|Photo credit: Eckhart Public Library on Flickr|
Over the course of the past decade, we've seen huge explosions of book fandom, of so-called "overnight successes" complete with hoards of raving fans that would make a rock star proud. We've seen Harry Potter become a household name, Twilight fans battle it out between sparkly vampires and werewolves and The Hunger Games open up the door for a slew of popular dystopian novels.
But what do the bestsellers have in common?
For the sake of not slapping you with a ridiculously long post, I'll stick to comparing two: Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Upon first glance, these novels may seem to be about as similar as Twilight vampires are to Dracula—Harry Potter is a middle grade novel about a boy wizard who ultimately has to save the world from the very evil Lord Voldemort and The Hunger Games is a young adult book about a girl who enters a fight for the death in order to save her family and ends up fighting for a much greater cause.
Upon closer inspection, however, these two books actually have quite a bit in common.
How Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are similar:
- Memorable, flawed characters. I wrote an entire post about my love for flawed characters in which both Harry Potter and Katniss were mentioned, so I won’t go through the entire thing again, but in short, flawed characters are infinitely more believable than their perfect counterparts and memorable characters can truly make a book special. What would Harry Potter be without Dobby, Hagrid, the Weasley twins, Filch or even Umbridge? Or The Hunger Games series without Cinna, Prim, Haymitch and Effie?
There's a reason Universal built Harry Potter land and it isn't just because
castles are pretty. The wizarding world J.K. Rowling built is simply incredible—from
the moving staircases and talking portraits in Hogwarts, to the creepy old
shops of Knockturn Alley and the wonder of platform 9 3/4, I can think of few
people who read Harry Potter and didn't want to visit.
The world of The Hunger Games —although certainly not on anyone's vacation list—was built just as carefully so that Panem didn't seem quite as far-fetched as it might have without the proper details. Everything from the craziness of the Capitol with their ridiculous priorities and fashion trends to the specialization of the districts and the mysterious District 13 rang just true enough for suspension of disbelief.
- Great evil to fight. From a frighteningly powerful mass-murdering wizard with a devout—and decidedly twisted following—to a powerful president who smells like blood and roses, there's no question that Harry and Katniss had very powerful and evil figureheads to fight throughout their journeys.
- Very high stakes. With the fate of the entire world (both wizarding and normal) on Harry's shoulders and the people of Panem depending on Katniss—failure for these two characters is unfathomable. If they lose, they won't be the only ones to suffer—everyone's fate depends on their success.
For the sake of brevity I'll stop the list there, but let's continue this discussion in the comments:
What other elements do bestsellers (these or others) have in common? What do you think makes a book a bestseller?