Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang
In November of 2012, the 3D version of the Hollywood blockbuster, “Life of Pi,” based on the novel by Canadian author Yann Martel, made a huge splash in China. Domestic box office sales hit RMB560 million, and its Taiwanese-born director, Ang Lee, was awarded an Oscar for best movie director. In the film, a young man and a tiger go on a fantastic adventure. The fable-like tale reveals a depth of human nature, lending the film so much favor among audiences that it is comparable to the American youth novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” in terms of its popularity in China.
Youth has become a theme among novels of today’s era, and youth novels and their derivative products have continued to flourish across national boundaries. When talking about differences between East and West when it comes to youth novels, those from Europe and America perhaps are more likely to describe a young hero taking his first steps into the world and the trials and tribulations involved. After a series of hair-raising adventures, the protagonist ends up more mature than when he started. The stories often have a fantastical nature. Chinese youth novels, on the other hand, tend to be about a pair of protagonists—a hero and a heroine—who, prior to setting foot hand in hand into the social front, lead us through a campus romance.
Xin Yiwu is one of the hottest youth novelists in China today. Back in 2007, her debut, So Young, gave an account of a group of young and innocent university students and their warm romances. After graduating, they go their separate ways, turning this golden time of love and life into a stressful time of cruelty. Afterward, Xin Yiwu published a series of books starting with So You’re Still Here. The entire series employs the same set of characters who, one after another, act as a protagonist narrating their respective foolish dabbles with love. This series of novels has sold more than 1.5 million copies in Mainland China, and Xin Yiwu has been crowned by her readers as the “Queen of Tragically Romantic Youth.” In 2013, So Young was made into a movie by the same name which set a record by selling more than six hundred million tickets within the first sixteen days.
Another youth author, Xia Mingyou, writes novels which are quite the opposite of Xin Yiwu’s. Xia Mingyao’s works explore the suffering caused when innocent love is ravaged by cold reality, whereas those of Xin Yiwu tend to be filled from start to finish with romantic feelings alike to those in an idol drama. Whether in A Farewell to Pluto or With You to the End of the World, Xia Mingyao always loves to write a sweet fairy tale of a campus romance as if to propagate the message that “true love can conquer all.” No matter how long the lovers are separated and no matter how long they have to wait for each other, no matter how many adversities try to come between them, happiness continues to prevail.
In an effort to get to the bottom of exactly what is the reason behind this sudden popularity of youth novels, the media and many netizens have postulated that the more we find ourselves in today’s society of high-paced fickleness and impatience, the more we long for the simple, golden days of campus life. We also hope to find inspiration and motivation from the characters and relationships in youth novels. Furthermore, in China and abroad, the most famous movies and their directors have already grown old; only products made for and about young people will enjoy popularity and timelessness among the youth of today.