NPR has just published its list of the 100 Best Young Adult novels, based on suggestions and votes from an incredible 75,220 participants. I doubt anyone will be surprised that the Harry Potter books top the list, given their wild popularity among children, teens, and adults alike. But the list is as interesting for what it doesn’t contain as for what it does. You’ll find a number of classics in the mix, from To Kill a Mockingbird to Fahrenheit 451 to The Call of the Wild. I was taken aback that Little Women didn’t make the list, although the Anne of Green Gables and Betsy-Tacy series did. I was also surprised at the high percentage of recent titles, including Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which has been out less than a year.
There’s a lot of fantasy and a smattering of SF, not all of it YA in my book (if you’ll pardon the cliche.) Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series is really middle-grade (MG), not YA. The Hobbit could conceivably be considered YA, but The Lord of the Rings, Dune, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were written for and marketed to adult audiences, as were the two Ray Bradbury books on the list. Not that these books contain material inappropriate for young adults (especially by current standards), but they weren’t originally thought of as YA. (The same can, of course, be said of some of the other books on the list, from Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime to classics like Flowers for Algernon.)
Tamora Pierce has four series on the list: the Alanna, Wild Magic, and Circle of Magic quartets, and the two Trickster books featuring Alanna’s daughter, Ali. I was disappointed that the Protector of the Small books didn’t make the cut; I think they are among Pierce’s best work, and the latter two books in the series are particularly apt for a YA audience. Two of Robin McKinley’s titles made the list — The Blue Sword and The Hero and The Crown — as did Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle and her Chrestomanci series. I was rather astonished to see Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series come in 27th, given its immense popularity a few years ago; it was well below the Hunger Games trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, The Princess Bride, and even Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.
It’s not all fantasy, of course, though the list does seem dominated by that genre. There’s historical fiction (Markus Zuzak’s The Book Thief). There’s an abundance of chick lit (Brashare’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss, and several books by Sarah Dessen). There are books featuring minority protagonists, coming-of-age novels, books about overcoming tragedy or personal issues, social commentary novels… a wide gamut of genres. So whether you like fantasy and SF or prefer your fiction set in the ordinary world, you’re bound to find something to suit your taste on this list.
And if you’re older than 20 (or even 65), don’t be put off by the YA appellation. As I’ve already made clear, not all of these books are truly YA, and a lot of the material currently being marketed as YA transcends age boundaries, as the genre’s burgeoning popularity among adult readers attests. Browse the NPR list and see what you can find!
I’m also interested in your thoughts. How many of these books or series have you read? (I was dismayed to realize that I’ve read fewer than 25 of them — though I’m adding a number of the other titles to my TBR list.) Which books should have made the list, and didn’t? Which ones would you have left off, and why? And which ones are going on your TBR list?
Here are the books I’m adding to my TBR list:
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt*
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle — I can’t imagine why I never read this one!
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, anyway)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs*
the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (maybe)
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodie Picoult
the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (maybe)
The following were already on my TBR list:
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale*
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (a re-read)*
the Shiver trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater*
Of course, I have a lot of other books on my TBR list, and it keeps growing, so who knows how long it will be before I get around to some of these!