Harry Potter appeared out of nowhere and changed the face of children’s fantasy series forever. Not only was it possible to mix real life side-by-side with a completely different version of our world; but a book about boarding school? A book about wizard boarding school? Who would have thought it possible? (Certainly not all those who sent JK Rowling a rejection slip for her manuscript, that’s for sure!)
I was already an adult when Harry burst upon the writing scene, but I fell for him like a ton of bricks. Yes, people have complained about the writing (jeepers!) and even the content! But I didn’t see errors in style or content that seemed so unlikely and outlandish. All I could see was the new world she ushered in – where adults and children could both be swept up in a caper that made young people heroes who could see so much farther and deeper than the adults around them.
But now what? The world has moved on and the teen movies have darkened into dysfunctional worlds that are shadowy and gloomy. Yes, I read the new young adult series, but by the last book I was worn out and feeling lost and alone, and very very small. Where did all the hope, the joy and laughter of Harry Potter go? Sure, there was a villain. And Harry had lost both his parents and was bullied. Doesn’t sound very hopeful there…
However, the writing was entertaining – there were giggles, and how much fun was there in the every flavour beans, or learning transfiguration? That’s what I’m talking about.
As a writer, I am left wondering if there is any room now in children’s fantasy series, or indeed in any young adult series, to drag us out of darkness and back into adventure. Just straightforward adventure – where good versus’ evil and it is pretty easy to tell the difference. I hope so – because there is great joy and fun in writing (and I hope reading) adventure, where, yes, there is tragedy, but the overall landscape is light and friendly and the message isn’t the world is going to burn. The message is more about solving trouble as it appears, not waiting for the world to turn to ashes. Where the message is: you can make all the difference in this world, or any other (it is fantasy after all), with just the right amount of courage, daring and friendship.
At least, I do hope there is room for adventure – because when I was younger, I just wanted to fly with dragons and save the day, in a world where anything is possible. And they always say – write what you know and love – so I do.