Are Publishers in Their Own Hunger Games?

Yesterday I went to see The Hunger Games with my daughter in a packed theater on opening day. She had read the book, one of our rules for seeing a movie based on a novel. Because I am also currently working of my own young adult novel, I’d also read all three of Suzanne Collins’ books in the Hunger Games series as research.

Yes, and even though some of the audience did hoot for the next Twilight movie trailer I found myself enjoying the movie, just as I had the books. I remembered my own love of science fiction and literature at my daughter’s age, and it is clear to me that The Hunger Games has more in common with Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game or Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, or even William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, than most young adult novels, teenage love triangle aside.

Of course, one could argue that this is nothing new as many books in the 19thvCentury such as The Swiss Family Robinson, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Jungle Book had already begun a trend that appealed to young readers.

The fact is that the young adult genre continues to grow, and the line is blurring across genres not just for the readers, but the writers as well. Kristen-Paige Madonia, in a panel on debut novelists at the 2012 AWP conference, confided that she had thought she had written an adult novel, but her agent had convinced her to pitch it as a young adult novel instead.

We also now see novelist as varied as Michael Chabon to Clive Barker writing in this genre. One agent that I have been engaged in an ongoing conversation about representing my novel “Interrogator’s Notebook” finally told me that she (and her agency) weren’t taking on literary novels right now to focus on young adult titles.

Many publishers are focusing efforts on this genre as well, along with bookstores, to survive in their own hunger games vs. television, video games and smart phones. And those angry birds can be fierce!

Ultimately, I believe that anything that provides thoughtful material and well-written prose to young readers – and their parents – will ultimately help fiction writers of all genres as the love of reading (in my case and for most writers) becomes a lifetime passion.

Martin Ott

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