Teens (sometimes) Get the Best Books

For the past few summers, the fine folks at NPR have asked their readers to contribute to themed Best 100 book lists. This year they tackled the wide world of YA novels. As one of those grown up types who still loves the heck out of teen literature, I enjoyed poring over (and judging) the list. For the most part, the list is a very fair mix of genres, ranging from classics (A Separate Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Catcher in the Rye are all represented) to some of the best writers working today, with just a few “No, seriously?” entries. (I’m looking at you, Hush, Hush…)

John Green was a name I expected to see on the list a few times, but he might be the only non-series author on the list to have almost every one of his books represented. If anyone is a big deal in the realistic fiction game, it’s this guy. He’s been putting consistently good stuff since his 2005 debut, Looking For Alaska (a Printz winner). Green’s newest book, number four on the list, The Fault in Our Stars is holding strong as one of my favorites from this past year. (Bonus: he signed all 150,000 copies of the first printing.) More to check out: An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Sarah Dessen – who is coming to the library in January as a speaker in the Black, White, and Read All Over series –  is another realistic fiction writer with a fair bit of real estate on the list. Just Listen, The Truth About Forever, Along for the Ride, and This Lullaby were voted in and are all excellent choices. Like Green, Dessen has cracked the formula for balancing heart-breaking issues with humor and wit. More to check out: Dreamland, Keeping the Moon, Lock and Key, Someone Like You, and That Summer.

I was really excited to see the Anne of Green Gables series present among the selection of classics. Along with Little Women (sadly missing from the list), L.M. Montgomery’s books were a big part of my reading development as a young person. A girl could do a lot worse than to look to smart and independent Anne Shirley as a role model. Also, Gilbert Blythe is totally crush-worthy.

Did some of your favorites make the cut? Any you would add?

– Jess


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8 responses to “Teens (sometimes) Get the Best Books

  1. Donna Maria

    Oh boy, this is going to be a long comment lol
    First off, the top three are an excellent choice! I’m also really glad that authors like Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, and Robin McKinely all made the list. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Libba Bray (but I think Going Bovine would have been a better choice), Garth Nix and Philip Pullman made the list as well. I’m really upset Twilight is there…Twilight…ugh I HATE Twilight, and because Twilight is there a whole bunch of other crappy Twilight-esque series are represented as well (like the Shiver series ugh). I’m disappointed that there is no Neil Gaiman (hello!! Coraline, Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, M is for Magic? All AMAZING books); Patricia A. Mckillip or Gail Carson Levine (or at least Ella Enchanted). Also, where’s Narnia on this list? Alice in Wonderland? Sigh. At least Harry Potter is number 1. lol

    • I was surprised that Narnia and Neil Gaiman were left off, too. The Graveyard Book definitely would have been a strong entry.
      Twilight and its read-alikes are tough to argue for and against – popularity and quality don’t always go hand in hand :) (Though, I did enjoy the Shiver series). It’d be interesting to see this list done again in a few years to see if those books would still make the cut.

  2. Caroline

    I’ll have to check out some on the list.

  3. lectorconstans

    “Little House on the Prarie”.

    I do llke the Diana Wynne Jones series (Gaiman wrote the foreword to her Reflections .

    Madeline L’Engle is another.

    I’m entranced by Jasper FForde’s “Thursday” books. The could be YA, but they’re a lot better if you’ve read a lot. Really a lot.

    The Eyre Affair is his first.

    • Little House is probably one that got left out because it’s considered Children’s fiction, which is a shame. Same thing in the other direction for Fforde. Always bound to be good stuff left off for silly reasons!
      – Jess

  4. I’m glad to see a substantial number of my favorite authors on there…Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia C. Wrede, Robin McKinley, and Terry Pratchett (among others). It was also exciting to see I Capture the Castle on there, and the Leviathan books by Scott Westerfeld. I agree with the previous comments though, it’s unfortunate that it lacks anything by Neil Gaiman and doesn’t include the Narnia books. (Perhaps those are considered children’s books though? The criteria for “young adult” is fuzzy sometimes). I also think they should have included The Scorpio Races (by Maggie Stiefvater) instead of her Shiver trilogy, but maybe I’m the only one who thinks man-eating horses that come out of the ocean are more interesting than werewolves.

    • I did not dig The Scorpio Races – felt like too much atmosphere/world building, not enough plot (granted, it was lovely atmosphere, but still). I Capture the Castle has been on my to-read list for ages. I really need to get to it.
      – Jess

  5. Tim

    As much as I love John Green (which I do – I watch all his videos, have read all his books, and so on), I can’t help but recognize the depth of his inclusion in the Top 100 is almost certainly due to his online following. He posted the poll for his million Internet-Personality-Follower followers to vote for him on; if many other great authors had this kind of online presence, there is no doubt that they would have been just as wildly present on the list.

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