x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Can't beat the magic of Hogwarts

As her readers have matured, JK Rowling has made the transition into adult writing. But teenagers will always prefer imaginative stories over realistic ones.

We have cause to rejoice once more. Or do we? JK Rowling's newest book, The Casual Vacancy, has hit the shelves and is ready to be snapped up. Pottermaniacs could not have been more pleased since the Dark Lord was vanquished. The day we read the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last of arguably the most popular book series on Earth, was a dark one.

Would there ever be another book, fans wondered, that was so compelling, so full of intricate plots woven together into a rich tapestry of adventure and unexpected twists? Would all we have to look forward to in life be a future as bleak as if a Dementor had sucked out all the hope and happiness from inside our souls? And a small, realistic voice in our heads whispered yes, because the teenage Harry we had adored had grown up, got married and had three kids in the last book. He had crossed over from volatile, exciting youth into the grown-up world, and would hold our attention no more.

As I picked up The Casual Vacancy, I got a nagging feeling that Rowling had abandoned us teenagers by writing this book. As her young readers had matured, Rowling had reportedly made the transition into adult writing with aplomb. The latest book is all about the undercurrents of tension and darkness in a picturesque English town called Pagford. It is far more reminiscent of real life than a tale of wizards and witches escaping on a dragon after robbing a bank run by goblins.

A series by another author recently caught my eye: the Theodore Boone novels by John Grisham. In contrast to Rowling, Grisham started out as an author of legal thrillers for grown-ups, but successfully made the switch to writing about a 13-year-old boy, Theo Boone. Boone seems to be the sort of person who exemplifies what wonderful things we insignificant youngsters of the world can achieve. He is a young lawyer, knowing far more about the judicial system than most university graduates do, and likes to sort out his friends' problems. Winning a case in animal court, for example, had the added bonus of impressing the prettiest girl in his class. He's sort of a Nancy Drew or one of the Trenchcoat Twins, but far less irritating.

In fact, the shelves are brimming with teenage geniuses. I also couldn't resist picking up Eoin Colfer's sagas Artemis Fowl and The Last Guardian. Artemis is a criminal mastermind who uncovers a whole colony of magical creatures living below Earth's surface. These fairies, elves and dwarfs aren't your typical Disney wonder-beings, but technologically savvy smart-mouths who don't appreciate Artemis trying to steal their gold.

What they have in common with Harry Potter is vivid: visually dramatic storylines in a fantastic world that is impossible to believe in, but great fun to read about. For us teenagers, Hogwarts, with all its trick staircases and Whomping Willows, will still stand out as a far nicer place to live in than the realistic Pagford.

The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai.