The Characters That Showed Us How

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Picture this: It’s ten years ago. You’re sitting in the school library, looking for a book to read for your report or just one to pass time in homeroom. You venture over to the fiction section, where your librarian has so nicely displayed some of the most popular books for your perusing pleasure. What are they? 

If you were like me, you probably noticed fantasy and dystopian titles about defiant heroes and their perilous adventures as they pushed back against their enemies. The clear winners of the “Most Popular” in these genres would most definitely have to be Matched, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Divergent, and The Maze Runner. What do you notice about these titles? Let’s break it down and take a little bit of a tangent. 

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of strife in national and international politics with increased involvement from the younger generation. Whether it’s standing up for their rights in person or online, forming protests for things they believe in, getting involved in decisions that affect their future, or being bold when others doubt them, the young people of the world are unafraid of engaging with change. I recall the level of activism we displayed being a shock for the older generation, who were even taken aback and shamed the young people in their lives for jumping in the deep end “at their age.” 

To us, it wasn’t a shock. And how could it be? I remember one person on the internet snapping back at the criticism for the fervor teens brought to real-world discussions with a simple reminder: “Look at what raised us.” It was these stories– those of Thomas, Katniss, Harry, Tris, and Cassia– that showed us the way. In our favorite books, we were taught that anyone, no matter how young, deserved to stand up for their world and show everyone what they were made of. Our role models blazed the trail, and we simply walked down it. 

It’s so interesting to ponder the effect of these novels on young adult culture. It makes me wonder about what we read now and how these stories will define our future and that of the current younger generations. I’ve personally noticed the idea of rebellion and pushing back against injustice sharing the stage with inner struggles and diverse identities. Heroes and heroines are not cookie-cutter, but unique and real, which makes their efforts to be the star of their story even more relatable. Suddenly, they are authentic people coming off the page and addressing personal traumas as well as worldly ones. Suddenly, they look a lot more like us. 

If I were to predict how the stories of today would touch our lives in the future, I would say that we would be a generation empowered to be imperfect people in an imperfect world, capable of absolutely anything we put our minds to. I can’t wait to see what our next chapter holds.