Magic, vampires stir India's young adult literature
Till the late 1990s, the young adult readership was traditionally served by books imported from the West.
New Delhi: Boy wizard Harry Potter, youthful criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl and vampire Edward from the Twilight series - the neo-adolescent heroes of the West - have spurred the creativity of young Indian authors and led to a stream of books set in a fantasy world, eagerly read by their contemporaries.
Till the late 1990s, the young adult readership was traditionally served by books imported from the West. In the the last decade, the readership virtually exploded when JK Rowling launched the Harry Potter series, Eoin Colfer created Artemis Fowl and Stephanie Meyer began her Twilight series.
Young adult is a genre "which is now coming of age in India with publishers establishing separate imprints for the category", said Kanishka Gupta, who manages Writer's Side, a literary agency.
"This is because of the growing interest among teens to read books they can easily relate," said Gupta, who recently sold 15-year-old Mumbai-based writer Shreya Mathur's young adult book to Harper Collins-India.
The book is about a girl who can "predict question papers correctly on the basis of sample chapters".
Author Trisha Ray, an English literature student at Jadavpur University, writes about a "foundation", a secret organisation that claims to exist only to serve human civilisation with guns, martial arts and blood battles in her book, "The Girls Behind the Gunfire".
"I was inspired by the tough Hollywood girl as, when I was younger, I aspired to be one. After doing karate for a few years, I realised that slick moves in high heels and killer make-up were never going to happen," the 19-year-old Ray told IANS.
"Learning to fight involves startlingly artistic bruises and a lot of sweat! I think I tried to put that across in the book to the best of my ability. The tough girl in this book is into fighting because she likes it."
For Payal Dhar, 35, the author of "A Shadow in Eternity" and "Satin, A Stitch in Time", "writing young adult fantasy is like playing god".
"I suppose, when I started writing fantasy, what really hooked me was that you got to break the rules and create whole new ones. I love how it pushes you to reconsider the world around you, how people relate to each other, traditions, stereotypes, social order, technology and laws of physics," Dhar told IANS.
"Publishers and authors are waking up to the fact that this is a segment which needs to be written about; talked to. There is a demand in the market," Priya Kapoor, director of Roli Books, told IANS.
"Our children's books by Paro Anand addresses almost everything from hard-hitting social issues to the Kashmir turmoil, exposing them to realities they had no idea about," Kapoor said, agreeing "that the success of Harry Potter has helped Indian publishers encourage the genre".
Anand, 51, is the author of 16 books for young adults and children.
Roli Books said its major young adult titles this year "represented diversity" with Ranjit Lal's "Black Limmericks", Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's "Shadowland", the third book in the "Conch of the Brotherhood" trilogy, and Rakesh Satyal's "Blue Boy".
Penguin India describes its new Penguin Young Adult imprint as "an eclectic mix - a blend of the east and west".
"The big titles include 'The Return of Ravana' series (three books) by David Hair, 'Skunk Girl' by Sheba Karim, 'Faces in the Water' by Ranjit Lal and 'Figure it Out: The Ultimate Guide to Teen Fitness' by Namita Jain," a spokesperson for the publisher told IANS.
Publisher and chief editor of Harper Collins VA Karthika observed that the increase in the number of Indian young adult books was due to the sense among publishers "that there was a gap in the market".
"The success of Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter has shown us the demand. On an average, we do six books a year. The inaugural package of our young adult series had four books. We are trying to get young people to write for young people so that readers can connect to the stories," Karthika told IANS.
Debutante Rajal Pitroda, 33, the author of "Starstruck", sums up the genre thus: "It has to be a compelling story with characters that young adult readers can relate as an experience".