X Is Not the New Y

Recently NPR had an article about how The Hunger Games and YA dystopian novels were the new Twilight/vampire books. As someone who follows YA, this topic feels a little dated (is it 2009), but it is nice to see a major news outlet looking at what makes dystopian YA a compelling genre. Plus it has suggestions for further reading, including the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness.

One part struck me in particular:

“In the beginning, The Hunger Games was not considered a sure thing….David Levithan, editorial director at Scholastic which publishes the books, says the company took a risk on The Hunger Games because they trusted the writer, Suzanne Collins. It wasn’t until Collins turned in the first manuscript that Levithan understood what he had. “It came in on a Friday,” he says, “and I and the other editors who worked on it read it over the weekend, and we came in on Monday and just looked at each other and said: ‘Wow.'”

Since Harry Potter showed the world that children’s literature can be hugely successful, there’s been a question of what will be the next big thing? You can find any number of articles about how vampires are the new wizards, or zombies are the new vampires, or mermaids are the new zombies. But the quote above indicates that there’s no real way to tell what the next trend will be. The Hunger Games might have sounded weird on paper, but the story itself is compelling. It shouldn’t be about finding the next hot thing that will be a huge explosion of book sales. It should be about finding that compelling story that will resonate with a lot of readers.

Also, it’s really unfair to claim anything is the new anything else. Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games might all be fantasy-esque and exciting series, but they all offer very different reading experiences. Do we really need to link them together like this?

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