"When you're a kid, you have no power. You're physically small and weak, and adults are constantly telling you what to do. So it's incredibly compelling to imagine yourself not only as someone to whom exciting things happen but as someone who is more than those around you. The problem is that then you begin to grow up and realize you're just a lowly muggle. … Is it possible that all of us, weaned on these stories, end up inevitably disappointed with mundane life as it actually exists?"
—Paul Waldman, writing for The American Prospect, on why Harry Potter (and other children's books, too) may be contributing to young readers' unhappiness
I read fantasy to escape, but also to empower myself. It's easy to see why. Books take me on an instant journey to everywhere, and on days where I'm put down, frustrated, and unsuccessful, an instant escape is very tempting. Well-written fantasy books take me into the hearts and minds of the characters, and make me be the character. Whether I'm blasting droids with Anakin or cracking puzzles(finished Goblet of Fire today, heh heh) with Harry, I enter the character's mind and heart as wholly as he/she enters mine. His success is my success, and his failure is my disappointment.
But, as the quote above says, can all this be harmful? Whether it's Percy Jackson or Star Wars or Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl or Twilight, the main character often starts off being different, normal and relatable, just like you and me. And then something happens, they change and become better, greater, more awesome, then everyone around them. They have their own special power and destiny, leaving the ordinary behind.
And so we are conditioned to believe that we, some day, will also leave behind the ordinary for a great destiny. One day I'll put aside school, parents, money, rules, and go save the world, to the awe and envy of lots of people who were just like me.
And we spend our days waiting...waiting for our Hogwarts acceptance letter, our satyr, our-whatever, something that says "HEY! You're not ordinary anymore! Congrats!"
And it never comes. Instead....life as we know it goes on. Any achievements, great or small, come with a lot of time, sweat, and sacrifice. They don't seem worth it, compared with, I don't know, TIME TRAVEL??
Rather than face life for what it is, many of us go back to burying our heads in those books, where instead of being a B student, the slowest, the last, the least, we can be superpeople, and adults wither in the face of our witty sarcasm(Maximum Ride, anyone?). But when we grow up, we can't seek refuge in books anymore, so many grown ups turn to other things in an attempt to escape the mundane.
Of course, someday we will throw off the boringness, but we have our whole boring lives to survive first!
How can we use the fantasy genre to, instead of showing up real life with things like mind control, wings, and telekinesis, remind us how magical real life really is?