Evans said that much of the appeal of the young adult genre comes from its strong, relatable protagonists. “In the case of Michael Vey,” he said, “I wanted to create an everyboy — and everygirl — because there are some very strong female characters in the book that are every bit as strong. I wanted to give a scenario that kids could relate to and see themselves in.”
Studies conducted in the past few years have shown that it's not just kids who are enjoying the genre; older audiences are picking up the teen books as well.
A 2012 Bowker study showed that 55 percent of respondents who bought works that publishers designated for kids ages 12 to 17 were 18 or older, and that those same respondents were buying the book for their own reading 78 percent of the time.
The study specified that 30 percent of its respondents were reading the books in the Hunger Games trilogy, which were published in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Respondents also reported they were reading Harry Potter (1998-2007) and Twilight (2005-2008) books, as well as over 220 other young adult novels.
In 2013, a Pew survey of 2,252 Americans showed that young adults (classified as respondents from ages 16 to 29) are the demographic that most frequently utilizes local libraries. The study showed that 67 percent of respondents in the young adult age group had gone to the library in the past year. The next highest group — adults ages 30 and older — came in at 62 percent. The study also showed that 75 percent of young adults had read at least one book in print form during the previous year, compared with 64 percent of Americans over the age of 30.
In an article for postandcourier.com, writer Adam Parker dissected the successful formula of young adult novels.
“The dystopian formula, which typically is a construction of the social contract theory, always conveys a warning of some kind that resonates easily with readers,” Parker wrote. “Certain rights are forfeited in order to protect other rights.”
In the same article, Claire Curtis, a professor of political science at the College of Charleston "who studies utopian and dystopian literature," said that one powerful message embedded in the dystopian societies of young adult books is that of hope and a desire for change.
“Even in dystopias there is still hope,” Curtis said. “And readers are provoked to think: ‘I don’t live in that world; I have to keep that world from becoming real.’”
With the debut of “Divergent,” Summit Entertainment may hope to cash in on the success of other young adult films. In July 2011, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," the eighth film in its franchise, broke a box office record by grossing $92.1 million on its first full day in theaters, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. In December, CNN.com reported that "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" had grossed $296.5 million in just 10 days, setting new records for three-day and five-day Thanksgiving weekends at the box office.
A lineup of other young adult fiction blockbusters is scheduled to be released in the next two years, including two more "Divergent films," the two-part finale to "The Hunger Games" and the Hollywood debut of Utahn James Dashner's book "The Maze Runner," which recently released its first theatrical trailer.
“Hollywood likes the genre because it’s plot-driven and full of action, violence, magic and interesting characters who must contend with catastrophe, or at least the possibility of it,” Parker wrote. “And the books typically come in trilogies or series that help moviemakers minimize risk and maximize profit.”
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