WRITTEN by JK Rowling, the Harry Potter novels launched in 1997 and created a phenomenon in the process – in more ways than one.
A 2005 research study from the Federation of Children’s Book Groups (FCBG) revealed 48% of children said Harry Potter was the reason they read more.
Although many know the successful film franchise, Harry Potter had an additional cultural impact: on other authors.
Post-Potter, other imaginative Young Adult (YA) literature found its way to a similar readership.
New trends emerged, such as including darker elements in children-led stories. Much like Rowling’s Voldemort, other writers also created their own sense of danger looming in each successive book.
JK Rowling created a relatable young hero and plucked him from an unpleasant living situation with the Dursleys.
In this case, Harry finds out he’s a wizard.
It’s a foundation that worked wonders for several other writers in the years since.
The characters need to grow up fast because they face very dangerous, life-threatening situations.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Already an established writer, Horowitz’s Alex Rider novels dominated the 00s YA scene.
The series follows Alex, a 14-year-old boy who becomes a spy for MI6 after his uncle/legal guardian is killed.
Alex discovers his late uncle had been a spy and was training him throughout his life.
To date, Alex Rider has 13 novels spanning from 2000-2020. A 14th novel is due for release in September 2023.
Horowitz’s Alex Rider novels use a ‘floating timeline’.
The books are assumed to be set in the year of publication. So, despite Horowitz writing about Alex for more than two decades, he has only aged a year in that time.
For context: The book series began in 2000.
So, if a year has passed, it would still be the early 2000s, however, Alex uses modern innovations such as Facebook and iPhones.
The first novel, Stormbreaker was adapted as a film in 2006. Alex Pettyfyer played Alex. The film featured Mickey Rourke, Ewan McGregor, Robbie Coltrane and Bill Nighy.
In more recent years, Amazon Prime Video developed a television series based on the books. Otto Farrant stars as Alex.
A third season is in production.
In addition to Alex Rider, Horowitz also wrote the successful Power of Five novels which were published between 2005-2012.
Irish author Darren Shan had his first literary success in 2000 with The Saga of Darren Shan.
Shan had the same agent as JK Rowling, the late Christopher Little.
These books followed a young boy who becomes an assistant to a vampire named Mr Crepsley.
Without giving too much away, Darren finds himself in a situation where he needs to save a friend’s life. Mr. Crepsley is the only one who can help.
Darren is no mere assistant, however, as he also becomes a half-vampire.
If that wasn’t enough, Darren had to fake his death to be able to leave with Mr Crepsley.
Unlike other writers at the time, Shan blurred reality ever so slightly. The books are in the form of a diary, calling into question whether Darren Shan (the author) experienced the events himself.
Of course, it should be noted that Shan’s real name is Darren O’Shaughnessy.
Naming the protagonist after his pen name was a fun way for Shan to capture young readers’ imaginations.
As it happened, Shan also had a second successful YA series beginning in the 2000s: The Demonata.
Dealing with the world of demons, Shan wrote ten books for this series; published between 2005-2010.
Unlike the Saga, which followed one protagonist, three main characters told the Demonata’s story.
The Saga of Darren Shan had a 2009 film adaptation, to mixed reviews. It starred Chris Massagolia as Darren and John C. Reilly as his mentor Mr Crepsley.
Josh Hutcherson, Ken Watanabe, Salma Hayek and the late Ray Stevenson were also among the cast.
Rather than adapting just one book, the film combined elements from the first three novels.
It remains to be seen whether there will be another adaptation, but there has been some demand for one.
Courageous Nerd has previously interviewed Darren Shan, which you can read here.
Grant published his first GONE novel in 2008. A further 8 books set in the same universe followed up until 2019.
At the time, Grant was already an established writer. He worked extensively with his wife KA Applegate, notably on Animorphs.
In GONE, everyone aged 15 or over in a Californian beach town disappears one day without any warning. Instantaneously vanishing.
A dome then encases those remaining, trapping them with no escape.
Grant’s characters have a need to grow up more than any others on this list. They essentially have to rebuild their own society, while contending with some developing mutated superpowers.
The books are very graphic and written cinematically. There’s scope for an adaptation – with a long-running push for a TV series underway.
GONE utilises similar elements to Harry Potter. Like The Boy Who Lived, Grant’s Sam Temple finds himself in an unwanted spotlight.
Both are pushed into leadership positions, which made not have been natural at first.
However, they differ in how the authors tell their backstories. Harry’s upbringing is largely told early on, while Sam’s background is drip-fed throughout the original books.
Courageous Nerd has interviewed Michael Grant, which you can read here.
As the famous story goes, Muchamore began writing CHERUB after his tween nephew complained he had nothing age-appropriate to read.
CHERUB – standing for Charles Henderson Espionage Research Unit B, follows an organisation of young spies employed by the British Government.
After all, most adults would not suspect a child of spying on them.
CHERUB was the first series after Alex Rider to successfully innovate the young spy genre.
Although not immediately obvious, CHERUB also uses a similar structure to Harry Potter.
Like Harry, James Adams is an orphan only though he only becomes one near the beginning of The Recruit.
Much like Hogwarts saves Harry from the Dursleys, James spends a brief time in a children’s home.
Rowling uses school years to advance her characters’ ages while Muchamore’s characters are usually a few months-a year older with each mission.
Muchamore adopted similar approaches to JK Rowling and Darren Shan by putting elements of himself into his lead character, James Adams.
While blonde blue-eyed James is not a physical match to Muchamore, he shares his creator’s love of Arsenal.
Muchamore had James be from Tufnell Park in North London where he grew up.
In fact, James’ middle name is Robert and the character legally switches his forename and middle name around when the books initially ended.
Similarly to Shan and Grant, Muchamore also does not shy away from the adult situations characters find themselves in.
His agents face life-or-death situations while also growing up at a fast pace.
Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant books feature a teen protagonist using magic, but the Potter comparisons end there.
While JK Rowling wrote about a boy wizard, Landy conjured up a girl sorcerer named Valkyrie Cain.
Unlike Harry who attended Hogwarts, Valkyrie lived a double life. To her family, she was still ordinary Stephanie Edgley.
In fact, unlike many YA protagonists, Valkyrie is not an orphan/without parents. Both her mother and father are alive throughout the series, just unaware of what she is up to.
Since becoming a partner to skeleton detective Skulduggery Pleasant, they use magic to face various threats throughout each of the books.
Similarly to other characters, Valkyrie’s journey begins with bad circumstances.
Her uncle, renowned writer Gordon Edgley died and was later discovered to have been murdered.
It transpires Gordon’s books were based on adventures he had with Skulduggery.
Like many of the others listed, Landy does not use a floating timeline.
Valkyrie/Stephanie grows up in each book, transforming from a young girl to a powerful young woman.
To date, there has been no Skulduggery Pleasant adaptation.
Warner Bros had the rights at one point – Landy, who is also a screenwriter, later bought them back.
Colfer’s Artemis Fowl novels were among the first to immediately follow Harry Potter.
Coincidentally, JK Rowling and Colfer were both teachers in their former lives.
A total of 11 Artemis Fowl books have been published to date, across two cycles.
Colfer’s protagonist differs from others on this list. He is a child prodigy and criminal mastermind, unlike the others, who are generally heroic from the outset.
Like Harry Potter, the series includes a fantasy element, with elves, pixies, centaurs and dwarves among the main cast.
Artemis also ages throughout the series, being 16 years old by book ten.
In 2020, Disney+ released an Artemis Fowl film adaptation starring Ferdia Shaw as Artemis.
Its theatrical release had been cancelled due to the impact of COVID-19.
Directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, the film also featured Judi Dench, Colin Farrell and Josh Gad.
JK Rowling’s success with Harry Potter inspired other authors.
Without JK Rowling and Harry Potter‘s impact, the YA landscape would not be the same.
However, none of these examples are carbon copies. They used elements that worked and incorporated them into their own premise.
In the end, readers got to experience a variety of different worlds and characters — everyone wins.