YA 101: The ever popular “Dystopian”

I must confess I have used this word to describe books that are not dystopian.  While dystopian stories are very similar to apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, they are truly two different beasts all together.

“Dystopian” seems to be the catch-all phrase for novels that take place in the future after some disaster, survivors fighting against some horrible event.  It’s easy to confuse the two because a dystopian society can rise from a post-apocalyptic event; however, that doesn’t make it a dystopian story.  Here is how I would like to define the differences.

A dystopian society is one where  “social perfection” is obtained at the expense of something else, such as enslavement, loss of personal freedoms, or the surrender of some aspect of human nature.  The plot tends to focus on the slow process of societal change, or an abrupt change to a cataclysmic event.  The society that is in place is stable, strong.  That doesn’t make it a good place to be.  In fact, what’s in place is usually sickening and appalling.  There are usually two warring factions:  those in control and those who are oppressed.  It’s utopia turned upside down.  There also doesn’t appear to be an explanation as to why the current society grew the way it did; it is simply a story of the character’s struggle against an oppressor, whether it’s a government, enslavement or both.

In an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic story, the plot focuses on the instability of a society during/after a cataclysmic event shatters society.  The small society that is left is usually isolated and threatened.  There is usually very little hope, the future is bleak.  Humanity and existence is endangered.  These stories explore man’s struggle to battle Earth’s shattering events.  They take the reader on the characters’ quest for survival.  These types of stories explore the hows and whys of the apocalyptic event, they show the rebuilding of the society, who is put in charge and why.  There is nothing utopian about it.   It’s nitty, gritty and intense.  The world is in shambles and folks are trying desperately to survive and rebuild.

Examples of YA Dystopian novels:


Samples of Apocalyptic/Post Apocalyptic


YA 101: The “Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic” Genre

Welcome to day 3 of the YA 101:  Genre exposition. Today’s topic:  Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic genres.

After doing research for these posts, I realized how much confusion there is between Apocalyptic and Dystopian.  Let me say for the record, folks, these are two different beasts entirely.  I’ll get into their differences more when I get to the Dystopians.

Apocalyptic fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction and the tales center around the end of human civilization.  It is written as the event, (nuclear explosion, alien attack, pandemic, supernatural phenomena, warfare, etc), takes place.  Think movies like Armageddon.

Post-apocalyptic fiction is set in a world or civilization after such a disaster. The stories can take place right after the event or years after, sometimes as long ago when all that is left is myth (think of stories of Atlantis).  Most of the time, very little of the previous world is left, and technology is advanced (think Terminator).

Examples of Apocalyptic novels:


Post-Apocalyptic novels include:


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Do I read what I write? Umm… Huh? Do I have to answer that?

Today I have the lovely and energetic author, Jennifer M. Eaton, with me to promote CONNECT THE DOTS, her new short story released by Still Moments Publishing in their For the Love of Christmas anthology.

Jennifer is going to talk to us about reading what she writes.  Are you guys ready?  Take it away, Jennifer.

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Well hi-dee-hoo neighbors!  Good to see ya! 

I’m here to selfishly promote my anthology “For the love of Christmas” offer some words of wisdom on a topic of Jenny Keller Ford’s choice.  I do this hoping you will buy my book out of the kindness of your heart, because Jenny told me to is such a good friend.

So… What is the topic?

Reading books in the genre that you write.

Ummm… Really?  Can’t I talk about something else?  No?  Ugh.  Okay… so here’s the scoop.

I know that everyone out there who calls themselves an expert tells you to read inside your genre.  Their reasons are totally sound:

  1. Get a feel for the market
  2. Make sure the story you want to write is not already written
  3. Learn from the style of others writing in your genre.

There may be other reasons, but since I’m going to debunk anyway, let’s just hit these three.

Let’s chat about these:

  1.  If I read books out right now, they were contracted at least a year ago.  So, let’s say vampires ar in… I write a vampire book.  So do 100,000 other people.  Publishers get tired of vampire books saturating the market and stop requesting them.  Now I’m skunked, right?  In my opinion, write what you want to write.  Write what makes you happy.  If it’s good, it will probably sell.  You are going to spend six months or more with these characters… why stress out about writing characters you don’t like for a market that might not be there when you’re done?
  2. Who the heck cares if the story is already written?  How many different versions of Red Riding Hood are out there?  Ideas are not copyrighted.  You can have the same idea as someone else. The trick is to put your own slant on it… and if I didn’t read a book like it (in the genre) I’d have to put my own slant on it, right?
  3. Now that’s just ridiculous.  You can pick up on anything from any genre and apply it to what you write in.  If you do it well, it will transcend genre.

Here’s the God’s honest truth:

  • Last Winter Red, in the Make Believe Anthology, is a Dystopian.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a dystopian, although I’ve seen movies.  In fact, I had no idea that is was Dystopian until someone told me.  Did not reading Dystopian hurt my story telling abilities?  Nope!  Seemed to work out fine for me!
  • Connect the Dots, in the “For the Love of Christmas” anthology, and its follow-up “A Test of Faith” coming out in January… they are both Contemporary Romances with heavy Christian influence.  Do I read Christian Romance.  Absolutely not! (Although there is nothing wrong with them) Romance as a whole is not my cup of tea, unless you mix some explosions in there.  I wanted to make my Romance “Connect the Dots” more interesting, so I decided to shove in a supernatural theme, and since it was Christmas, I went with God… Imagine me… putting God back in Christmas.  I’m such a rebel!  But that’s how this came about… I flexed a genre to make it interesting to me… and I didn’t have to read a bunch of stuff I didn’t like
  • Fire in the Woods is a contemporary YA Sci-Fi.  Nope, I don’t read it.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve even seen anything like this anywhere. Hmmmm.  That could be good, or bad.
  • Une Variente, which I am currently querying, is a Paranormal.  Now, I will admit that I have read a few Paranormal novels.  One of them was even a shape-shifter novel, like Une Variante.  I guess the only influence was that I thought “I can think up a better story than that” … and so I did.

What do I like to read?  Give me knights.  Give me Dragons.  Give me Elves.  Castles?  Oh Yeah!  Love it!

Why don’t I write it?  Well, I tried once, but since I read SO MUCH OF IT I could not come up with anything that I thought was original. The novel lays at the bottom of my closet, half-written.

See my dilemma?

No.  I will not start feverously reading inside the genres that I write.  The next book I pick up will be because it interests me… not because I need to do research.

And as for castles and dragons…. I’ll leave writing those to the people who do them best.

Do you read inside your genre?

christmas pine and stars

Thanks, Jennifer, and to answer your question, yes, I read inside the genre I write.  I also read outside the genre I write.  In fact, I read more in genre I don’t write than write in the genres I read.  Did that make sense?  

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Jennifer Eaton lives on the East Coast USA with her husband, three boys, and a pepped up poodle.  She hosts an interactive website www.jennifermeaton.com aimed at making all writers the best they can be.

Her Dystopian novelette “Last Winter Red” is available as part of the “Make Believe” Anthology from J.Taylor Publishing.  Her Christmas Romance “Connect the Dots” is available as part of Still Moments publishing’s “For the Love of Christmas” Anthology.  Both are available in ebook format from Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and Smashwords.

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Last Winter Red:  In search of a husband, Emily leaves the safety of the city and risks her life stepping into the outside world.  What she finds there will question the foundations of everything she believes in.

Connect the Dots:   Jill has no idea what she wants for Christmas, but when it looks like her best friend Jack is going to get exactly what he asks for, Jill makes a Christmas wish that will change both of their lives forever.

You can stalk follow Jennifer at the following locations.  Tell her I sent you.






Insurgent – Book Review

Hi everyone.

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)I finished reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth a couple of days ago and had to take some time to process what I read and try to decide what kind of review I wanted to write.

From Goodreads:  One choice can transform you–or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

My Review:

I have mixed emotions on this novel.  Don’t get me wrong.  Ms. Roth pulls off the story line without a hitch.  Her prose is admirable.  There were times I sat back and said “Man, I wish I wrote that.”  I got to see a side of Four I didn’t see in Divergent, and Tris takes us on an unstoppable roller coaster of guilt and pain throughout the entire novel.  While these were ‘likable’ to a certain extent, there was so much more I felt was lacking.

Insurgent starts exactly where Divergent left off and there is no recap.  If you haven’t read Divergent in a while, read it right before you read Insurgent so the story is fresh in your mind.  Otherwise you’ll be lost.

Sadly, I thought the plot was lacking a major Dystopian feel.  Everything that Divergent was, Insurgent wasn’t.  Four, now known primarily as Tobias, seemed too haughty.  He and Tris are always complaining about why the other kept some secret away from the other.  It got old after a while.    Tris is so wrapped up in her guilt (good insight into her character until you reach page 500 and she’s still moaning about it) that she does really stupid things she knows is going to anger  Tobias.  I understand the whole guilt thing, but by the end of the book, I thought Tris was acting a lot like Bella Swan, and Tobias was a wanna be Edward.  I am glad Ms. Roth gave us a ringside seat on Tris’ and Four’s relationship, but the action suffered and I tired of the bickering.  In Divergent we had ferris wheel scaling and train jumping and zip lining.  Insurgent traded all that with relationship reflections and the primary plot took a back seat.  It didn’t have the punch, the fast-paced plotting I was expecting.

If you are unfamiliar with the plot line:  the Erudite are trying to take over their world by injecting Divergent with a new serum that will kill the Divergent, while the Factionless are planning a revolution.  The sad thing is, the plot is lost on Tris’ and Tobias (rarely “Four”) relationship and back and forth angst.  It got really old for me being stuck in Tris’ cycle of guilt for 3/4 of the novel, which is a lot since the book is 525 pages long.

There is a lot of betrayal going on in this book between Tris and her brother, Tris and Four, Tris and Will and her parents, Tris and Marcus, Tris and Four.  Tris and Four.  Oh, did I say that already?  I felt like I was stuck in a groove on a broken record.  I also found Tris’ sudden ‘trust’ of Marcus unrealistic.  It’s almost like she does what she does just to make Tobias mad, not because she has an aptitude for Erudite as a Divergent.  She gets it in her head if she dies doing something noble, her guilt over Will’s death will vanish.  I wanted to slap her.

There was a cool little cliff-hanger at the end, but I think 525 pages to get there was way too long.  I felt cheated somehow.  I didn’t feel like the ending made up for the rest of the angst-filled book, which makes Insurgent, to me, a filler book.  I’m not quite sure what was to be accomplished with this book.  It could have easily been cut in half  and served the same purpose.

There were a few shining moments in Insurgent but they were too few and far between for me.  In fact, you could probably read Divergent (which was amazing), read the first 3 chapters and the last chapter of Insurgent and be caught up to date and ready for book 3.  Will I read the third book?  Yes.  I’m invested. I want to see how it all gets wrapped up in the end.  I only hope Ms. Roth gives us the action-packed dystopian in the final chapters as she did in Divergent. She’s a talented author. She has an incredible way with prose and drawing a picture in the reader’s mind.  Insurgent just didn’t hold up to Divergent in terms of action and plot.  She has one more chance to make the series shine.  I pray she pulls it off.

My score:  3.5 stars out of 5.