Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 19, Alexander Pope’s Pastorals were published at 21, and it’s dubitable that Anne Frank expected her diary to reach such fame at the age of 13. There’s no shortage of young authors in the literary canon. But the Daisy Ashfords and Thomas Chattertons of literature aren’t strictly in the past. Here are six still-living authors who were famous before they were old enough to attend university.
Christopher Paolini, The Inheritance Cycle
Paolini completed the first draft of Eragon at age 15 while being homeschooled in Montana. After the young author self-published in 2001, Paolini’s Tolkien-influenced fantasy novel was discovered by Alfred A. Knopf books and went on to become a bestseller, spawning three sequels and a film starring Jeremey Irons and a pre-Downton Abbey Ed Speelers. Paolini, who completed the last novel in the quartet, Inheritance, in 2011, holds the Guinness Book of World Records title of Youngest Author to Write a Bestselling Book Series.
Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala
At 17, Yousafzai became the youngest ever recipient of a Nobel Prize when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy for women’s education. The Pakistani activist’s memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, followed an assassination attempt in which Yousafzai was seriously injured by a Taliban gunman on her way to school in 2011. Since surviving the attack, she has met with world leaders and spoken before the United Nations to continue her fight for universal education and women’s rights.
Libby Rees, Help Hope and Happiness
Rees was 9 years old when she wrote a guide for children dealing with separated parents, based on her own experience with her parents’ divorce. Her second book, At Sixes and Sevens, contained advice on transitioning from primary to secondary school. Though she is now 19, she continues to support young people, having served as a youth ambassador for Save the Children. The self-help genre is home to a number of young authors, including Alec Greven, also 9 at the time of writing his first book, How to Talk to Girls, which spawned a series that now includes How to Talk to Moms and How to Talk to Dads.
Helen Oyeyemi, The Icarus Girl
The now-29-year-old Oyeyemi wrote The Icarus Girl while she was studying for A Levels. Her literary agent was so impressed by her writing that they allegedly agreed to represent her after reading just twenty pages of the manuscript. She continued her creative work while studying at Cambridge, and has since written five novels, which contain dark re-workings of fairy tales, as well as plays.
Jyoti and Suresh Guptara, The Insanity Saga
The British-born Guptara twins began jointly writing Conspiracy of Calaspia when they were 11, which was finally published six years later. At 15, Jyoti dropped out of school to pursue writing full-time, becoming the youngest journalist ever published in The Wall Street Journal, while his brother continued his education. The twins have since completed their 2,000 page trilogy, The Insanity Saga, and now continue writing, consulting and giving readings together in addition to their separate endeavors: military service (Suresh) and modelling (Jyoti).