Good Monday, YA Lovers!
This week’s edition of “What’s Up In YA?” is sponsored SwoonReads, the crowd-sourced imprint from Macmillan and publishers of You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando.
Reagan is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. But she’s fallen in love and now has to decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she’s always wanted? Does she even have a choice at all? Read more at SwoonReads.com
Let’s take today to look back into the history of YA lit. Or rather, a look back into some of the back list titles from YA, as the “beginning” of the history of YA lit is debatable (likely somewhere in the 1940s, with Maureen Daly’s Seventeenth Summer, about the time that teenagers themselves were considered an entire generation of people, but note further below another potential starting point). I’ve put together lists of books from the past in the weekly “3 On A YA Theme” column over the last year and thought it would be fun to look back to begin this one.
From each year past, I’m pulling out 5 titles. It will be hard to know how well some of the older titles stand up, but because of the popularity they received when they published — or because of the author who wrote them — these should be worth tracking down and revisiting. I’ve limited picks to stand alone titles or the first in a really popular series for the sake of simplicity. There are repeat authors across the decades, in part to highlight how long their career in writing for teens spanned. Descriptions are from Goodreads.
Ready? Keep track and see how many authors or titles are familiar to you.
2007 — Ten Years Ago
It’s interesting to see how many of these have been adapted to the big or small screens!
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (first in The Mortal Instruments series)
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, and drugs with excruciating side effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of “normal” life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, are all painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time runs out.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.
1997 — Twenty years ago
Tenderness by Robert Cormier
Eighteen-year-old Eric has just been released from juvenile detention for murdering his parents. Now he’s looking for tenderness–tenderness he finds in killing girls. Fifteen-year-old Lori has run away from home again. Emotionally naive and sexually precocious, she is also looking for tenderness–tenderness that she finds in Eric. Will Lori and Eric be each other’s salvation or destruction?
Sons of Liberty by Adele Griffin
Nobody knows the American Revolution better than Rock Kindle. Rock takes pride in his patriotic forefathers. His belief that he, too, could brave any combat helps him through the bad times, when Rock’s father wages small wars on the rest of the family. But when he helps his best friend run away from home, Rock begins to question the bonds that hold his own family together. He knows that he would never be a traitor to his father and would never desert the family. So why is his wish to escape his own home so powerful?
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
The day after Liyana got her first real kiss, her life changed forever. Not because of the kiss, but because it was the day her father announced that the family was moving from St. Louis all the way to Palestine. Though her father grew up there, Liyana knows very little about her family’s Arab heritage. Her grandmother and the rest of her relatives who live in the West Bank are strangers, and speak a language she can’t understand. It isn’t until she meets Omer that her homesickness fades. But Omer is Jewish, and their friendship is silently forbidden in this land. How can they make their families understand? And how can Liyana ever learn to call this place home?
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
Vivian Gandillon relishes the change, the sweet, fierce ache that carries her from girl to wolf. At sixteen, she is beautiful and strong, and all the young wolves are on her tail. But Vivian still grieves for her dead father; her pack remains leaderless and in disarray, and she feels lost in the suburbs of Maryland. She longs for a normal life. But what is normal for a werewolf?
Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. Aiden is kind and gentle, a welcome relief from the squabbling pack. He’s fascinated by magic, and Vivian longs to reveal herself to him. Surely he would understand her and delight in the wonder of her dual nature, not fear her as an ordinary human would.
Vivian’s divided loyalties are strained further when a brutal murder threatens to expose the pack. Moving between two worlds, she does not seem to belong in either. What is she really—human or beast? Which tastes sweeter—blood or chocolate?
The Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl
Anna is more than shy. She is nearly invisible. At seven, terrified of school, Anna retreats within the walls of her family’s enormous house, and builds a world of passageways and hidden rooms. As the years go by, people forget she ever existed. Then a mysterious note is thrust through a crack in the wall, and Anna must decide whether or not to come out of hiding. Patrice Kindl’s astounding, inventive novel blends fantasy and reality — and readers will not forget it.
1987 — 30 years ago
The Boy Who Reversed Himself by William Sleator
When Laura finds her homework in her locker with its writing reversed, she’s baffled, until she learns an unbelievable secret: her weird neighbor, Omar, has the ability to travel to the fourth dimension. Laura forces him to take her there, and then, a novice in “four-space”, she goes there on her own. There’s only one problem: she doesn’t know how to get back.
The Crossing by Gary Paulsen
Manny Bustos is an orphan, scrabbling for survival on the streets of Juáurez, Mexico. He sleeps in a cardboard box and fights with boys bigger and older than him for the coins American tourists through off the bridge between El Paso, Texas, and his town.
Across the border, Sergeant Robert S. Locke, Vietnam vet and Army prefect, searches for a way to drown the cries for help of his dead friends, and finds it in Cutty Sark whiskey. On the night Manny dares the crossing, through the muddy shallows of the Rio Grande, past searchlights and border patrol, in the hopes of a better life, the two meet in an explosive encounter that fills the night with tension and endless possibilities.
Remember Me To Harold Square by Paula Danziger
When Frank spends the summer with Kendra and her family in their New York City apartment, a friendship develops as the two teenagers set off on a scavenger hunt exploring the city’s museums, restaurants, and other landmarks.
The Return by Sonia Levitin
Fifteen-year-old Desta belongs to a small, isolated mountain community of Ethiopian Jews. She and her brother and sister leave their aunt and uncle and set out on the long and dangerous trip to freedom — an airlift from the Sudan to Israel, the Promised Land. They travel barefoot, facing hunger, thirst and bandits.
The Goats by Brock Cole
The boy and the girl are stripped and marooned on a small island for the night. They are the “goats.” The kids at camp think it is a great joke; it’s an old tradition. No harm is intended, but the goats don’t see it that way. They want to disappear. To disappear completely. And they do, much to everyone’s surprise.
1977 — Forty Years Ago
I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier
Adam Farmer is on a journey – he has to get to Rutterburg with a parcel for his father. But as he travels, he starts to remember the events leading up to this point, memories which are also being prised out in gruelling psychiatric interviews. What is the secret of Adam Farmer? And what will happen when he finds out?
One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte
No summer vacation could be less promising than Bobby Marks’s.
Bobby Marks hates hot weather. It’s the time when most people are happy to take off their heavy jackets and long pants. But for Bobby, who can’t even button the waist of his jeans or reach over his belly to touch his toes, spending the summer at Rumson Lake is pure torture.
This particular summer promises to be worse than usual. His mom and dad can’t stop fighting. His best friend, Joanie, goes home to New York City unexpectedly and won’t tell him why. Dr. Kahn, the rich, stingy estate owner who hires him to manage the lawn, is trying to work Bobby to death before he can earn a single dime. And the local guy who worked for Dr. Kahn last summer is lurking around every corner, itching for a chance to catch Bobby alone, to pay him back for stealing the job.
But there’s more to Bobby Marks than his 200 pounds. He’s about to find out just how terrifying and exhilarating, how dangerous and wonderful, one fat summer can be.
The Solid Gold Kid by Norma Fox Mazer & Harry Mazer
What he’s dreaded most has finally happened….
Kidnapped. It’s a word that sixteen-year-old Derek Chapman is afraid to even think, but the reality of it is beginning to sink in. He’d been standing at the bus stop in the rain with four other kids-strangers-when the van came along, and they’d hitched a ride to escape the storm.
Derek knows he is the only one the kidnappers really care about–he’s the son of a self-made millionaire, and now he has a price on his head. The others, two guys and two girls, just had the bad luck to follow him into the van. Although Derek is the target of the kidnappers, the danger is real for all of them. Even if the criminals get the ransom money, will all the victims be set free?
Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
Cat doesn’t mind living in the shadow of his sister, Gwendolen, the most promising young witch ever seen on Coven Street. But trouble starts brewing the moment the two orphans are summoned to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Frustrated that the witches of the castle refuse to acknowledge her talents, Gwendolen conjures up a scheme that could throw whole worlds out of whack.
A Summer To Die by Lois Lowry
Meg isn’t thrilled when she gets stuck sharing a bedroom with her older sister Molly. The two of them couldn’t be more different, and it’s hard for Meg to hide her resentment of Molly’s beauty and easy popularity. But now that the family has moved to a small house in the country, Meg has a lot to accept.Just as the sisters begin to adjust to their new home, Meg feels that Molly is starting up again by being a real nuisance. But Molly’s constant grouchiness, changing appearance, and other complaints are not just part of a new mood. And the day Molly is rushed to the hospital, Meg has to accept that there is something terribly wrong with her sister. That’s the day Meg’s world changes forever. Is it too late for Meg to show what she really feels?
1967 — Fifty Years Ago
Worth noting at this point: many name Hinton’s book below to be the first official YA book published. That remains up for debate, but it certainly is a landmark, foundational YA book.
Also worth noting: 1967 is the year of many familiar classic YA titles, even beyond what’s noted here. For even more into the importance of 1967 in YA lit, keep an eye on Booklist’s celebration of 50 years of YA this year.
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again.
The Contender by Robert Lipsyte
A Harlem high school dropout escapes from a gang of punks into a boxing gym, where he learns that being a contender is hard and often discouraging work, but that you do not know anything until you try.
Are You In The House Alone? by Richard Peck
Sixteen-year-old Gail is living the upper-class suburban life when she begins receiving terrifying phone calls and notes in her locker. And the calls keep coming. When she’s attacked by the town’s golden boy everyone refuses to take action against him and his powerful family. A frightening drama that deals with heavy teen issues and the idea of justice (or lack thereof) from bestselling author Richard Peck.
Flambards by KM Peyton
An absorbing novel about twelve-year-old orphaned Christina who is sent to live with her fierce uncle and his two sons in their decaying mansion, Flambards. Christina discovers a passion for horses and riding but finds herself part of a strange household, divided by emotional undercurrents and cruelty.
Thanks for hanging out again. We’ll be back next week with a big link round-up of everything of note going on in the YA world.