my brain at 3am: young adult books and dystopia


i have read Divergent and Insurgent, and i have watched the movie – the concept to any young adult story, including that of the Divergent series (photo above) is not new. what is different in all of them is the world they portray and the protagonist and characters that exist in them – and sometimes the latter is not new either.

what i will always love about these stories is this: the convergence between the teenager and the dystopian world, and the belief that it is the teenager, the ever-so-relatable teenager, who manages to save the day. and how? because he/she refuses to see the world the way everyone else does.

and one can easily dispute how unrealistic such a situation may be – and then i have to ask you to think again, that you underestimate the average teenager in society, that this voice that is different among a sea of uniformity may be just the ripple the ocean needs.

my line of work at the moment puts me at the forefront of teenage rebellion. every day i am confronted with teenagers asking me questions about why society works the way it does. they are skeptical, at best. at their worst they take offence easily to their sense of freedom. they criticise the education system, they criticise the government, they are doubtful of the way justice and law and freedom of speech work.

and, yes, many times it is exhausting. it is exhausting to create pockets of hope among teenagers who doubt the words you and authorities may say. and it is exhausting trying to fight them.

but then i ask myself, why? why fight something that appears so natural to them? and, wasn’t i in their shoes when i was their age – not so long ago? didn’t i also rebel?

and then i ask myself, why? why did i, and do they, rebel?

and this was what google search gave me:

During the teenage years, the area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is developing. This is the part of your brain that is behind your forehead. It’s your thinking cap and judgment center, Elkind explains, which means kids can now develop their own ideals and ideas.

Whereas younger children don’t see the flaws in their parents, adolescents suddenly see the world more realistically. “They construct an ideal of what parents should be, based on their friends’ parents, on media parents. When they compare their own parents to the ideal, they find them wanting. Their parents don’t know how dress, walk, talk; they’re embarrassing,” he tells WebMD.

All the arguments — they’re also the result of the prefrontal cortex at work, Elkind says. As a child evolves into a teenager, the brain becomes able to synthesize information into ideas. Teens want to exercise their new skill — and they tend to practice on their parents. “It may seem that they argue for the sake of arguing. But really, they’re practicing their new abilities.”

so, maybe we shouldn’t fault teenagers for the way their minds work, if biology is in order. and maybe, if anything, we should try to praise this gift that biology gives them. after all, mother nature should have a good reasoning behind it, for giving us a period in our lives where we are so absolutely skeptical of the way everything operates around us.

and, if anything, this is what i believe young adult dystopian novels are currently tapping on: the ruthless curiosity and rebellion of the teenage boy and girl undergoing puberty, defiant against authority figures, unwilling to accept the status quo.

and i think, this is, if anything, what many authors of the young adult genre try to capture, this beautiful yet confusing period where you, as an individual, are both so sure and so unsure of your existence in the world. after all, isn’t it so powerful and unique, this ability to think of yourself as an individual as well as a subject of society? and doesn’t it open hundreds upon thousands of gateways into seeing the world as how it is and is not and what it could essentially be?

so why is it as adults we resign to the world order? why can’t we look at the teenagers and, instead of scorn over their criticism, force ourselves to question our beliefs again? they may seem lost in this world, they may seem immature at times and they may seemed fuelled with angst – but aren’t they sometimes justified to feel this way as individuals of society? and as adults, aren’t we entitled to the same emotions? comparing us to them, are we any better?

we always compare ourselves to our childhood and state that we’ve lost our innocence and childlike curiosity of the world – but who has ever looked back at our teenage selves and ever lamented over losing their skepticism and rebellion? doesn’t anyone miss it? the ability to say ‘no’ and to push aside social responsibility?

when we look back at the past, it feels like we look too far. when we look back on history, we jump to the big bang, the dinosaurs, the Egyptians – we forget about the last century where we’ve come so far. when we look back at ourselves, we jump back to our first memory as a child – we forget about our individual rebellion, the moment when we made so many revelations on the concept of perfection and that it did not pertain to the society, the people around us, nor ourselves.

we forget about the teenager. we forget about the bridge we cross between the victim and the culprit. but that bridge was the most important. that bridge was when we saw, finally were able to see, open-eyed, that our world was neither filled with victims nor culprits, but of individuals too scared to act out and make a difference, and the awareness that if we just spoke up, we could.

i think that is what the dystopian teenage novel has in its grasp: the ability to see that bridge.

and my thoughts are still a’muddled by these strings of thought…

– cumuloq ❤


One thought on “my brain at 3am: young adult books and dystopia

  1. Pingback: The Dystopian Trend: The Giver, The Hunger Games and More | Cumuloquoise Blog

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