This week we invite you to continue exploring the works of the women who define contemporary young adult speculative and science fiction, a topic we began to discuss in Women Authors of Young Adult Speculative and Science Fiction – Part I. With novels topping the New York Times Best Seller list for months at a time and film adaptations breaking box office records, J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins have made some of the most significant contributions to young adult literature throughout the genre’s history.
British novelist Joanne (J.K.) Rowling’s Harry Potter series has become the best-selling book series in history with over 500 million copies sold. Born in Yale, Gloucestershire, England, Rowling rose to multi-millionaire status from relative poverty within a five-year period which also saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, and divorce from her first husband. Themes of loss and darkness are prevalent throughout the series, in which a young wizard, Harry Potter, develops his magical powers at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and heroically attempts to overthrow the evil and powerful Lord Voldemort.
The first book in the series, and Rowling’s debut novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in England by Bloomsbury in 1997 with a print run of only 500 copies, 300 of which were distributed to libraries, making it the most rare book in the series and one of the rarest young adult novels in the world of rare books. It was published in the U.S. a year later as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by Scholastic who bought the rights to publish for $105,000. Scholastic decided to change the title, fearing that the word ‘philosopher’ might intimidate children; a decision J.K. Rowling later regretted approving.
Between 1997 and 2000, Rowling published a new book in the series every year with The Chamber of Secrets in 1998, The Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999, and The Goblet of Fire in 2000. The fifth book in the series, The Order of The Phoenix was published in 2003, followed by The Half Blood Prince in 2005, and the seventh and final novel, The Deathly Hallows in 2007.
In 1999, Warner Bros. Pictures bought the film rights for the first four Harry Potter books for almost 2 million dollars. Upon its debut in November of 2001, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone earned the highest-grossing Thanksgiving weekend record, which it held for twelve years until it was surpassed by The Hunger Games in 2013.
The youngest of four children and daughter of a U.S. Airforce officer, American author Suzanne Collins moved frequently throughout the eastern United States as a child. She began her career as a writer for children’s television series and published her first young adult series The Underland Chronicles between 2003 and 2007. In 2008, Scholastic Press published Collins’ The Hunger Games, the first book in The Hunger Games Trilogy. The book was an immediate success and graced the New York Times Bestseller list for 60 weeks in a row.
The Hunger Games Trilogy follows the adventures of Katniss Everdeen in Panem, a dystopian post-apocalyptic nation consisting of one wealthy capital city and 12 districts in varying states of poverty. Every year, two children from each district are selected to participate in a mandatory televised death match called The Hunger Games set in an arena filled with a variety of deadly obstacles designed to add further drama to the production. Inspired by the military lifestyle that defined Collins’ childhood, the story weaves the themes and structures of classical Greek and Roman myth with that of contemporary reality television programs.
Rights to the series were acquired by Lionsgate Entertainment in 2011 and The Hunger Games became the fifteenth highest-grossing film franchise of all time, grossing almost three billion dollars. Our collection currently includes each of the signed first editions described above as well as signed first editions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (the latest installment in the Harry Potter series which takes place nineteen years after the events of The Deathly Hallows), Quiddich: Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard, as well as signed first editions of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy and Catching Fire.