You know what I think about NPR’s Best Ever YA list?
1) It was obviously a pure popularity contest, with no consideration for whether some of the hot titles of the past couple of years can possibly hold up over time;
2) Just because kids like something and frequently read something, doesn’t mean it’s YA;
3) Just having a young protagonist doesn’t make something YA.
4) Removing Ender’s Game because it is “too violent” is insane, if you’re going to include The Hunger Games and (God help us) Lord of the Flies.
I argue about points two and three all the time. I’m not saying you’ll never convince me otherwise, but no one’s done it yet.
And regarding the first point, I get that it may be difficult to assess whether a title will hold up over time unless you have a time machine. But, I mean, Twilight? Really? Are we going to argue that Fifty Shades must be great literature because after all it represented 20% of all book sales this year? Porn sells: that’s not news, but it doesn’t mean it’s great literature.
I have to admit that there are a LOT of titles on NPR’s list that I haven’t read. Like, more than half. Wow, who knew? Well, but I never used to read contemporary YA. Plus, of course, when I was a kid, YA wasn’t a category the way it is now and I wasn’t shoved toward YA books particularly.
It strikes me that there are definitely some on the NPR list that aren’t YA. These include:
Lord of the Flies
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Call of the Wild
Dune (I mean, good lord above, who would call DUNE a young adult novel? ???)
The Lord of the Rings
The Princess Bride
Flowers for Algernon (Give me a break!)
Anne of Green Gables (too young; definitely MG rather than YA)
The Uglies (ditto, imho)
And Ender’s Game wasn’t on there, but if it had been, imo, it’s not YA either. (I argue about that all the time.) But not because it’s too violent, whatever that means — because it just isn’t. It’s too slow, too big, too complicated, and does not “feel” YA. It just doesn’t.
Also, obviously some titles that made the list are not, shall we say, of the quality we would hope to maintain on a list of “Best Ever” titles of anything. Twilight is the obvious one here. If there are any other frankly bad books on the list, I don’t know what they are.
Obviously the list is highly and inevitably biased toward titles that everyone has read; ie, really popular titles or titles assigned in high school – and yes, I get that quite a few people must have enjoyed reading Lord of the Flies, for some reason, or it wouldn’t be on the list. But, wow, did a lot of titles get left off that deserved to be far, far above Twilight. !!!
Here are the titles that I totally agree with:
Harry Potter series (Rowling)
Hunger Games series (Collins)
The Dark is Rising series (Cooper)
I Capture the Castle (Smith)
The Last Unicorn (Beagle), which actually I’m not a hundred percent sure I agree it’s YA, but okay, we’ll go with it.
If I Stay (Forman)
The Enchanted Forest series (Wrede)
The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown (McKinley)
The Trickster series (Pierce)
The Chrestomanci series (Jones)
Remember that I haven’t read the majority of the titles, though! Nevertheless, in a just universe, the following titles (in no order whatsoever) would certainly have made it onto that list:
Power of Three and Dogsbody (Jones)
Protector of the Small series (Pierce)
Beka Cooper: Terrier (Pierce)
Sorcery and Cecilia (Wrede and Stevermer)
Marelon the Magician (Wrede)
A Certain Slant of Light (Whitcomb)
Girl of Fire and Thorns (Carson)
The Scorpio Races (Stiefvater)
An Alien Music (Johnson)
The Changeover (Mahy)
The Truth Teller’s Tale (Shinn)
The Attolia series (Turner) — are you kidding me? How can this not be on the list?
Tombs of Atuin (Le Guin)
Wrinkle in Time (Le Guin) – did I just miss it? Shocked this isn’t on there.
A Fistful of Sky (Hoffman)
The Sunbird (Wein)
I Am Not a Serial Killer series (Wells) – I know that it’s not usually considered YA, but to me it clearly is.
Tomorrow When the War Began series (Marsden) – again, how can it possibly not be on the list?
Airborn duology (Oppel)
And, for contemporary titles rather than genre, no list can possibly be correct unless it includes:
The Sky is Everywhere (Nelson)
Almost Perfect (Katcher)
Five Flavors of Dumb (John)
Catalog of the Universe (Mahy)
Comments? Any other “MUST INCLUDE” titles?