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Chapter 22 - The Catastrophic Endgames of Young Adult Literature

from Part III - Varieties of Apocalyptic Experience

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 December 2020

John Hay
Affiliation:
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
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Summary

The apocalyptic and postapocalyptic are staples of young adult fiction. While sometimes conflated with the dystopian genre, young adult postapocalyptic fiction (YAPA) is neither simply dystopian nor a watered-down version of adult postapocalyptic fiction. Young adult postapocalyptic fiction provides a stage on which young protagonists question the meaning and purpose of community and develop innovative responses to issues of identity and agency under challenging conditions (whether those come from zombies, pandemic disease, nuclear war, environmental degradation, etc.). YAPA novels include some classic postapocalyptic accounts of survival after nuclear war, as in Robert O’Brien’s Zfor Zachariah (1974) and the more recent popular series starting with Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games (2008) and including James Dashner’s Maze Runner (2009), Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies (2005), and Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011). These novels are to be contrasted with other YAPA novels, such as Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker or Octavia Butler’s Parable series. In each of those novels, the fact of living after a devastating event (or series of events) is not simply the setting of the novel but also a feature of the reader’s experience with the novel.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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