Wizards and Vampires and Mockingjays, Oh My!

**Contains Spoilers!**

There’s no escaping the mania that is a result of sci-fi/fantasy young adult novels, most notably, Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. Society even has names for the masses of fans that can’t tear themselves away from these novels (For those of you who don’t already know them: Twilight Fans = “Twi-hards”, Harry Potter Fans = “Potterheads”, The Hunger Games Fans = “Tributes”).

But why do so many people camp out and wait in mile-long lines just to purchase these novels? Why do these people spend hours and hours cooped up in their rooms, anxiously flipping pages and swallowing up whole stories in just one afternoon? Why are these novels so captivating and magnetic, when in fact, they are just fantasy?

Harry Potter, a series we all know and love, most definitely paved the way for future sci-fi/fantasy novels. Just incase you have lived under a rock since 1997, when author J.K. Rowling released the first Harry Potter book, this 7-book series revolves around Harry Potter and his two best friends, Ron Weasly and Hermione Granger.

Throughout the novels, the three young wizards, with assistance from fellow friends, strive to defeat Lord Voldemort, an evil yet powerful wizard whose ultimate goal is to rid the world of muggles, or “non-magic folk”. (For a more complete synopsis of the series, click here)

Senior boy Stephen Parece, who has read all of the Harry Potter books, calls the series “epic,” and Senior girl Christine Taft calls J.K. Rowling’s writing “in depth” and “very realistic.” Seniors Amy Stevens and Meaghan Barry agree that the characters “remind you of someone you know in real life.”

Although there are a plethora of reasons to love Harry Potter, here are 5 reasons why I think fans all over the world have fallen in love with the series:

1) The characters are relatable. As many FHS students said, they love the characters because they remind readers of people they know. Besides the heroic yet modest Harry, people can relate to his two best friends as well. Everyone knows a Hermione; a loveable know-it-all that can sometimes be offensive because he/she knows so much, but of course they never mean to be. Then there’s Ron, you’re ultimate best friend, sidekick, and supporter who you sometimes underestimate. No matter which character you choose, someone you know embodies them.

2) It’s an underdog story. Who doesn’t love those? They’re classic. The reader is drawn to Harry, and can’t help but root for him as he attempts to defeat the unyielding power of Lord Voldemort. Not only is Harry the underdog because he is young and inexperienced compared to Voldemort, but what makes fans cheer him on even more is that he is fighting to avenge his mother and father (who Voldemort killed when he was a baby).  All of the odds seem to be against Harry, making it that much sweeter when he finally defeats Voldemort in book 7.

3) It’s magical… literally! I remember after reading the first book, I wished I was a wizard for the LONGEST time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other people felt the same. Let’s face it – being able to recite spells and apparate and fly on a broomstick is probably the coolest thing ever. Although it’s impossible to actually do any of those things, I think a lot of people see the magic in Harry Potter as a sign of hope, and encouragement to keep dreaming.

4) It’s never boring. There are so many aspects of Harry Potter besides the central plotline of defeating Voldemort. There are all the friendships and relationships that we love to watch grow, and the kids we love to watch mature. There are characters such as Snape who serve to add a little mystery into the mix, and characters like Hagrid who just add pure joy. The third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban centers not around Voldemort, but around Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather. Even if a particular part of the book is not about the fighting (which mostly they aren’t- that usually comes at the end) it’s never boring to read about Harry’s side adventures, or what’s going on at Hogwarts.

5) J.K. Rowling is an AMAZING author.  No doubt about it. She manages to create unique, dynamic characters that somehow relate to normal people that you’d talk to or see on the street. She makes you want to pick up a want and say “Alohomora” or “Expecto Patronum”. She creates a central setting, Hogwarts, that is so detailed and intricate, you’d feel at home there. Millions of kids and adults alike were vividly imagining themselves immersed in the world of Harry Potter, and that was before the movies even hit the screens. Not only does she make her novels so fascinating that readers are unable to put them down… she makes them come alive.

 Compared to Harry Potter, I’ll admit, Twilight is a so-so series. When I first got a hold of the Twilight in 8th grade, I was hooked. Even as a sophomore I read the books for the second or third time (don’t judge) and found that I still loved them.

However, I have grown out of my Twilight-obsessed phase, and looking  back I see now that it does not measure up to Harry Potter. Stephenie Meyer does not write with as much emotion and depth as J.K. Rowling, making for bland characters and a sub-par plotline.

Still, as of October 2010, the series has sold over 116 million copies worldwide with translations into at least 38 different languages around the globe. The four Twilight books have consecutively set records as the biggest selling novels of 2008 on the USA Today Best-Selling Books list and have spent over 235 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list for Children’s Series Books.

The main reason the Twilight Series has done so well despite the fact that it may be lacking in some areas is because it is unequivocally a love story. A love triangle in fact, between an average girl, Bella, a sexy, mysterious vampire (Edward Cullen) and an adorable, amiable werewolf (Jacob Black). And after all, what young girl doesn’t at least secretly wish for a hopelessly romantic ending with a fairytale prince? (For a full synopsis, click here)

Senior Kayla Higgins comments, “I love Twilight! I’m the type of person who loves sappy love stories and romance… It’s honestly the only book I would pick up willingly.”

An FHS Senior(who wishes to remain nameless) calls Twilight her “guilty pleasure,” while another Senior girl (who also wishes to remain nameless) says that she “bashes Twilight when [she’s] with people who hate it” but in reality, she “secretly love[s] it.”

Though it’s no secret that the Twilight Series lacks depth there’s one thing that critics of the series say that I don’t agree with: that Bella is weak. Yes she is a bit bland as a character, but she is realistic.  A lot of  people criticize Bella, when in fact, she accurately reflects different aspects of different people.

What teenager isn’t at least a little bit needy and self-conscious? That’s what we all  want, isn’t it, to fit in, connect with our peers on some level,  to get recognition from someone? As for the way she sees Edward and the things she does for him: to put it plainly, what kind of teenager doesn’t do dumb stuff when they’re in love?

Though Twilight is no Harry Potter (and it’s not meant to be) it still has some redeeming characteristics that continue to entrance readers  everywhere.

 The Hunger Games is a series by Suzanne Collins, that I recently discovered and couldn’t get enough of (as in, I read the three books in four days). This series is a different brand of fantasy as it’s setting features a post-apocalyptic world (Don’t get freaked out by the fact that it sounds sci-fi, I promise you’ll love it). The actual games themselves are a series of epic fights to the death of two “Tributes” from each of the districts of Panem, a country formed out of the remains of a destroyed North America. It’s all done for the entertainment of the rich on live TV, injecting elements of both reality TV and class warfare.

The narrator and protagonist is Katniss Everdeen, a seventeen year old girl who volunteers to take her younger sister’s place as District 12’s Tribute. Though only one out of twenty-four Tributes makes it out of the arena, Katniss exemplifies extreme strength and determination to make it out alive.

The Hunger Games  chronicles Katniss’ journey through the intense battle, both before the games, when she has to provide for her family, and during the games, where she must fight to the death. (Read a full synopsis here )

“I love the Hunger Games! The series is a perfect mix of action and romance” says Senior Emily McLean. Though the series does contain a love triangle, it is not nearly to the extent of Twilight. The Hunger Games is more than just Gale versus Peeta; there’s so much more at stake in this series than just love, and in loving, for that matter.

Underneath the suspenseful and addicting plotline are the underlying themes of propaganda, trauma and recovery, war and compassion, and most importantly, trust. It’s a coming-of-age story, and I think readers grow along with the characters. These novels force us to look inside ourselves and take responsibility for our actions, and encourage us to defend our beliefs.

Although The Hunger Games has not yet reached the unfathomable level of popularity that Harry Potter and Twilight have, this astounding series is well on its way.

The mania created by young-adult fantasy novels such as Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games is nothing new. All of these series contain compelling yet relatable characters, complex worlds you want to spend time exploring, a focus on family and love, and so much more.