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Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? Because they deal with reality...

by Adrienne - 3 Comment(s)

Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? This current trend not just with teens, it is also popular with many adults. These YA novels have even your parents following them! Why? Because they deal with real life issues that we either face in the world every day, or that the WORLD at large deals with every day. The proof is in the pudding eh? So what issues DO the current faves and bests deal with?

Wither The main issue this book deals with is the possible unknown side-effects of genetic engineering and insufficiently tested cures. This applies today to more than just genetics research; we have many diseases with unknown cures and unknown causes... Do we know the full effects of a lifetime of eating Kraft diner, painting our nails with formaldehyde polish, or spraying DDT on our vegetables and consequent genetic defects? No... and on and on and on with 100 million products and experiments we conduct every day. Diseases like ALS are New and just popping up and others like AIDS and many cancers still have no known cures.

Wither also deals with objectifying women and young girls solely for their looks (very western), reproductive capacities (prevalent in various countries today) and reproductive slavery. Slavery is slavery even within the confines of comfy couches and pretty lipsticks... As well as taking a look at what love really Is and Is not.

Birthmarked also takes a hard look at reproductive slavery, as well as being a case study for third world vs. first world paradigms. Set in 2403 in a society where our world and time is labeled "the cool age", it is an imaginative rendering of post apocalyptic survival - global warming style. The book even dares to propose how various current energy solutions such as using geothermic energy could have negative effects on society; or certain members of society, whenever dictatorship reigns. Our current world deals with global warming; 1st world vs. 3rd world; class issues and divisions within society (some more stark and apparent than others and some more covert); alternative energies and dictatorships Every Day. Perhaps the resonance of these books is not in their outlandish imaginings, but rather in their expressions of current realities made more digestible through the form of story. Check out the movie trailer here.

The Graceling series is perhaps one of the most multi-layered dystopian series of the bunch, teetering into the verge of fantasy, but striking home so closely to reality that I often found the books very difficult to read (even though this consequently made them my favourites of the bunch.) Dealing with issues of literacy and class, ability vs. disability, dictatorships, sociopaths, murder, justice, memory and healing, they also insert things such as birth-control and GLBTQ as givens, positive aspects of this much troubled society.

Bitterblue is the story of both a girl and a society recovering from the effects of a regime of terror. How does one uncover truth? How are "war crimes" dealt with fairly when the entire society is both implicitly guilty and traumatized at the same time? Can a thief be loyal, just, trustworthy and lovable? Can one be treasonous, break the law and yet be loyal and just under the law at the same time? How can just 4% of the population (the statistical existence of sociopaths) cause so much damage?


For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHIC: Is It Dystopia?

Social Studies 101 coming up, in the form of case studies presented in really engaging YA novels!

Stay tuned next Sunday for Part 2 of this blog: Dystopian Popularity Continued...

May is Zombie Awareness Month

by Alexandra - 4 Comment(s)

It's something of an inside joke here at Services for Children, Teens and Families that my TOP 5 list of GREATEST FEARS is pretty ridiculous. I mean... I don't think it's any more ridiculous than the next person's (fear in itself is quite irrational, is it not?) but everyone else seems to think I'm off my rocker.

ALEX'S TOP 5 GREATEST FEARS OF ALL TIME:

1) Fast Zombies

2) Rabbits

3) Slow Zombies

4) Lactose Intolerance (for me... I'm afraid of becoming LI, I'm not afraid of people that already are...)

5) Carrot Top (this guy)

I'm going to skip the things people say about me when I tell them about my lagomorphobia (that's the bunny bit, and no, it has NOTHING to do with Monty Python and the Holy Grail), because that's a whole other story, and today we are going to discuss my fear of Zombies.

People seem to think that Zombies are a silly thing for me to be afraid of. Because hey, why be afraid of something that's not real, right? WRONG. I think it is actually HUGELY intelligent for me to be afraid of both real and not-yet-real things (notice that phrasing, it will be important later). Because then I'm truly prepared for every eventuality. Like what if you thought your biggest fear in the whole world was black-widow spiders, but then massive, eight-legged, blood-sucking, bone-bashing, super-intelligent aliens came to Earth, and you were like "Freak on a Peak, I just pooped myself becauseI just saw something I didn't even KNOW I was afraid of!" and your body shut down and you just died from fear on the spot. WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?!?! I am. Because I have covered all of my bases and evaluated the things that are to be feared RIGHT NOW (like bloatiness from drinking too much milk) and DOWN THE ROAD (like undead ex-friends and family who are trying to suck my brain out through my nostrils). And fear will not surprise me.

If you want to be prepared for a possible Zombie Apocalypse, here are some things you need to check out:

This Scientific Article about Toxoplasmosa Gondii and a podcast about it too.

The story of Clairvius Narcisse, who's [Voodoo] Doctor turned him into a Zombie

The Symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (sounds like zombies to me!)

or the cracked.com article (which is much less PG-13, but way funnier than these others), Top 5 Ways a Zombie Apocalypse COULD Happen.

Then you'll want to look into the Calgary Zombie Survival Guide.

Still not convinced? Well... maybe some of these books will get you there:

And just in case that's not enough... there's always Zombie Carrot Top with Milky Eyes...

My world just turned... UPSIDEDOWN!

by Adrienne - 5 Comment(s)

What do we do when our world falls apart? Many of us turn to books and movies -- as a means of escape and coping -- but in addition to solace, books offer solutions and advice, empathy and new ways of thinking; and not just non-fiction. Much of the best new advice and ideas are fostered in fiction. Perhaps this is why dystopian novels are so popular. As a teen I read several books which definitely saved my butt. These include: "The Mists of Avalon" by Marion zimmer Bradley (this was a life changing book for me), "Girl Interrupted" by Susan Kaysen, Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning", "Sophie's World: a Novel on the History of Philosophy" by Josten Gardner, Huxley's "Brave New World" and others. I found it interesting to see that many of these titles are on our lists for Adult Books for Teens... Looking back I was probably going through a "midlife" existential crisis - at the tender age of sixteen! This, I realize, is not all that uncommon. As teens, our lives are tough. We are dealing many things, many crises, big and small (the zit on my nose! ahh! my parents' divorce ahhh!). And we are relatively new at coping, rarely having had to practice these skills because our parents or caregivers shield us from most of the struggles of childhood. Sometimes we are not new, as Sherman Alexie points out in an article on a recent visit to a Seattle alternative high school. "When I think of the poverty-stricken, sexually and physically abused, self-loathing Native American teenager that I was, I can only wish, immodestly, that I’d been given the opportunity to read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Or Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Or Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable....And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons—in the form of words and ideas—that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed."

Regardless, in addtion to being entertaining, books offer glimpses into other peoples' lives, hopes, dreams, problems, solutions and resolutions. Books, or rather stories, can make us resilient. I'm going to be bold and go so far as offering up books as lifesavers. Claiming their rightful place in the creation of a sane society. So I thought this would be a nice tie-in to Canadian author Steven Galloway's book "The Cellist of Sarajevo", for CPL's 'One Book One Calgary' intitiave (read it, it's good!). It explores the resiliency and power of the human spirit so I created a display called "My world just turned... UPSIDEDOWN!" which showcases some of these books. I've included some bizarre and strange Graphic Novels as I think stretching our imaginations is one of the best ways of envisioning new possibilites. They also provide delicious escape -- which it is essential to do many times in order to maintain one's mental health. So whatever you are dealing with (as I'm sure there's something, whether you are a teen or not..) here are some literary life jackets:

RAPE

SUICIDE/ ANXIETY/ DEPRESSION/ CUTTING

and FYI Cynthia Voigt is one of my new fave authors - check out some of her fantasy books too!

+ check out this ladies blog!! http://simpleeserene.com/

EATING DISORDERS

PREGNANCY

SEX

GIRL POWER / CENSORSHIP

GLBTQ

STREET KIDS/ SCHOOL SUSPENSION / FIGTHTING

DRUGS

... and one short tear jerker on the resiliency of the human heart...

What do we do when the world falls apart?

by Jilliane - 4 Comment(s)

Although I can't explain it, teen publishing trends clearly demonstrate that we are obsessed with our own destruction.

The truth is, I'm getting a little tired of dystopic reads, but there isn't a lot I can do about it because publishers just keep churning them out. And, truth be told, there are a lot of great dystopic reads out there. Let me tell you about just a few of my favourites:

Bacigalupi paints a bleak future for earth--a world where fossil fuels have all been used and the oceans have risen to drown coastal cities. It is here that we meet Nailer, a ship breaker. He and many others are foreced to scavenge beached oil tankers for things like copper wire and fuel. When Nailer finds a beached clipper he is forced to decide if he will strip the ship of its wealth and become a rich man, or try and save the ships only survivor--a rich girl, daughter of a shipping-company's owner.

Book CoverGeneticists have developed a vaccine for all physical ailments and administered it to a whole generation. What they didn't know, was that their vaccine was a time-bomb. The children of this generation are now susceptible to a virus that claims the lives of men at 25 and women at 20. There are few remaining first-generation individuals who are now aging, and working hard to develop an antidote. Meanwhile, perpetuating the species is of the utmost importance. The need for new births has spawned an ugly breeding program where young women are kidnapped and forced into polygamist marriages. Rhine, a 16-year old, has been taken from her Manhattan home and thrust into the hands of a wealthy young man as his fourth wife. Her determination to escape never wavers, despite the privilge and comfort of her husband's mansion.

book coverCassia Reyes lives in a perfect society. What's more, she is perfect--a model student, daughter and citizen who has everything she needs: food, shelter, education, training and even a future husband that has been carefully chosen just for her. Cassia even knows when she will die--after all, every citizen in this perfectly controlled, perfectly monitored world dies at 80--the perfect age to die.

At Cassia's Match Banquet she is paired with Xander, her best friend and definitely her soul mate, and everything seems fine. But when a computer error shows Cassia Ky's face instead of Xander's, Cassia starts to have questions. Her mind begins to work differently and and suddenly Cassia's society doesn't seem so perfect anymore.

Matched has been compared to Margared Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, Lois Lowry's The Giver as well as George Orwell's 1984. Definitely worth the read.

Book Cover

It is time for Tally Youngblood to party. Her sixteenth birthday is coming up and soon she will be transormed into a great beauty. Scott Westerfeld paints a world where people are perfectly proportioned, perfecly groomed and perfectly lovely. Modern science has developed a surgery that has elimited all forms of ugliness--but at what expense?

Right before her surgery, Tally meets Shay, a wild, willful girl who decides she doesn't want the surgery. To Tally, this is unheard of--or is it?

Tally discovers a group of runaways who have all chosen not to have the surgery and live at a refugee camp -- the Smoke. It is there that Tally and the other refugess start to learn more about the perfection surgery and the price you pay for beauty.

Book Cover

Years ago a grand experiment led to the development of Incarceron -- a gigantic prison made of metal and designed with cutting edge technology. Incarceron was created to lock away all undersirables, resulting in a perfect utopia.

The experiement failed and Incarceron became self-aware, sentient and tyrannical, and generations of inmates have been struggling to survive. Technolgy has now been outlawed and society has reverted to a feudal state.

Claudia, daughter of Incarceron's warden has an arranged marriage to an impending heir. When the marriage is moved forward, Claudia vows to do whatever it takes to avoid it --i ncluding helping a prisoner of Incarceron to escape.

Book CoverIn order to end war, society has been divided into five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (fearlessness), Candor (truth), Erudite (intellect), Amity (friendship). At sixteen, you are allowed to decide which faction you will spend the rest of your life in.

Beatrice Prior was raised as an Abnegation, but is certain she does not want to remain there. She takes her aptitude test to discover which faction she is best suited to and surprisingly, is given several options. Beatrice is Divergent -- a fact that she cannot reveal to anyone. She chooses to join the Dauntless faction and undergoes an exhausting initiation ritual which will determine if she can remain with the faction or must go factionless.

Beatrice slowly discovers what it means to be Divergent and learns more about how her society has maintained peace.

This is such a popular topic, Tyler posted on it just last year, so if you want to hear abour more dystopic reads check out his post.

Now, one final thought. Because thoughts of our impending destruction (or not) have been on my mind, I've started collecting dystopic songs to make a little 'The world is going to be destroyed and we're all gonna die' playlist. There are tons of great tunes on this topic--clearly people have been thinking about the end of the world for a long time. This is what I've collected so far:

  • You and the Candles Hawksley Workman
  • Tables and Chairs Andrew Bird
  • It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) REM
  • The Beginning After the End Stars
  • The Eve of Destruction Barry McGuire
  • Animals andThe Wall Pink Floyd
  • They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh! Sufjan Stevens
  • 2+2=5 Radiohead
  • Citizens of Tomorrow Tokyo Police Club
  • Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground) by Mike + The Mechanics

What am I missing? Tell me all your best end of the world songs so I can beef up my list!