I don't know if you've noticed. Maybe you haven't, but very recently, I have. There's this trend where people like to categorize and organize things into smaller and smaller segments and more and more specific cubby-holes, until there's only one thing under that label. And then, once things are super-specific, the number of things in that cubby-hole start to multiply, and then the process starts again with the dividing into smaller sections.
I don't know what causes this, honestly, but here's the thing that I noticed:
YA novels Starring a Kid who Learns that He's Actually Magic.
Think about it for a minute.
The Books of Beginning
So You Want to Be a Wizard
Gregor the Overlander (The Underland Chronicles)
And this isn't even counting the books where there is no magic (like Redwall) or where there is magic, but the main character doesn't have it (like The Ranger's Apprentice)
Why is this a thing? Why is something so specific so popular?
Well, obviously, it's because there's an audience for these books. People like to read them, so they buy them, so more authors write them, etc. But beyond the numbers, why is it that we like books like this?
I would propose it's because we like to feel special. We like to be the one that has magic, or that can beat the bad guy, or that knows the prophecy. We like to be special, so we read books that put us in the shoes of the one that's special.
This is a safe outlet for that yearning to be the Chosen One, or the one that's good at things without trying, or that has weird friends no one else wants to talk to. These books give us a glimpse into what it might be like if that was us, and ignite a spark of imagination that never really dies for the children at heart.
They're not always well-done, but they're usually fun. And when we close the book, when we set it down, then we're us again, and we don't need to worry about being blasted by an evil wizard or attacked by hordes of the undead. In addition to feeding our addiction to being the special one (The Lego Movie, anyone?) it's also perfectly safe, and when we put it down, it's over.
So what about you, Inklings? Do you have any overly-specific genres that you enjoy?
Oh, and don't forget to check out the new podcast episode!