The caption identifies the figure as the protagonist of a ‘MUST READ thrilling new series for Young Adults!’. ‘People are calling it THE NEXT HARRY POTTER!’ it screams.
I’m scrolling through my Instagram when I see it: a glossy, hyper-cinematic shot of some twenty-something model’s unreasonably symmetrical face gazing intensely at the middle distance. The backdrop is dark and gloomy, possibly with flames or lightning. The caption identifies the figure as the protagonist of a ‘MUST READ thrilling new series for Young Adults!’. ‘People are calling it THE NEXT HARRY POTTER!’ it screams.
The next Harry Potter? Well, I can’t ignore that. I spring into action and whip out my to-read list, entitled ‘Books that are the next Harry Potter’, to add this crucial new addition. It’s so lengthy at this point that when I unfurl it, it rolls right out my bedroom door, down the stairs, out of the house, and across the street, where the sheer weight of it knocks an unsuspecting pensioner over, killing them stone dead. Job done, I reel my list back in and carefully replace it on my shelf, which is groaning under the weight of other equally massive scrolls bearing titles such as ‘The Next Twilight!’, and ‘The Next Hunger Games!’.
Ladies, gents, and gentlefolk, I am tired. If I see one more ad-campaign for a YA novel that hinges entirely on how similar it is to a previous YA novel, I'm going to chalk this whole reading thing up as a bad job. Jared (19) was onto something. I don’t know what it is that prompts publishing houses to market this way. Maybe it’s the fact that their target audience of Gen Z’s and young millennials have been defined by their characterisation as nostalgia obsessed perma-kids. Maybe they’re trying to follow the wider trend in pop-culture, with its apparent hunger for remakes, reboots, prequels, and sequels, instead of new material. Maybe they’re just kinda bad at their jobs. All I know is that in an algorithm-driven world, where ads, headlines, and content are picked out for me based on my past likes, this is just one more feedback loop I could definitely do without.
I might mind less if they tried to be a little more imaginative. Twilight might be undergoing a renaissance of interest, but it’s decidedly tongue-in-cheek - no one actually wants new material. Harry Potter was a mainstay of all our childhoods, but Rowling is fast killing off the goodwill. Back in the day, The Hunger Games was barely off the shelves before it began to spawn a whole host of underwhelming dystopian-teen knockoffs (Divergent being the most audacious). If advertisers are going to insist on linking new titles to old favourites then they had better start switching the game up. I want a broody ad campaign for a YA book series critics are calling ‘the next Horrid Henry’ in time for Christmas season 2021.