Hi everyone! I hope the day is treating you well.
Last weekend, I stumbled upon yet another derisive article about the dearth of quality Young Adult literature. Why this bias continues is absolutely beyond me, and I responded to the post, suggesting that the author of the article might want to read more YA before indicting the entire library. That’s when the awesome Maria M. asked if I’d be willing to do blog post series about some of my favorite YA books. Of course, this list would be my opinion, and I’d love to get more suggestions via the comments section as we go.
This week, I’d like to introduce the classics. My argument (and I’m open for debate on this point) is that Jane Austen marked the birth of Young Adult literature. Her novels almost exclusively centered around single young ladies in their late teens (and early twenties in a few cases), interacting in a society that constricted their options and put into focus their foibles and romantic entanglements. Sound familiar? It should–that’s the basic setup of many YA novels.
So the very first book of the YA Reading list is:
Considered Austen’s masterwork, Pride and Prejudice is the story of Elizabeth Bennett, one of five daughters in a family with no sons. Of course Lizzie’s mother is concerned as to what would happen to all of them should her husband die. The estate will go to a male cousin and if one of the girls doesn’t marry him, well, out on the street you go. However, Lizzie and her older sister meet two young men who promise a very different outcome. To me, one of the greatest literary romances ever is the one between Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Mainly because they are so attracted to each other–despite kind of despising each other in the beginning. Ms. Austen’s jokes stand the test of time, and the witty dialogue moves the plot along at a brisk pace. The story also deals with bad choices, scandal and faulty social standing (i.e. not fitting in with the popular girls). It’s well worth the read.
Other great stories by Jane Austen are Emma (my personal favorite), Sense and Sensibility (made into a fantastic movie by Emma Thompson) and Mansfield Park.
But Jane Austen’s not the only classic about a young, single woman in her teens. Jane Eyre might be the first YA romantic thriller. And what about the later books in the Little House series? Laura has to teach school to send her sister to college. She meets, dates and gets engaged to Almanzo Wilder. And Laura shows, more than once, that she has quite an attitude. Are they gentler, less evocative, than a lot of the YA today? Yes. But they’re also reflective of the time and style of literature when it was written.
There’s actually a pretty long list of “classics” that are, in truth, YA novels: The Diary of Anne Frank, Little Women (one of my all time favorites), The Catcher in the Rye, and The Outsiders (I consider that one a classic–it was published more than 40 years ago…and really, anything by S.E. Hinton counts).
What about you? What “classic” books would you consider to be YA literature behind the cover? Did I miss some titles?
I think that “To Kill A Mockingbird” qualifies as YA. Also both “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury. Oh, and I’d add “Lord Of The Flies”.
Awesome to hear from you, Misha! Good list. I debated about To Kill a Mockingbird, as it’s one of my top ten favorite books, and I couldn’t decide if it was very mature Middle Grade (due to Scout’s age) or YA due to the content…so I’m going to agree with you on that one. It needs to be on the list. And I haven’t read Something Wicked this Way Comes in years. Should’ve thought of that for Halloween!
Fahrenheit 451. Flowers for Algernon. The Speed of Dark.
Oh, Flowers for Algernon…I’m not sure how to class that one. The lead character isn’t YA. But it was an excellent read in ninth grade. So, while it’s not true YA (at least IMHO), it’s a great teen read. Farenheit 451 was on my high school’s banned book list. So I read it. : )