I Love You, Now Let’s Take Down the Government

What’s this, a post? Not only a legitimate post, but I actually managed to contribute to the TCWT blog chain on the right day this month? *celebration*

The theme for this month’s blog chain is…

“What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre? Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?”

Just in time for Valentines’ Day, too.

I had a bit of difficulty trying to distinguish which “genre” I usually write in. Really it depends on my inspiration–I’ve written apocalyptic novels, YA fiction set inside an insane asylum, fantasy, etc. So I decided to focus on the books that I like to READ– and lately I’ve been hooked on the dystopian trend.

Many of my ideas have been influenced by the thoughtful dystopian semi-guru Kirsten, who’s already a part of the blog chain. For nods, laughs, and a look at the genre in general, read her posts like this one.

She’s already spoken to my thoughts on romance in dystopian novels in general– how the storylines are repetitive, the love interests are two-dimensional, and there seems to be a formula for the final “choice”.

That’s what it comes down to, every time, is a choice between two ideals, a decision more symbolic than anything else. The love in dystopian novels is a higher metaphor for the dilemmas facing the protagonist. It’s not (usually) a relationship between two people who actually care about each other.

I’ll take, for example, the love triangle in Matched, just another one of the cookie-cutter YA dystopias to hit the shelves and the bestseller lists. Cassia has two perfect guys to choose from. Xander has been her best friend since they were children, and she’s “matched” to marry him by city officials. Ky is shunned for being an “outsider” because he was born in the countryside. He’s the one that teaches her rebellious poetry and asks her to fight against the government with him, the usual. She has the luxury of flirting with both of them during the course of the novel, and eventually picking one to side with.

But Xander and Ky are not “real” characters. They exist for Cassia, both love her intensely even though she’s a wimp, and cater to her every whim. Instead of characters, they’re actually used within the story as physical evidence of Cassia’s changing emotions. In the beginning, she’s more than happy to go along with the “matching” program and marry Xander, but (TOTAL SPOILER ALERT, BTW) by the end of the novel she decides to leave the society in favor of Ky.  (Didn’t see that coming, right?)

I understand why Ally Condie, the author, did this. Cassia is a weak character, and she goes back and forth throughout the entire novel. “Xander! Wait, Ky! No, Xander! Ky! Xander! Ky!” just as much as “Conform! Rebel! No, conform! Rebel! Hold on, conform! Just kidding, rebel!”. When she finally “picked” Ky at the end, it was just another way of saying “Viva la revolucion!”

I’m being cynical, because there were parts of the book that were half-decent. (I just can’t think of them right now.) I’m not saying that Matched is some trainwreck of a dystopian attempt, and if you have the choice between Stephanie Myer and Ally Condie, at least Xander doesn’t fall in love with Cassia and Ky’s child.

I mean, the series isn’t over yet, but I’m just assuming.

The wider point I’m trying to make is this: so often, love in dystopian novels is used as a plot device for decision-making, instead of a legitimate relationship between two people that care about each other.

How can we combat this? I think that it’s important to flesh out the characters as fully developed people instead of tying them down to a single cause, or letting them represent a certain path or idea.

Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite book, and I think one of the reasons that I adore it so much is because it doesn’t try to use characters in this way. Guy Montag has two “loves” in his life–although neither is the kind of over-sexualized Mary-Sue that we’ve come to expect from dystopian novels. He has a wife named Mildred, with whom he has a rocky and heart-wrenching relationship. Then he befriends Clarisse McClellan, a 16-year old girl who inspires him to think about the world differently (and ultimately affects the rest of the novel).

One could argue that he’s not in love with either of them. Yet their words and actions move him to decide between a life of ignorance or a life of solitude. Clarisse could be seen as the mechanism for rebellion in his life, but she’s a fully-developed character with more quirks and a better life story than any teenager I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about.

Mildred symbolizes his old life, and their past ignorance, only because that’s their entire history. Nothing is forced, and Ray Bradbury (the author) doesn’t attempt to stick labels on his characters.

Read Fahrenheit 451, if you haven’t. It deals with censorship, government, and literature in an ocean of poetic words that swell with imagery and draws you in with its lingering sentences and repetition, little by little, little by little, like a trail of candy that draws your mind into the woods of thought.

–I am not Ray Bradbury.

Happy Valentines’ Day! Eat lots of chocolate and celebrate your favorite hot fictional guys/girls 😀

Teens Can Write Too! February Blog Chain
February 5– http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com –Novel Journeys
February 6– http://lilyjenness.blogspot.com –Lily’s Notes in the Margins
February 7– http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com –Kirsten Writes!
February 8– http://correctingpenswelcome.wordpress.com — Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish
February 9– http://delorfinde.wordpress.com –A Farewell to Sanity
February 10– http://thewordasylum.wordpress.com –The Word Asylum
February 11– http://weirdalocity.wordpress.com –From My Head
February 12– http://estherstar1996.wordpress.com –Esther Victoria1996
February 13– https://alohathemuse.wordpress.com –Embracing Insanity
February 14– http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com –Red Herring Online
February 15– http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com –Go Teen Writers (Honorary Participant)
February 16– http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com –This Page Intentionally Left Blank
February 17– http://oyeahwrite.wordpress.com –Oh Yeah, Write!
February 18– http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com –The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
February 19– http://herestous.wordpress.com –Here’s To Us
February 20– http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com –Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

About Aloha

A teen writer and future world ruler. Llamas make me happy.
This entry was posted in Books and Books, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to I Love You, Now Let’s Take Down the Government

  1. melsar93 says:

    So I’m confused, Is Xander the vampire or the werewolf?

    • Aloha says:

      In a Twilight context, he’d be the werewolf.

      In a Buffy the Vampire Slayer context, he’s probably be a vampire (I’ve never seen it, but I’m assuming…? Do they even have werewolves?)

      In a Friendship is Magic standpoint, he’d be a brony.

      In a Hunger Games standpoint, he’d be the (spoiler) Gale.

  2. I read Kirsten’s post a while ago, and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Literature is conforming too much these days.
    You talked about many books I haven’t read, so I didn’t exactly get the whole story, but I think I know where you’re going, and I like it. Good post.

    • Aloha says:

      Kirsten is one of my favorite writers– she’s so concise, I’m honored to know her. And I feel bad for stealing her opinions ;A;

      You should read Fahrenheit 451! As for Matched, it’s a “take it or leave it” kind of thing. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Alice Hutcherson Mellark says:

    I really have to agree with this. Just the other day, my friend and I were talking about Matched and how wimpy Cassia is, and how annoying the love triangle is. The characters just aren’t well formed, and I get what you say about the characters representing a decision. Good post!

    • Aloha says:

      Yeah, we’ll have to rant in-depth this summer… we’ll have quite a few free hours to do so 😉 ROAD TRIP FTW.

      Thanks for stopping by! Don’t be a stranger~

  4. John Hansen says:

    Hehe, congrats on remembering on time! 🙂 I agree with you on all points here. I hate overdone romance and the same, annoying love triangles. Great post!

  5. This post was structured very intelligently and concisely. I have had a weekly award for intelligent and concise post writing you would probably get it. With a little ribbon.

    Also you’ve inspired me to read Fahrenheit 451, not to read Matched, and to reconsider the entire of nature of relationships in my own writing. Thanks a bunch.

    Also I feel really sorry for Xander.

  6. Miriam Joy says:

    Teens Can Write, Too? Definitely! I think this is my favourite post so far (though I’m a little behind on reading) – it was really thoughtful, you went into a lot of detail, and basically, yeah! I haven’t read either of the books you used as examples, but you gave enough details to make it clear what you were trying to say even for people who hadn’t.

    Also, melsar93, I think it looks like Xander would be the werewolf… right?

    • Aloha says:

      Thank you so much! And don’t worry, I’m totally behind too D: I have to catch up this weekend, now that I have a bit of time. Looking forward to hearing everyone else’s opinions!

      I agree, Xander’s totally the werewolf. Unfortunately.

  7. Skye says:

    I saw the title of this post and blinked. Thought going through my head: “What the llama? Aloha might actually have become supreme dooming ruler.”
    Yeah. I actually thought that. Because I’m awesome that way.

    • Aloha says:

      And I saw your username, and comment, and blinked. Are you…. me? From the future? Or maybe the past? Because, seriously, your blog is epic, and your bio sounds like it could be me with minor changes. (Namely I’m not homeschooled and I can’t knit, LOL.)

      Someday, my friend. Someday I (we?) will rule the world. And it will be awesome, in the way that all things you (we?) do are awesome.

  8. So um it looks like I ought to read more dystopian novels or less? All I’ve read, I think, has been Fahrenheit 451 and The Hunger Games. I feel out of it. But you’ve won an award. Check out my blog.

  9. Pingback: WINNING THINGS! | Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish

  10. wreakinghavoc14 says:

    Hey I just nominated you for like, a million plus awards at my site. And by that I mean 4. Also, I think your blog is lovely. http://correctingpenswelcome.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/winning-things/

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