You know, just finishing Victoria Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology and Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker got me thinking about their respective settings. Specifically, it got me thinking about how much it would suck to live in either of those worlds. Like, no offence to Gotham City, but is that really where you want to be passing your time?
This reminds me of that old meme:
Sure, it might be fun to zip through spacetime as in Invictus or fight dragons in VR as in Warcross, but for every awesome alternate universe there are ten Panems out there, because authors and readers alike can be uniquely vicious. So I started thinking some more about which YA universes, in particular, would have the shittiest life expectancy/standards of living. And while this is by no means a definitive list, these are definitely some deadly, oppressive societies that I’d rather not find myself in.
5. Verity by Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song
Why it sucks: There are Corsai (zombies) and Malchai (vampires) and Sunai (soul reapers? The least evil of the bunch but still fucking scary if you don’t know them) roaming the city eating people. Even if you join the “good guys” it’s not guaranteed you’ll survive, because you’ll probably just be conscripted to fight those very same monsters anyway and get torn apart gruesomely on one of your missions.
The silver lining: People have mobile phones and stuff, so at least modern tech is on the table. Also, it’s technically possible to get out and go somewhere more civilised if you’ve got a fast enough car and the guts. That said, it looks like the monster pandemic is spreading beyond Verity as of Book Two–so that’s RIP safety for you.
4. Wallachia by Kiersten White, And I Darken
Why it sucks: Is history cheating? I don’t know, but either way, I do not want to be one of the peasants trying to mind my own business on my sheep farm only to be slaughtered and have my home torched by a passing army in 15th century Romania. That is not on the menu, boys.
The silver lining: It’s real alternate history, so if you manage to survive to a childbearing age and reproduce, and your descendants continue doing the same, about 20 generations later your great-great-great etc grandchildren will have access to all the luxuries of modern Romania. Yay!
3. Feng Lu by Julie C. Dao, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Why it sucks: Fantasy Imperial China is a grim world for a woman of the working classes, just like practically any point in history before the 20th century. You will almost certainly live in poverty farming rice which is then confiscated as tax, leaving you with barely enough to slog it to the next year to plant more rice. The most promising career path is to make yourself attractive enough to worm into the palace as an attendant and eventually join the Emperor’s collection of concubines. Nope.
The silver lining: Uh, I guess if you’re like protagonist Xifeng and possess dark magic in your veins, you can take advantage of that to climb the totem pole of court politics. You might have to sell your soul in the process though. No one ever said power fell from trees!
2. The Galaxy by S.J. Kincaid, The Diabolic
Why it sucks: I guess you could live your whole life semi-peacefully on a planet subservient to the ruling class, like the vast majority of the Galaxy in Star Wars who roll over for the Empire and hence stay alive. But you could still be wiped out in seconds without any preemptive warning or way to fight back if the aristocracy decide you’ve been too upstart. Resolvent Mist, their Zyklon B-like WMD of choice, seems more painful a method to go than explosion by Star Destroyer too. Best not take your chances.
The silver lining: If you suck dick hard enough, the ruling Grandiloquy might decide to leave you alone. Still, would you really want to live under a even worse iteration of the Galactic Empire your entire miserable life?
1. Sempera by Sara Holland, Everless
Why it sucks: As if I’m not already bothered enough by blood, I’d have to sell it (and time off my life along with it) just to survive on a daily basis. There isn’t even a televised Hunger Games to provide a little entertainment and take the edge off your daily oppression.
The silver lining: I’m not gonna lie, unless you’re the protagonist who of course has a special heritage, there’s not much hope here. Thanks to having your blood sucked out regularly, you can expect to live a even shorter, more painful life than in the typical weak-sauce totalitarian regime. Of course, if you die sooner, it means quicker escape from this awful life. I’ll count that as a win.