The Power of Fantasy for Young Adults

The Power of Fantasy for Young Adults

Posted on September 8 by Rob Shapiro in Fiction, Recent Releases, Teens
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I can’t remember when I discovered fantasy stories. My best guess is inside a comic book panel or when I first saw The NeverEnding Story. It would be cool to remember something like that.

What I do remember is that fantasy stories have always been there for me. A reliable comfort. When I was young, I read and watched everything, but there was always something about fantasy that stood out. I was an easy sell as a kid and more so as a teenager. It’s as simple as, the more complicated life became, the more I was looking to escape to Gotham City or Middle Earth. I saw fantasy as a shapeshifter, following me around, darkening every doorway, convincing me that a sewer grate was a shot at adventure.

It’s weird but as I matured, the less childish many of these stories seemed. As a teenager,  despite largely keeping my enjoyment of them private (confidence comes with age), I discovered the hidden complexities in the make-believe. A fantasy world didn’t feel like it was just being captured on paper or film. It felt more like a snowball rushing down a slope gaining mass along the way, and maturing along with me.

Reflecting on my own experiences reminds me of how important fantasy stories are for young adults. Yes, it's an escape but it’s also a mechanism for processing the world. If you’re scared of leaving home, if you’re scared of losing someone close to you, if you’re scared of what’s next—take solace that Frodo, Katniss and Peter Parker all did it before you and lived to tell that tale.

Of course, none of this matters if a story doesn’t connect with today’s young readers. My goal in writing The Book of Sam was to transplant the heart of the worlds and characters I loved into a new chest cavity. This is evident in my protagonist, Sam Sullinger, I hope. He had to be the unchosen one. He had to lack the confidence to write his own legacy. It was imperative that he was made of relatable adolescent stock and imbued with a sense of isolation and loneliness. He couldn’t be born with a prophecy begging to be fulfilled because no one gets that luxury.

2020 has been a tough year, and one for the books, especially. To embrace a fantasy novel isn’t to ignore what’s happening in the world. It’s to accept it, to drum up the courage to face it head on and to feel like you can be part of the solution. Good fantasy writing is sleight of hand. You compel readers to step into the unknown only to have them realize that they’re changed upon their return and the experience makes them more prepared to deal with their own reality.

Rob Shapiro

Posted by Kendra on September 17, 2019
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Rob Shapiro

Rob Shapiro is a novelist and TV writer who has dabbled in film, theatre, and copywriting. He recently wrote for Nelvana’s D.N.Ace and co-created two television series that are in development. Rob lives in Toronto.