The Hunger Games: Why Young Adult Literature Is So Popular
The world is in the midst of a teen book obsession. The best market for literature resides within the young adult genre right now. Why is that? The young adult genre is relatively new. While the exact time of the genre’s emergence is arguable, it is fair to say that it really took off with the release of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Since then, young adult literature has flourished. More and more of the best-selling books and series are classified as young adult. So, why is this genre suddenly so popular? Could it be that writers have finally learned to target the largest reading audience? Or is there something more to the young adult genre that appeals to all different audiences? The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, provides insight as to why the young adult genre is so attractive.
Two of the most important things that readers look for in books are plot and characters. The reader must feel a connection with either the plot or a character. The setting of the book may be completely foreign, but as long as the plot or characters feel real and believable than the reader will accept it. For instance, in The Hunger Games, the setting is North America, but the circumstance and culture is unrecognizable. Yet, the characters are so familiar. The protagonists are clearly teenagers struggling to find their place in the world. All teens and even some adults go through the same conflict.
The narrator’s openness allows the reader to create a trusting relationship with her. The pages of the book are permeated with her thoughts and emotions so that readers feel that they truly know her. Readers can empathize with her because they have felt those emotions before in situations that they can connect with hers. This is not to say that the readers have experienced the same thing that the narrator has, but rather that the readers have had experiences similar enough that they can relate to her emotions.
The Hunger Games plot is entirely fictional. It is one reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies. So, it is not to this physical plot that the readers identify. The readers connect to the emotional plot. It is like the movie, Mean Girls, where the narrator compares high school to a jungle. The hunger games is not a literal reality for teens, rather it is a figurative reality. For many teens, high school is survival of the fittest. Like the protagonists in The Hunger Games, teenagers must learn what is actually important and that sacrifice often yields greater joys.
The easy connection between reader and plot and character in the hunger games indicates part of its reason for success. These qualities are common in the majority of young adult literature. Perhaps, that is why young adult literature enjoys such a prevalent niche in the world market for literature.