Fifteen years ago, Harry Potter transformed a generation of young readers.
Overnight, young adult fiction exploded into one of the most popular demographics that for years was neglected by publishers. When all was said and done, Harry Potter had sold 450 million copies in 67 languages, according to the publisher, Scholastic.
Five years after the series wrapped, young readers show no signs of slowing down. Even with the end of “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games,” young adult literature is still one of the fastest growing genres.
Not only are more young adults reading since Harry Potter and Twilight, but books are getting thicker, too.
Emily Williams, the Young Adult Services Coordinator for the Metropolitan Library System, said it is in large part due to Harry Potter.
“When you have a couple 800-page best sellers like Harry Potter, that helps change publishing trends,” Williams said.
John Granger, the man behind Hogwartsprofessor.com, said Harry Potter has shaped young readers in ways other stories haven't.
“College professors tell me their students who grew up reading Harry Potter are equal to the challenges of larger Dickens books, the novels of Thomas Mann … in a way that non-Harry Potter readers were not,” Granger said.
E.G. Carter, author of the Carlousia series, said Twilight and Harry Potter brought excitement back to reading.
“Before these series came out, young adult books were being dumbed down,” Carter said. “Kids were getting annoyed with it. They wanted a challenge, and fantasy novels have really done that for them.”
Fantasy as a genre has always had a grip on young adult readers. Harry Potter did nothing more than bring fantasy back into the mainstream and make it “cool” again.
“Young people long for spiritual experiences that their schools, the media and churches as often as not deny they can have,” Granger said.
Harry Potter may have ended five years ago, but it is becoming a proponent of another big trend among young readers: interactive reading.
J.K. Rowling's “Pottermore” website recently opened for the public. It now has more than 3 million users. The interactive website is a companion to reading the books, making reading more of an experience than a chore.
E-books are growing among young readers faster than other age groups, according to the Association of American Publishers. More than 114 million e-books were sold in 2010 and numbers continue to increase, according to the AAP.
“Some books now include videos, playlists, further reading suggestions, author extras and more,” Williams said.
Williams said that the Metropolitan Library System's e-book service is one of their fastest growing services.
“The community loves the convenience of downloading books onto their e-reader,” Williams said.
So whatever comes next in the slew of young adult series people obsess over, one thing we can expect is that it won't just be black letters on white paper.
Pop culture has seen the invasion of wizards, vampires and dragons. So what's next?
E.G. Carter, author of the Carlousia series, thinks things are moving in a different direction for young adult literature.
“Vampires and witches have already run their course,” Carter said. “I think science-fiction will make a comeback.”
“The Host,” a science-fiction romance novel by Twilight author Stephanie Meyer, is releasing a film adaptation next year. A sequel to the novel is also likely.
Emily Williams thinks zombies will be the next big thing. In addition, she added that dystopian novels have become more common in recent years.
“We're in the middle of a huge serge of dystopia in young adult literature,” Williams said. “Lots of bleak, post-apocalyptic futures with teenage protagonists pitted against impossible odds.”
John Granger, Harry Potter expert, explained why books with characters overcoming grim circumstances are so successful.
“The stories foster an imaginative, heroic experience greater than the reader's mundane ego existence,” Granger said. “Something like self transcendence.”
IF YOU GO
What: John Granger leads a discussion about the Harry Potter series
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 NW Expressway
Info: 842-2900, fullcirclebooks.com