Modern literary and cinematic hits like Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games targeted at teen and young adult audiences have translated into huge profit for authors, publishers and film producers alike, but their success may boil down to good old fashioned escapism and what could be called a triple threat technique of appealing to a significantly wide range of readers. Arguably, the success of young adult fantasy books can be accredited to a writer’s and publisher’s ability to manufacture brands that resonate with the needs and desires of this most impressionable and diverse coming of age demographic, and it appears that what this audience wants most is to escape from reality in a big way. Further, a triple threat approach is emerging, wherein authors use a combination of unusual worlds, extreme battles, and complicated romance that crosses traditional marketing boundaries of age and sex.
The weirder the world, the better. There’s nothing like magic to instantly transport the reader out of the realm of the ordinary, and all three series make the most of drawing the reader into foreign territory from the start. The wizarding world of Harry Potter is now legendary in its appeal to readers of all ages, while the idea of vampires and werewolves living among us makes every small town a possible setting for adventure. Surviving in a dystopian society like that of The Hunger Games seems to tie in with the doomsday prepper mindset sweeping popular culture.
Everybody wants to be a hero. While a world of magic may have universal appeal, throw in an unlikely hero and the pull of the story increases exponentially. The thrill of Hogwarts is heightened when seen through the eyes of a prepubescent Harry; a vulnerable Bella Swan fending off vampires and werewolves through the power of her mind is a fascinating take on the damsel in distress motif, and Susan Collins puts a twist on the hero theme and draws in a slew of readers of both sexes by making the noble protagonist a tough minded fighter and a girl.
While J.K. Rowling holds off on the romance until later in the Harry Potter series, complicated romantic relationships figure prominently in both Twilight and The Hunger Games from the start. The love triangle is historically a staple of romance novels, but is proving to be a force to be reckoned with in modern adventure books for young adults. All three series’ present romantic relationships with a high level of complexity and progression, not as just asides to the action in an adventure novel.
There appears to be a growing movement toward writing stories that combine quests, battles and romance not as singular plot elements, but as full fledged stories within novels, something of a return to the epic sagas of the literary past.
For example, debut author C. Grant employs a vivid imagination and pretend adventures from his childhood to produce a coming of age escape novel with triple threat appeal. He fuses fantastic adventure, heroic battles, and fiery romance against the backdrop of a vast and mysterious world of staggering heights and unfathomable depths in Sons of Caasi: Battle for Time, the first book in an epic other worldly fantasy series for young adults.
“Today’s authors seem to consciously write for more than one audience at a time, and the combination of adventure, battle, and romance lends itself to reaching a broader set of readers. I also think taking a multi-audience approach deepens the story and stretches my creativity – I have to write convincingly in more than one vein to make my stories credible. It’s almost like writing three books at once.”
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, and from the enormous popularity and record breaking sales of the Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games series’ this triple threat approach is fast becoming the new standard in Teen Fantasy Adventure.