The perks of reading a Young Adult novel
Young adult novels. We all know them. Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games. The fear of being identified as a “young adult” might mean that some of us turn up our noses at novels with the vomit-inducing “teen” label.
But deep down, we all have a young adult book – or two, or three – which we think is pure genius. Although there have been many wonderful YA releases over our lifetimes, this proliferation of titles has not come without a price — as often happens when a medium begins to expand, there is a release of waves of worse and worse titles aiming to capitalize quickly on the medium’s success.
In a market like that, how can one know which books to avoid? Never fear: we bring you the best—and some of the very worst—YA novels released in recent years.
Our top three:
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak: In this 2006 novel, Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl living through the Holocaust. Due in major part to Death’s fresh and poignant reflections on human nature, this book was one of the most achingly true meditations on love published for any age group in the past decade.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green: In this novel, 16-year-old Hazel suffers from cancer that she has always known will take her life. However, when she meets the gorgeous and enigmatic Augustus, everything gets much more complicated. Never shying away from portraying either the sheer intensity of first love or the unfathomable horrors of cancer, Green refuses to talk down to his readers.
Uglies, Scott Westerfeld: Before Katniss, there was Tally. This 2005 sci-fi series kickoff introduced us to the tale of Tally Youngblood, a teen living in a future in which everybody undergoes a surgery to become a perfect-looking “pretty” on their sixteenth birthday. Tally, however, discovers the dark side of the system and embarks on a rebellion.
Three books that give young adult novels a bad name:
The Blessed, Tonya Hurley: This novel, released in September, is a retelling of the stories of saints Agnes, Cecilia, and Lucy—set in modern-day Brooklyn. Um, what? This teen paranormal trend has gotten slightly out of hand.
Dearly, Beloved, Lia Habel: This novel is another one of those stories about a society struggling to survive after a plague has swept the world—leaving everyone in its wake a zombie! The protagonist, of course, is a young human woman who happens to fall in love with one of these zombies. Come on—at least Fifty Shades of Grey admitted to being a Twilight fanfiction.
Revealing Eden, Victoria Foyt: This one is perhaps the most mind-boggling of all. It tells the story of a future in which pearls (read: white people) have mostly become extinct after their lack of melanin has caused them to die out in global warming … or something. They have been enslaved by the brutal new majority of dark-skinned “coals.” There are plenty of bizarre YA titles out there, but few are thinly veiled assertions of reverse racism. To make matters worse, the novel was promoted by this video featuring a white actress … in blackface.
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