By many, this has been named as the golden age of children’s fiction. The ‘Rowling Revolution’ saw the Harry Potter books flying off the shelves at an unbelievable speed, bought and read by children and adults alike. So much so that the books were re-released with adult book covers to make them more public transport friendly.
J.k Rowling is only one of many talented writers who have managed to develop a young adult book into something that has had adults hooked as much as their intended audience. Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials, C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth have also had similar effects.
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes this type of literature, in general, so appealing. One thing in particular that these three series of novels do all have in common is that they all emulate a sense of escapism.
Fantastical literature in general works on two platforms: it presents a completely new world for the reader to escape to, while at the same time highlighting many of the problems society tries to ignore on a day to day basis. This is quite a complex idea overall.
Really, these types of books work on one platform for children and one platform for adults and that is why I believe they are so successful for a large audience. For children they provide a world to immerse themselves in and escape to while at the same time letting them return to reality with, hopefully, a better frame of mind.
While it still provides the same type of escapism for adults, who I feel need to escape the same amount if not more than children, it also allows them to address some of society’s most serious issues and taboo subjects in a whole new way and, in turn, challenge their perceptions.
Phillip Pullman once said in an interview that he felt that the reason his books were so important was that “They entertain and they teach; they help us both enjoy life and endure it”. In reality, this is what’s needed from a book no matter who the target audience is but in many instances adult fiction books miss this out.
Books are a window to the imagination and if a book doesn’t take you away, even if it isn’t set in a fantasy world, then it isn’t doing its job right. When it comes to being transported away by a book it is rare that an adult book can challenge what is available in the young adult section – the one big exception is, of course, George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
At 21, I feel I have emerged from the young adult phase of my life and have, resentfully, entered into adulthood. My book taste, on the other hand, has not ‘grown up’ with me. While I will pretty much read anything that is given to me, my preference lies in coming-of-age type books that are more often than not found in the Young Adult section.
These books appeal to me because I’m very much at a stage of my life where I am still finding myself and despite what the common perception may be, most adults certainly do not have it all ‘worked out’. However, this is only one of many things that is a problem mostly associated with young people but is very much a problem for adults as well.
I simply believe that children’s and young adults fiction is so popular because it speaks to us all – and from a reader’s point of view, that is all that matters.
Check out the Best YA Books of 2015 here!