Digital Talk: Off the Shelf (& YA Dystopia)
Melina Marchetta, author of Looking for Alibrandi and The Piper's Son amongst other titles, features on the second cover of the Penguin online publication Off the Shelf. With the cover story pointing to her new release, the sequel to her first fantasy novel, Marchetta describes the process of taking one of her unseemly characters, Frio, and making him her protagonist. "What makes Froi interesting is that he's someone working out the good in him after being brought up by the bad," she says.
It's with this in mind, and recent events in London, that we come to a feature on the Dystopian genre making inroads on book shelves. Reflecting the very worst of society and humanity, the world in these books is bleak but this background provides their young heroes the impetus to rise above the misery.
Danielle Binks writes: "Dystopic society is characterised by human misery and oppression – stories are often set in cities where humans have little contact with nature and are suffocated by their modernised surroundings. Politics in such novels are often brutal and dictatorial, exemplifying the belief that power corrupts. The genre is bleak by its very definition. It explores and fictionalises the worst traits of humanity and often predicts a desolate future."
She goes on to ask, "How can such storytelling be beneficial, let alone entertaining, for young adults?" before delving into the literature for answers. In Days Like This she finds "the ultimate betrayal comes when parents start experimenting on their offspring, in the hopes of gaining their youth and using it for themselves. The protagonist, Lily, must escape her distorted parents and learn to live without them."
Then in Matched by Ally Condie we get "Cassia, a young girl who trusts The Society who chooses everything – what people eat, where they work, who they marry, when they have children and when they die. Everything is orchestrated by The Society and Cassia, like everyone else, trusts them implicitly... In this world The Society has eliminated creativity and curbed free-will. The Society have limited art and creation... [but] Matched pushes readers to articulate the wrongness of society... [as this is] a genre that makes heroes out of its young protagonists, demands them to question the norm and fight for a better world."
On a lighter note, Felice Arena talks about his new book, Whipper Snapper, in which a teen boy named Gus wakes up in the body of a 71-year-old man after a bus accident; and Sue Saliba says her book, Alaska, gives young readers "encouragement to explore their own worlds with courage, with passion, and to celebrate their own unique voice." Elsewhere, Tye Cattanach explores eBooks and apps, concluding that that "they might just be the most powerful tool in your book bag" for engaging young minds.
An online magazine for teachers and librarians, Off the Shelf is an engaging resource itself.
Girl With a Satchel