NYU Local Recommends Young Adult Lit

At this point, if you’ve ever had a roommate or a little sister or a mom or your monthly period, you’ve probably heard about John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. You’ve probably also either read it or are lying about having read it. The book, which tells the love story of two teenage cancer patients, was originally released in 2012 — the movie adaption comes out on June 6 of this year. It’s been a bestseller since it came out and has, in turn, turned the spotlight towards the myriad books crafted specifically for the small, zitty and hormone-crazed.

YA fiction, despite getting a lot of flack for being written for young adults, is undeniably one of the most important genres of literature for many reasons: it opens the door to bigger ideas for burgeoning readers, it’s cathartic, and it has a unique way of helping curious kids find their way out of the foggy world that is middle and high school. While The Fault in Our Stars is a great place to begin, here’s some of NYU Local’s favorite YA fiction that John Green didn’t write.

Amanda McLoughlin, City:

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden, one of the first YA novels and with a same-sex couple to boot! The voice is so strong, the characters are so well-defined, and the scenes are so memorable that I can go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and walk you through Annie’s and Liza’s first meeting.

Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, trilogy by Garth Nix. Fantasy that ranks up there with Harry Potter and LotR. Kickass female protagonist? Can’t say no to that! Unique brand of magic? Heck yes. Immersive world-building and maps galore? Sign me up.

His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) by Phillip Pullman. Okay, these are my desert island novels, and not just because large parts of them are set in the Arctic. Lyra is my favorite protagonist of all time. Daemons and alethiometers are my favorite authorial inventions of all time. Pullman’s witches are my favorite witches of all time. This version of world-hopping is my favorite of all time (I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, can you tell?). If you had the misfortune to watch the movie a couple years back, cast it from your mind and give the source material a try.

Adam Cecil, Entertainment:

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler.

Olivia Loving, On Campus:

Speak and Catalyst, which are both by same author, Laurie Halse Anderson – who I was pen pals with).

A Wrinkle in Time (or anything else) by Madeleine l’Engle.

My Sister’s Keeper (or again, anything else) by Jodi Picoult – I think she’s good for teenagers because they’re not done with the suburbia clichés, and her books are exciting before you read 10 of them. I do still pick up one every once in a while though! Don’t want to diss Jodi – I think she’s great at what she does and her books are good for teens because they’re addicting.

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (this one is less about teenagedom and more for middle grade readers – it won the Newbery – but I think it’s for everyone), and One Day by David Nicholls, which is also a book for everyone, but I think teenagers latch onto it.

Andrew Karpan, Entertainment:

For the best in mildly serious YA lit, I think M.T Anderson is pretty much a critic’s darling – FeedThe Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. He belongs somewhere.

Catherine Addington, On Campus:

The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, everything Gail Carson Levine ever touched, but especially Ella Enchanted, Fairest, and The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series, M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts, the Inkworld series by Cornelia Funke, the Royal Diaries/Dear America (both with various authors), The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and ALL THE NANCY DREW BOOKS NOW AND FOREVER. And as for middle-grade books that I still revisit/revisited all through high school, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare…could go on for days with this one.

Elizabeth Preza, City:

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (duh).

Addy Baird, Entertainment:

If I had to pick just one series of my own that exemplified great YA lit, it’d be The Ruby Oliver Series (The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, Treasure Map of Boys, Real Live Boyfriends) by E. Lockhart. This series is the epitome of teen chick lit, but Lockhart’s writing is so sharp and her characters so relatable you can’t help but see yourself in them and adopt their ways. Before you know it you’ll be referring to puberty as “mocha latte.”

Happy reading!

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9 Comments

  • Catherine Addington
    February 26, 2014

    Madeleine L’Engle endorsement x 1000

  • Diana Alarcón
    February 26, 2014

    Oh, come on. The opening sentence is honestly the most offensive thing I’ve read this month.

  • Kay T
    February 26, 2014

    This is so beyond offensive not only to John Green, but to his readers, myself included. I don’t even have words. The author of this article saw no problem with publishing this? The Fault in Our Stars, while it is a YA book is not read only by those of us who have “had a monthly period,” as it was so poetically put. There is no such thing as a “girl book” or “boy book,” only books. Gender is not a genre, its time that the world stops pretending it is. So sick of things like this in YA lit.

  • Danielle Vazquez
    February 26, 2014

    Given that you acknowledge that “YA fiction, despite getting a lot of flack for being written for young adults, is undeniably one of the most important genres of literature for many reasons,” why on Earth do you take such a dismissive tone to its readers? “On your period”? “Hormone-crazed”? Really? I get that this was intended to be “lighthearted” or even “funny,” but you’ve displayed the same attitude that so many people have when they discuss YA fiction–or, really, anything that is liked predominantly by girls and/or women. And that attitude? That’s a big part of why YA gets so much flack.

    So, yeah. I’d have expected better from an article *recommending* YA books.

  • Ellen Hopkins
    February 26, 2014

    Since you’re writing about YA, as defined by John Green (and there is a whole lot of it that he didn’t write), you might note that you’re recommending middle grade novels like those by Madeleine L’Engle, Sharon Creech and Phillip Pullman (not to mention Nancy Drew????). You missed a whole lot of great YA while recommending younger reading, in fact. Would be nice if journalists would do enough research to understand the definition of “young adult,” which has changed over the last decade. No YA reader is going to dive into Nancy Drew, which I loved when I was in, like, fourth grade.

  • Roberta Niche
    February 26, 2014

    Some of the best literature period (no pun intended) is classified as YA. Addy, you should be honored that one of the finest authors writing today commented above. What Ellen Hopkins said times 100. You might’ve wanted to talk to some experts (librarians) before you put out this article and yeah, the lead was offensive.

  • Kaitie Morrison
    February 27, 2014

    I cannot believe someone read this piece of garbage and thought “Yes, there’s an article we should post on our site.” YA recommendations, I can totally get behind. Presenting them in such a way that is just plain offensive? Interesting choice.

  • Rebecca Holman
    February 27, 2014

    The amount of sexism and disregard for the hard work of authors that you personally do not like in this article is astounding to me. Regardless of your personal feelings toward John Green books, the fact that there are so many people, BOYS included, who like it, who read it, who follow John Green himself on Youtube, on Twitter, on Tumblr, proves that it has merit. You do not gain a fan base that large and dedicated without producing something of VALUE to people. And if you bothered to read that book closely you would find themes such as dealing with (or not dealing with) the premature death of a loved one, the relationships between parents and their disabled or sickly children, how our ideas of things can blind us to the truth or let us down, and, probably the biggest one, how life is in fact NOT a perfect romance novel where everyone ends up with the perfect partner and they live happily ever after. Added bonus for the fact that John Green wrote a book about disabled teenagers living actual lives and doing normal, teenage things.

    Now onto my first and most important point that I want to leave you with: the blatant sexism in this article. The fact that I felt the need to justify John Green’s merit to you by saying boys also enjoy his work is absurd. Girls may be the primary consumers of YA literature but that does not diminish its value. I’m sure there would be many more male fans of it too if society would stop telling them that to be feminine is to be weak and that YA literature is inherently feminine and bad. But you keep perpetuating that stereotype. You are contributing to this problem. You cannot endorse YA books while simultaneously degrading its biggest consumer demographic.

    I am appalled that something like this was allowed to be published. I am appalled that whoever edited this didn’t look at it and say, “This is not right.” And furthermore I am appalled that sexism is so rampant in our generation that young women are degrading other young women for their personal choices in entertainment.

    Say what you want about yourself. Call yourself hormone-crazed if you’d like. Claim that your period is the reason for your emotions if you want. But do NOT dare to tell people that hormones and periods are the reasons for MY or ANY other woman’s emotions. Do not dare to belittle an entire gender’s feelings and opinions even if you are of that gender. Do. Not.

  • Olivia Loving
    February 27, 2014

    ^ @Ellen – Madeleine l’Engle wrote many middle-grade novels (I’d say the Time series are among them) but also wrote for teens – A Ring of Endless Light, A House Like a Lotus, etc.

    But yeah, “hormone-crazed” is a reductive way of talking about YA and makes the article contradict its purpose.

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