… not a novel, but a series. And what a series.
That’s right: EW readers have officially voted J.K. Rowling’s epic, game-changing Harry Potter saga to be the best YA novel – er, novels – of all time. (Why did we pit series against standalone books? Simple: As EW book editor Tina Jordan explained, the list would have been too cluttered “with multiple titles from YA’s most outstanding series” otherwise.)
On one level, this should hardly come as a shock. Harry, after all, is responsible not only for introducing an entire generation to the wonders of reading but also for single-handedly creating a boom in children’s and young adult publishing, one that shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. The film adaptations of Rowling’s series also helped spur a new franchise-based film economy, while arguably ruining movie sequels to boot.
Look back at the way the full bracket progressed, though, and you’ll see that Harry’s ultimate nemesis – not Voldemort, but John Green’s heartbreaking romance The Fault in Our Stars – made its way to the top by summarily crushing franchise after franchise.
In Round 2, Green’s bestseller trounced Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, snagging 73 percent of the vote. In Round 3, it barely broke a sweat against James Dashner’s Maze Runner series, garnering a healthy 65 percent. And when the contenders had dwindled to an Elite Eight, TFiOS faced its stiffest competition yet: Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games saga, a behemoth with over 26 million books in print (as of 2012 alone!) and an incredibly popular series of film adaptations. But even Katniss and her bow were no match for cancer-stricken sweethearts Hazel and Gus; The Hunger Games fell to The Fault in Our Stars, 69 percent to 31 percent.
But after winning another decisive victory over Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the bracket’s Final Four, TFiOS hit a wall. In the end, there was really no contest: John Green’s book won just over a third of the final vote; the rest went to J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece.
Why? For that answer, we’ll have to turn to a rather unlikely source: John Green himself, who wrote on his Tumblr that his own final vote “obviously” went to Harry Potter. His explanation: “HP is the most important story for a generation of readers and is one of the central reasons that my career even exists, so it’s a bit silly even to be in the ring with it here at the end.”
With that, Green just about sums things up. The Fault in Our Stars is a great book. But to millions and millions of people – old, young, anywhere in between – Harry Potter is more than that: It’s a cultural beacon, a secular religion, a way of life. And a full six years after the final book in the series was published (and two years after the final film adaptation’s release), the saga’s impact has hardly diminished. There’s simply nothing else like Harry, and there may never be anything like him again – despite the best efforts of publishing houses and movie studios alike. At this point, the series is so engrained in the pop cultural consciousness that its dominance would be a given even without things like Pottermore and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and an upcoming film series based in Rowling’s magical universe. (Further foreshadowing of this outcome’s inevitability: As of this afternoon, John Green’s massively popular Twitter account has 18,214 tweets sent and 1,884,595 followers. J.K. Rowling’s, by contrast, has 2,620,143 followers…despite a grand total of 24 sent tweets.)
So cheers, Harry! Even though your win was something of a foregone conclusion, it still must be reassuring to know that you’ve still got it. Anyone for celebratory butterbeer?