Love at the End of the World

One of the reasons why I like dystopian fiction is because it makes all the emotions people normally have seem more vivid and real. Take a real-life dystopian and consider how much more deeply we appreciate the emotions the people have: Anne Frank's budding love for Peter, or the strong familial love they share.

When terrible things are happening in the world around us, it's nice to know that we can still feel--and believe in--love. I think that's the greatest power we have as humans.

So today I'm gonna get a bit mushy on you--after all, if I can't get mushy on Valentine's Day, when can I?--and tell you some of my favorite dystopian love stories.

I'm going to start with THE HUNGER GAMES. But I'm not picking this one for the reason you think. I know people were all split about Team Gale or Team Peeta or whatever, but to me the real love story was Katniss's family. Remember: the entire reason Katniss joined the Games was to protect her sister, Prim. And the relationship between Katniss and her mother fascinated me--it was so realistically broken, but also with hints of how different it could have been in a different world.

Can you imagine what kind of person Katniss would have been if she hadn't been from Panem? Can you imagine what sort of joyous, wonderful family she would have had?

That's the real heartbreak of the story for me. That the family was destroyed by the world they existed in.

But then again--the love survived. Katniss's love for Prim was the theme that carried all three novels. And I won't spoil MOCKINGJAY for those of you who've not read it yet, but I'll just say this: that damn cat made me cry.

I'm also going to add Carrie Ryan's THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH to my list of "love-dystopian-books," but again: not for the reason you think. Because while I DO think that Mary's love triangle is beautifully written (and the way a love triangle SHOULD be, where there's reasons and consequences for both boys), the things that I'm left with most isn't the love triangle.

It's the love Mary finds for her world.

Even though Mary's world is torn apart by zombies, even though she is surrounded by death and ugliness and horror--she still finds something beautiful in her world. She still finds something worth seeing. She doesn't give up on herself or her life--she still seeks the value of the world around her.

THIS is what makes Mary a strong character, in my opinion--that even as the world dies, there is something beautiful that still remains in it.

OK, OK, fine. All you romantics are probably shouting at me by this point because my list of love-in-a-dystopian-world books has yet to focus on romantic love.

I give you: DELIRIUM.

If you're a romantic at heart, this is the book for you. This is a world where love is eliminated as a dangerous disease, and where people literally cut the part of them that feels from their brains.

What I loved most about the main character, Lena, is that despite the fact that she lives in a world where love is feared and reviled and thought to be a disease that kills--she still falls in love. It creates a nice allusion to the way love really is: that it's a scary, dangerous thing, something that can hurt and even, yes, kill, but still worth it when it's real.

And finally, I'm going to mention Veronica Roth's debut: DIVERGENT. Please don't shoot me that you have to wait for this one to come out--because trust me, you want it now.

DIVERGENT is about a world that's run by factions that value certain traits: strength, truth, wisdom, humility. And it's about a girl trying to find her place in this divided world. It's very kick-butt, fast-paced, lots of blood and fighting and death.

But it's also a love story.

And yeah. I'm gonna throw you for another loop. Because although I love the love story between Tris and her man (no spoilers), I love even more the love story between Tris and herself.

Throughout the course of the novel, Tris is trying to figure out who she is, what she stands for, what she's willing to fight for, and what kind of person she wants to be. And although it's not really a conscious thing for her, she grows to appreciate and love herself for exactly who she is. She starts out wishing she could be one thing or another, but by the end she realizes that she's great the way she is.

So there you have it! For Valentine's Day, my book recommendations are a story where a girl loves her family, one where she loves her world, one where she risks everything for true love, and one where she discovers a love for herself.

What about you? What's your favorite romantic tale?


Kate Evangelista said...

I never knew Delirium was dystopian and has a romantic element. I must pick this book up.

Andrea Mack said...

Same here. I'm going to look for Delirium too.

Chelsea said...

This makes me want to read Delirium and Divergent all the more >_< Perhaps I'll start Delirium earlier than I planned, because obviously I need to read it, badly.

And I completely agree with The Hunger Games and The Forest of Hands and Teeth - I love them both for the same reasons. And, yes, that damn cat made me cry too.

This is a great post, so much love for this on Valentines Day!

- Chelsea

Charlie Rice said...

I'm a bit embarrassed that I've never heard of either of the books you've mentioned, but it really isn't my genre. But, I AM a romantic and Divergent sounds pretty good; I may just pick it up.

My favorite romantic tale, by far, is A Tale of Two Cities. Sure, there's some other stuff in there, but that's sacrifice for the woman you love. :)

PS. Mushy is good, especially today.

Angela Ackerman said...

It's funny--when I started reading, I was thinking 'Hunger Games" and "Forest of Hands and Teeth". And what two books do you mention? LOL.

Happy V day, you wonderful LEW peeps!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

lotusgirl said...

I loved those first two for the reasons you mention and many more. I have Delirium on my TBR list already and am now moving it up to the top. I must pick it up. I may just have to get it on my Kindle except my daughter may like it and she insists on reading book books. (What's with the new generation and old school technology? Maybe she's just a throwback. She's totally into classic rock.) It's probably just as well that Divergent isn't out yet. That way I have time to work it into my schedule. It sounds just like something I'd love. Thanks for the recs.

Ellz said...

There are so many books with great love stories. Thanks for sharing these.

Matthew MacNish said...

I've only read THG of all these examples, but I still think you're right on the money.

Happy VD Beth!

Courtney Koschel said...

I have read all of the above with the exception of Divergent. I think all of these dystopian novels are fabulous and really make you think. Thank you for sharing...and Happy Valentine's Day ;)

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Divergent is the only one of these books that I've yet to read, but I agree with everything you said here. The love in these stories is that much more important because the world around the main character is less than idyllic.

Great choices for this day of love!

Najela said...

I'm surprised Matched is up there because it wasn't really about love moreso than fighting for it. Delirium is on my list of books to read this month. I might read it for Valentine's Day just for the heck of it.

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy said...

One of my favorite books is a great example of many different types of love in a time of disaster. It's The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I know that it's not dystopian but it is set in a time when terrible things are happening, when the love is the only thing that keeps the characters going. The Host has romantic love, familial love, love/compassion for complete strangers, and through the story tolerance, acceptance and eventually love for a different species is learned. I never expected to learn so much about love as I did when I read this book.