Books That Bite Back: YA Franchises are Making a Comeback!
Over fifteen years ago, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga took the world by storm. More than a decade later, her much-anticipated Midnight Sun has hit the shelves. Consequently, fans find themselves transported back to adolescence, a period when many of us were deeply invested in vampires, wizards and dystopian literature. Perhaps 2020 is the year of nostalgia as YA franchises make a comeback!
What appeals to readers about vampires in literature? The Twilight saga was known for its forbidden love, the promise of eternity and dark secrets. Filled with a fairy-tale vibe, vampires allowed teenagers to explore fear, sexuality and power – all the frightening aspects of growing up – from the safety of their books. Ultimately, narratives exploring paranormal creatures allow readers to experience their adolescence all over again. As the vampires rule YA fiction, we embrace the fantasy before welcoming new additions to our favourite childhood series.
Midnight Sun has taken the top spot in the charts, proving audiences are still thirsting for vampire YA. It seems poignant that at a time when things are completely abnormal, where some of us are back in our childhood bedrooms, we are returning to the same books that filled our youths. Is it nostalgia for simpler times? That would certainly make sense, with this being a retelling of the original Twilight book, but from Edward’s perspective. The plot is the same, with the bonus of a new point of view. We know the path it is on, meaning we can focus on the here-and-now of the telling.
At a time when the future seems uncertain, finding safety in retellings of past books makes so much sense. If you’re enjoying the return to vampire love stories, look also to The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh. This series is set in 1872 New Orleans and features love, death and, of course, vampires. What more could you want?
Accompanying the comeback of paranormal YA is the resurgence of dystopian fiction. Who can forget the glory years when The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner were some of the most talked about books on the block? They featured cliff-hanger endings, new yearly installations and shiny movie adaptations to keep the conversations going.
The timing of this return to dystopia doesn’t seem very surprising with all that is going on in the world right now. A global pandemic, socio-political uprisings, and young people leading change – it all sounds like something straight out of one of these novels. These stories give voices to teen readers that witness people in power taking advantage of corrupt systems, and who wish they could do something about it. If Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior can play a role in leading a movement, why can’t you?
In the same way Midnight Sun offers a twist on a classic, Suzanne Collins’ The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes invites fans back to the dystopian action with a Hunger Games prequel, fittingly released via a virtual launch. Packed with familiar themes of betrayal, friendship and oppression, readers are given a new protagonist in the form of Coriolanus Snow, before his reign as dictator of Panem. With the world already an unfamiliar place, the decision to replace the plucky Katniss Everdeen with a character fans know to be evil seems a bold decision. But as events unfold, this twist only adds to the intensity of the original series, creating as many questions as it answers.
In the world of literary and cinematic fantasy, the Harry Potter series is also the epitome of success. Perceptions in recent months have, however, undoubtedly changed thanks to JK Rowling’s divisive anti-trans tweets. As disappointing as it is to see such a literary figurehead display such a bigoted view, it has prompted us all to revisit the question of whether art can be separated from the artist. In such an escapist world of wizards, muggles and dementors, perhaps this particular fantasy will manage to stand the test of time despite the external threats from its creator.
The success of the Harry Potter series is particularly seen in how, during lockdown, we were treated to every fan's dream team of people to read the first in the series for “Harry Potter at Home.” It’s a testament to the innovation of the Wizarding World that they quickly gathered an incredible line-up of celebrities, providing the ultimate comforting tool for children and adults alike. With Daniel Radcliffe reading the first chapter, the magic was brought full circle and we were transported back to the familiar world that many of us grew up with, helping escape the drudgery of lockdown.
There’s never been a better time to dive back into the worlds we know and love. With these new offerings, we find comfort in the familiar when surrounded by the totally unfamiliar.