Elements of Adventure

From treasure hunts to epic quests—what could be more exciting for young readers than being catapulted into the unknown where they join the hero on dangerous missions and action-packed adventures?

Just like adults, many children enjoy the adrenaline rush of an adventure story. There are a number of elements which make adventure fiction highly appealing for young readers, but primarily it is the action-driven plots, fast pace and escapism qualities which provides its broad appeal (McArdle 2015, ch. 1; Sarricks 2009, ch. 2).


Action-Driven Plots

Action-driven plot lines are one of the key defining characteristics of the adventure genre (Sarricks 2009, ch. 2). Adventure stories typically feature a protagonist who finds themselves in a perilous situation or on an impossible mission. They must use their skill, ingenuity and courage to overcome dangers and obstacles to save themselves, save the day or possibly even save the world.

The plot drives the character towards adventure and readers enjoy the eventfulness of these stories. There is rarely a dull moment as the protagonist faces difficult challenges, impossible odds and many unexpected twists and turns. Readers are hooked as the hero escapes danger after danger, compelling them to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

This strong focus on action is especially appealing to children as it grabs their attention and draws them into the story. It is because of this focus that adventure fiction is commonly chosen as the go-to genre for engaging reluctant readers (Sullivan 2010, p.10; Sutton & Parravano 2010, p. 173). Children who may view reading as ‘boring’ often discover thrills, excitement, danger and suspense in adventure fiction. Reluctant readers find comfort in the simple plots and predictable formula. In addition, they are able to immediately immerse themselves in the action and adventure, without the challenge of interpreting more complicated characters, plots and settings found in other genres.


Fast Pace

Fast pacing in the adventure genre compliments the action-driven plots and provides much of the same page-turning appeal for young readers. The story moves quickly as it follows the hero from one perilous situation to the next. It is the pace of the action that grabs the reader’s attention, while keeping them engaged and entertained.

It is not necessary for adventure fiction to contain thrilling action on every page, however the brisk pacing of the story builds suspense, captivating readers and intensifying the adrenaline rush (McArdle 2015, ch.1).



Often with adventure fiction—more is more!

Fans of the genre love the larger-than-life characters, over-the-top action, far-fetched plots, extreme danger and exotic settings (Sarricks 2009, ch. 2). Adventure stories capture the imagination of children and appeal to their sense of wonder. Young readers are able to live vicariously through the hero’s exploits, experiencing the exhilaration as they encounter and overcome dangers, all from the comfort and safety of home.

Adventure fiction can typically be described as pure reader escapism. These exaggerated stories provide children with the opportunity to escape everyday life and get lost in the pages of an over-the-top world—who wouldn’t enjoy that?



McArdle, MM 2015, Readers’ advisory guide to genre blends, American Library Association, Chicago, viewed 11 September 2016, ProQuest Ebook Central.

Sarricks, JG 2009, Readers’ advisory guide to genre fiction, 2nd edn, ALA Editions, Chicago, viewed 4 September 2016, ProQuest Ebook Central.

Sullivan, M 2010, Serving boys through readers’ advisory, American Library Association, Chicago.

Sutton, R & Parravano, MV 2010, A family of readers : the book lover’s guide to children’s and young adult literature, 1st edn, Candlewick Press, Somerville, Mass.