Strictly speaking, HEMLOCK isn’t a dystopian. The world it takes place in—a world struggling to deal with a virus that turns people into werewolves—isn’t considered utopia by anyone. Not by the werewolves who live in constant fear of being reported. Not by the people who realize not all wolves are a threat. Not even by hate groups who want the government to be more aggressive in finding and detaining the infected.
But I think there are things HEMLOCK has in common with dystopian fiction and—as someone who loves dystopian books and movies—I hope there are things in HEMLOCK that will appeal to my fellow fans of that genre.
To me, the best dystopians have always seemed plausible. Those are the ones that hit you hardest and linger long after you’ve set the book aside. And while a werewolf virus isn’t exactly likely to sweep the globe anytime soon, I think the way the government—and the general public—deals with lupine syndrome in the book is believable.
In HEMLOCK, the world went from disbelief to fear to chaos to persecution. My characters all grew up hearing public service announcements about the dangers of lupine syndrome. They know there are camps where werewolves are sent, and they’re urged to report suspected infections. A few people question the ethics of persecuting and interning werewolves for life based on the fear that they might attack someone, but most people are too frightened by the virus not to accept the status quo.
And to me, that’s sadly plausible. History is littered with cases where people didn’t ask enough questions or stayed silent when they knew something was wrong.
Maybe that’s why I like the new crop of YA dystopian fiction so much. It’s filled with characters who realize their worlds are broken and who find the strength to do something about it. The settings themselves might be dark, but the characters give me hope.
In HEMLOCK, the situations might be bleak, but the characters draw hope from each other. And it’s my hope that even though it’s not strictly a dystopian, it asks some of the same questions and appeals to some of the same readers.
Thanks so much to Precious and Kai for inviting me to take part!
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Kathleen Peacock spent her teen years crushing on authors and writing short stories about vampires. She put her writing dreams on hold while attending college, but tripped over them when office life started leaving her with an allergy to cubicles. Her debut, HEMLOCK, is coming May 8th, 2012 from Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, and will be published in the UK under the title DEADLY HEMLOCK from Simon and Schuster Children's Books .