Why is it that stories like Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, Paolini’s Inheritance cycle, Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels, and other such fantasy tales for children, teens, and young adults are outshining most adult novels in sales?
The answer echoes the stories in that both have a great depth to them. The difference between the stories for younger audiences and those being released for adults is reflective of the times. We live in an era where instant gratification is the most desirable trait people look for. First it was e-mail overpowering the snail-mail industry and now it’s gotten to the point where not even e-mail is fast enough. People can’t bare the necessary wait to get to a computer, log on to the internet, and type in their username and password. Instead, people carry cell phones that are less like phones and more like hand-held personal computers, using them more for texting quick and often undecipherable messages to one another. Even worse, in order to make the messages quicker, grammar has been utterly eliminated in favor of sentences based almost entirely in abbreviations and acronyms like brb, lol, or lmao.
This trend has also taken over the avenue of writing, leaving many novels, especially genre fiction, lacking in character development and plot development. Instead, many of these novels subscribe to the instant gratification standard and jump straight into the action, caring more for pushing the story forward quickly than setting up believable characters and giving the reader an emotional experience. This is what most adult genre fiction authors have become in recent years and the few who don’t subscribe to the ‘norm’ are secluded from the others in bookstores and libraries. For example, Anne Rice and Steven King are not usually located in the fantasy section. Instead they’re included in either the adult fiction section or the literary fiction section. While Anne Rice and Steven King are without a doubt excellent authors, their work could hardly be considered fine literature like Pride and Prejudice, but being so different from what most genre fiction authors do it becomes difficult to classify their work and they get placed in the broadest category: simply FICTION.
Yet, there is a ray of hope in these dark times: young adult novels. Perhaps it’s due to the rising trend in schools to get children reading or perhaps it’s the authors themselves realizing that if they wish to avert this terrifying truth about instant gratification they have to start instilling the concepts of strong characters, intriguing plotlines, and overall development in readers while they are still young enough to not get sucked into the maelstrom. And it’s working!
Not only are children flocking to insert themselves in the wonderfully intriguing worlds created by Rowling, Paolini, Pullman, Meyers, Mull, Riordan, Somper, and others; parents and even adults without children are just as excited by these stories. Slowly, but surely, the trend for instant gratification is being rooted. All we can hope for is that the trend continues.