New Futures, same old Fear: Gender-based Violence and Victim Coping in Contemporary Young Adult Dystopian Fiction



dystopian fiction, young adult, sexual assault, postfeminism, trauma, culture


The ability of dystopian fiction to offer critical views of futures riddled with the devastating consequences of today’s failures is pervasive also in its literary subgenre targeting young readers. While scholarship on these novels is extensive, the prevalence of sexual assaults in this subgenre requires attention. This study offers an introductory analysis of two contemporary young adult dystopian trilogies, Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011-2013) and Beth Revis’ Across the Universe (2011-2013), with a focus on the sexual assaults the protagonists endure. The discussion draws on trauma and sexual abuse research to ascertain how and if these future societies and heroines challenge traditional representations of this crime. 


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Andrea Burgos-Mascarell, Universitat de València

Andrea Burgos-Mascarell holds a degree in English Studies, a Master in Advanced English Studies, and a PhD in languages, literatures and cultures by the University of Valencia, in Spain. She specializes in utopian and dystopian fiction in English with a particular interest in fiction aimed at young adults. She is a lecturer at the University of Valencia and a freelance translator and proofreader. She has published articles on bibliometrics, interdisciplinary approaches to literature, and cultural aspects of dystopian fiction in national and international journals.


Alaggia, Ramona, and Susan Wang. “I Never Told Anyone until the #Metoo Movement:” What Can We Learn from Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Disclosures Made through Social Media? Child Abuse & Neglect, vol.10, 104312, 2020. DOI:

Altrows, Aiyana. “Silence and the Regulation of Feminist Anger in Young Adult Rape Fiction. Girlhood studies, vol. 12, no. 2, 2019, pp. 1-16. DOI:

Baccolini, Raffaella. “Introduction.” Dark Horizons: Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination. Eds. Raffaella Baccolini and Tom Moylan, Routledge, 2003, pp. 1–12.

Bacon, Francis. New Atlantis. 1627. Project Gutenberg. 2008.

Balaev, Michelle. “Trends in Literary Trauma Theory.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, vol. 41, no. 2. 2008, pp. 149-66.

Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward: 2000-1887. 1898. Braille Writers' Association of Victoria, 1925.

Broad, Katherine R. “‘The Dandelion in the Spring’: Utopia as Romance in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games Trilogy.” Eds. Balaka Basu, Katherine R. Broad and Carrie Hintz. Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults. Routledge, 2014, pp. 117–30. DOI: doi:10.4324/9780203084939

Brown, Phillip, Hugh Lauder and David Ashton. The Global Auction: The Broken Promises of Education Jobs and Incomes. Oxford University Press, 2011. Burgos-Mascarell, Andrea. “The influence of Culture on dystopian heroine's choices: a vindication of their right to decide.” CAUCE. Revista Internacional de Filología, Comunicación y sus Didácticas, vol. 42, 2019, pp. 25-44. Campanella, Tommaso. The City of the Sun. 1606. Cosimo, Inc., 2007. Cart, Michael. Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism. American Library Association, 2016.

Claeys, Gregory. “The Origins of Dystopia.” The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Ed. G. Claeys. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Donnelly, Dorothy F. “Utopia and Gulliver’s Travels: Another Perspective.” Moreana, vol. 25, no. 1, 1988, pp. 115-24. DOI:

Fritz, Sonya Sawyer. “Girl Power and Girl Activism in the Fiction of Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, and Moira Young.” Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction. Eds. S. Day, M. Green-Barteet, & A. Montz. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2014, pp. 17–31. García, Antero. Critical Foundations in Young Adult Literature: Challenging Genres, Volume 4. Sense Publishers, 2013. Hill, Catherine, and Holly Kearl. Crossing the Line: Sexual harassment at School. Washington, DC: AAUW, 2011.

Hoffman, Bruce, Jacob Ware, and Ezra Shapiro. “Assessing the Threat of Incel Violence.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol. 43, no.7, 2020, pp. 565-87. DOI:

Hubler, Angela E. “It Is Not Enough to Speak: Toward a Coalitional Consciousness in the Young Adult Rape Novel.” Children's Literature, vol. 45, no. 1, 2017, pp. 114-37. DOI: 10.1353/chl.2017.0006

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. 1991. Ed. R. Southwick. Longman, 1932.

Jameson, Fredric. “An American Utopia.” An American Utopia: Dual power and the Universal Army, 2016, pp. 1-96.

Jarvis, Christine. “How to Be a Woman: Models of Masochism and Sacrifice in Young Adult Fiction. Popular Culture as Pedagogy: Research in the Field of Adult Education. Eds. Kaela Jubas, Nancy Taber, and Tony Brown. Sense Publishers, 2015, pp. 134–50. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-6300-274-5_9

Kirmayer, Laurence. “Landscapes of Memory.” Tense past: Cultural essays in Trauma and Memory. Routledge, 1996, pp. 172-98.

Kumar, Krishan. Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times. Basil Blackwell, 1987.

Lashley, Katherine. “Dauntless Bullying in Veronica Roth’s Divergent.” Bullying in Popular Culture: Essays on Film, Television and Novels. Ed. Abigail G. Scheg. McFarland & Company, 2015, pp. 164-75.

Levitas, Ruth. The Concept of Utopia, Volume 3. Peter Lang, 2010.

Martínez López, Miguel. “Defining English Utopian Literature: Origins, Problems for the Reader, and Some Twentieth-Century Manifestations.” Dreams and Realities: Versions of Utopia in English Fiction from Dickens to Byatt. Universidad de Almería, 1997.

McCulloch, Fiona. “‘No Longer Just Human:’ The Posthuman Child in Beth Revis's Across the Universe Trilogy.” Children's Literature Association Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 1, 2016, pp. 74-92. Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. 1949, Penguin Modern Classics, 2000.

Piotrowski, Amy, and Katie Rybakova. “Reading Adolescents in Dystopian YAL through the Lens of Feminism.” GALA Journal: A Journal of the Gender in Literacy and Life Assembly, vol. 21, 2015, pp. 23–30.

Reid, Penny, and Gillian Finchilescu. “The Disempowering Effects of Media Violence against Women on College Women.” Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol.19, no. 3, 1995, 397-411. DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1995.tb00082.x

Reuters. “U.S. Military Sexual Assaults Down as Reports Reach Record High.” Reuters, 2017, Accessed 15 Dec. 2021.

Revis, Beth. Across the Universe. Penguin UK, 2011.

---. A Million Suns. Penguin UK, 2012.

---. Shades of Earth. Penguin UK, 2013.

Roth, Veronica. Divergent. Katherine Tegen Books, 2011.

---. Insurgent. Katherine Tegen Books, 2012.

---. Allegiant. Katherine Tegen Books, 2013.

Sanghani, Radhika. “The Dark Truth about Sexual Harassment in our Armed Forces.” The Telegraph, 2015, Accessed 15 Dec. 2021.

Sargent, Lyman Tower. Utopianism: A very Short Introduction, Volume 246. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Seymour, Jessica. “‘Murder Me… Become a Man:’ Establishing the Masculine Care Circle in Young Adult Dystopia.” Reading Psychology, vol. 37, no. 4. 2016, pp. 627-49. DOI:

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. 1818. Eds. David Lorne MacDonald and Kathleen Scherf. Broadview Press, 2012.

Simmons, Amber M. “Class on fire: Using the Hunger Games Trilogy to Encourage Social Action.” Teaching towards Democracy with Postmodern and Popular Culture Texts. Eds. Patricia Paugh, Tricia Kress, and Robert Lake. Brill Sense, 2014, pp. 77–95.

Soares, Michael Arthur. “Here’s Looking at You Kids: The Urgency of Dystopian Texts in the Secondary Classroom.” Worlds Gone Awry: Essays on Dystopian Fiction. Eds. John J. Han, Clark C. Triplett, and Ashley G. Anthony. McFarland, 2018, pp. 210–24.

Swift, Jonathan. Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World: In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and Then a Captain of Several Ships.... Benj. Motte, at the Middle Temple-Gate in Fleet-Street, 1726.

The United States Department of Justice. Accessed 15 Dec. 2021.

Van Winkle, Elizabeth P., and Maia M. Hurley. “2016 Service Academy Gender Relations Survey: Overview Report,” 2017.

Williams, Joyce. “Rape culture.” The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2007.

Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We. 1924. Random House, 2010.




How to Cite

Burgos-Mascarell, A. (2021). New Futures, same old Fear: Gender-based Violence and Victim Coping in Contemporary Young Adult Dystopian Fiction. The Grove - Working Papers on English Studies, 28, 47–66. Retrieved from