It all started with Harry Potter. Remember that time in the late 1990s, when scores of grown-ups would be spotted reading JK Rowling books on the tube? It was the time before e-readers; the internet was still in its infancy and the iPhone was more than a decade away. People carried massive tomes with them to read on their way to work so you could always tell what the man next to you on the tube was reading. It really was a different world. As for me, I resisted the Harry Potter craze for a long time, stubborn in my refusal of giving in to reading a children’s book. But eventually I relented and got sucked in by the series like the majority of the western world’s reading population.
When I grew up, there was very little choice for young adult readers. There were children’s books, which were often forgettable, wholesome stories infused with good morals. Then there were ‘classics’ such as The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, Pippi Longstocking and Peter Pan. Some of these titles could still be enjoyed by an older reader – think of Little Women, White Fang, and Lord of The Flies – the latter’s violent, disturbing content could give a child nightmares for days on end.
But once you exhausted those sources, all that was left were your parents’ books. That could be both a blessing and a curse, forcing a younger reader to challenge themselves with more complex texts: that’s what happened to me by the time I was in my mid-teens, when I exhausted all of F.S. Fitzgerald’s novels along with anything else that I had been able to lay my hands on. But for the less precocious kids, and for the children of non-readers, the lack of age-appropriate material certainly didn’t help in sustaining an interest in fiction.
Fast forward a few years. The Young Adult fiction market – a category which I can’t even remember existing in pre-Harry Potter days – is huge and as popular as ‘real’ grown-up fiction. Take the ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’ series, for instance. Both have a huge following even among adult readers. Why is this genre suddenly so popular? And are we experiencing some kind of renaissance for the good, old fashioned written word in the age of the iPad?
We at Multimediamouth have decided to turn these questions over to the best qualified people in the field: Young Adult fiction writers. So stay with us, because we have some really juicy interviews coming up soon.
Next: interview with YA fiction writer Anthony Ergo