YA literature has become one of the most popular book genres for many years, and it’s no secret why. YA literature often deals with topics such as sexuality, coming of age, friendship, race and LGBTQ+; many of these topics were taboo to discuss openly a few decades ago. So not only is the targeted demographic utilizing these novels to gain insight on the most confusing years of their life, but adults are also enjoying the extremely relatable content. There is no shame in being an adult and loving YA novels; there are some amazing books out there! So on World Book Day let’s shine a light on some of the best to come out of this genre.
Here are some YA novels that every teenager and adult should read. Happy World Book Day and happy reading!
Can you feel the nostalgia in the air? Honestly, it wouldn’t be right to start off a YA novel list without the novel that captured the 2000’s by storm. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight was nothing short of a phenomenon; becoming a New York Times Bestseller and ushering in a wave of vampire obsession for younger generations. For those who live under a rock/just forget, Twilight is about a seventeen year old named Bella Swan who moves to live with her Dad in Forks, Washington. It’s there she’s drawn to a handsome student named Edward Cullen…who happens to be a 104 year old vampire. Filled with danger and romance, the first novel lays the foundation for their love story. Getting its debut movie in 2008, Twilight was definitely a moment in book culture and pop culture. Whether you were a fan of the movies or were team books only (I adored both); it’s safe to admit 2008 were simpler times. So, Team Edward or Team Jacob?
So, admission time: I didn’t read The Perks of Being a Wallflower until my senior year in college! However, it’s never too late for adults to get into Young Adult literature. The topics discussed in Stephen Chbosky’s novel, will have you, at times, forgetting you’re reading a book technically meant for younger audiences. The maturity and lessons on those pages make college (your living room will do too!) the perfect environment to break down Chbosky’s words. It’s a coming-of-age story about a teen named Charlie as he struggles to make friends and to be ‘normal’ as he begins high school. As Charlie and his friends continue on the path of young adulthood, they’re forced to acknowledge the trauma within their past. With themes like LGBTQ+ identity, drugs, mental health and sexual assault, this 1999 novel has never been so timely. The 2012 film adaptation The Perks of Being a Wallflower is now on Netflix, perfect quarantine material.
What’s that saying when a bride is about to get married? Something old and something new? You can have a list of famous titles we’ve loved since our childhood (shoutout to my fellow 90’s kids!), but you also have to add some new classics. Besides, a new face or two isn’t going to hurt anyone! Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give may have come out in 2017, but this new kid on the block is definitely making a lot of noise (and rightfully so!). Thomas’ novel is revolutionary for the mere fact that instead of creating vast universes, to help people escape from the issues plaguing society; she’s turning a magnifying glass towards it. In The Hate U Give, Starr witness her friend Khalil wrongfully shot and killed by the police. Starr is an African-American girl who’s trying to balance her life at her private school that’s mainly white and her at home life where she can be herself; she must choose her path as she fights for justice for Khalil. Blend in or Stand up? Catching the tone of racial injustices bubbling under this country’s service and movements such as Black Lives Matter; Starr’s story is unfortunately not unique, but quite common.
Let’s gather our tissues and dive into John Green’s masterpiece, The Fault in Our Stars. Not only is it one of the best YA novels from the 2010s, but it’s one of the best YA novels ever. It’s so good it got a film adaptation in 2014. I saw the movie with my high school classmates and we wept together (definitely bonded for life after that). After being blown away by the movie, I bought the book and fell even more in love. In The Fault in Our Stars a girl named Hazel, who is combating thyroid cancer, is trying her best to have a ‘normal’ life; as a result she attends a cancer support group to meet others that understand her point of view. It’s there she meets a boy named Augustus, who has his own health battles. There hasn’t been a love story like Augustus and Hazel in Hollywood, and Green’s novel is nothing short of a classic.
image via amazon
Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is not only an amazing YA novel, but it’s an amazing novel period. Sherman Alexie deserves to be a household name just like Stephenie Meyer or J. K. Rowling. Utilizing illustrations and humor to address not only the protagonist’s woes, but issues plaguing society as well, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a descendant of amazing titles such as Maus by Art Spiegelman and Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Even though the protagonist’s name is Junior, a lot of Junior’s struggles come from real life experiences experienced by Sherman. The story is about a boy who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He is an aspiring cartoonist, but has a wide array of medical problems. Junior is severely bullied, but he’s determined to get a good education so he goes to an all-white school in a neighboring town. He is faced with the dilemma of being considered a traitor by his people and facing many obstacles. This book deserves all the accolades.
Now you muggles and wizards, didn’t think I’d write a list on YA literature without saluting the wizard that left his mark on this genre, did you? I can’t even imagine what the YA genre would look like without the boy who lived. Although when J. K. Rowling debuted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1997, it was technically classified as a book for children; as the series progressed, and as Harry grew up, more mature themes were introduced. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were no longer wide-eyed children running from trolls; now they’re teenagers trying to find their voices as well as agency. I believe the fifth book not only captures Harry and the gang’s new phase perfectly, but it marks the turn from children’s fiction to YA literature for the series. On that note I say 10 points for Gryffindor!
It’s no secret how impactful YA literature has been on pop culture. Hollywood just can’t enough of adapting the hottest novels to blockbuster movies and addicting shows on Netflix. On World Book Day, let us remember our favorite YA classics, or even add some more to our collection. These stories are timeless, and whether you’re young or young at heart, there’s something for everyone in this genre. Happy reading!
feature image via scholastic
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