Finding joy in dystopian worlds

Laynie Clark, Assistant Arts & Life Editor

Whenever I develop any sort of anxiety or distress, my immediate reaction is to turn to the false reality existent in books. But why? Taken out of context, the concept of reading fiction can seem like a silly waste of time: sit in one spot while reading words that have no real weight upon your own life. Growing up, I was constantly bombarded with questions from curious onlookers as to why I’d voluntarily subject myself to imaginary worlds.

Over the years, I’ve finally started to gain perspective on the reasoning behind my passion for reading. There is something so comforting about leaving my reality behind and jumping into the pages of someone else’s tragedy. While that may sound gruesome, it is the honest truth. These fictional characters always endure so much trauma and heartbreak that I begin to ache for their pain rather than my own. The best part about these characters is that they always persevere; whether it be something as small as a breakup or as big as an outright war, they always find a way to come out on top. 

One of the genres that portrays this perfectly is dystopian: an imaginary place where life is miserable because of oppression or terror. Books that fall into this category are “Divergent,” “The Hunger Games,” “Red Queen” and “Shatter Me.” One of the most inspiring things that dystopian books include are the empowering female leads that know their worth and are able to wield some sort of weapon. As a woman, I will never stop appreciating books that showcase females as strong and powerful instead of fragile and fearful. For too long women were shown as the weepy love interest to the much more powerful men, and while I still love books that portray men’s strengths, I am delighted to see women getting represented as something more than a trophy wife. 

Reading dystopian books gave me the outlet that I needed, and continue to need everyday, to get through the most difficult times in my life and come out on top just like the protagonists taught me. These books have shown me how to live life based on my own principle and not anyone else’s, which is a lesson that I hope everyone learns eventually because my life has become considerably better. I used to be ashamed when it came to my love of reading, but without that love I would not have been able to see my true potential and fully come to terms with who I am.