoo, my wife and family are dead…you think you’re the only one who’s lost something??”
Finally, the main character’s name was Cassie. That’s right. We’ve got Katniss, followed by Tris, and now Cassie. There’s also Cia, a girl main character from another series called—not kidding—The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau. I read it about a year ago just to make sure it didn’t beat my own book series to the punch. It didn’t. Once again, typical teen deathmatch dystopia.
Katniss, Tris, Cassie, Cia.
Am I being harsh? I kinda hope so. And don’t think you’re slipping by without a mention, Maze Runner. I’ve got my eye on you.
I think the biggest problem is that we don’t know what’s inside these books until we open the covers or see them on the big screen. Sure, every teen book promises on its hands and knees that you’ve never read anything like this before. But now I want a faster, more effective type of review that will analytically demonstrate whether or not this new series is just the same old thing. I egotistically, pretentiously, and cynically present to you:
My Own Ratings On New Stories
From a Pretentious Egotistical Writer
Motto: “We hope they don’t notice those acronyms.”
Place check marks in all that apply. Each check is worth one point.
- Is she white?
· If so, is there some form of love triangle around her?
· If so, is one of them an unapproachable dude she’s known from childhood, while the other one is less hunky yet slightly deeper model that she unwillingly (yet quickly) falls for?
· And again, if so, will half of the series’ plotline be dedicated to the main character’s indecision about which hunk she should date?
- Does he/she have not a scrap of positivity?
- If there some sort of testing that is happening?
- Is the main character being completely manipulated?
- When the main character seems to be driving the plot, is he/she still being manipulated?
- Do the character’s quirks not play into his/her overall actions or personality at all?
- Is the main character complaining? A lot, perhaps?
- Is it dystopian? (I hope so, otherwise it could get boring.)
- Are there loads of poor, downtrodden masses? (Again, that can be OK.)
- Is there some powerful militant/elitist class that has risen up to rule?
· If so, do they claim to “protect” the populace?
· Are they clearly evil? Let’s say, oh, do they promote senseless teen brutality?
· Did they clearly have a thesaurus handy when they were naming things?
- Are there some incarnation of zombies or vampires? (If so, this check mark is worth eighty thousand points. Take that, Maze Runner movies.)
- Is the entire plot of the series basically as follows:
· Badness happens.
· Evil entity does bad things to benefit themselves.
· Main character is somehow special.
· He/she figures out the apparent evilness.
· …Then forms a love triangle to hamper any rapid progress.
· Main character and a small rebellious force escape evil entity’s clutches.
· …Then finally they come back to defeat evil in an unsatisfying manner
o (note: denouement of love triangle should be just as unsatisfying).
Scoring my own potential book series…it got about ten. Okay, about eighty thousand and ten if I’m extra honest—I’ll admit that drone mobs are somewhat zombie-ish. See? I can complain about myself too. I’m such a teenage main character like that.