At the risk of stating the obvious, Young Adult fiction is hot right now. And I mean really hot. Suzanne Collins’ bestselling Hunger Games Trilogy has captured the imaginations of readers of all ages, male and female, and has been turned into a series of films that has ‘tweens and teens (and their parents) lining up for hours, just as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga before it and just as Veronica Roth’s Divergent series after.
And we can’t talk about blockbuster YA series without mentioning the masterpiece that started the current trend – Harry Potter. While the first book of J.K. Rowling’s series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, appealed to younger readers, as the series progressed, the characters and their audience grew up together. Part of Rowling’s genius was in having Harry’s, Hermione’s, and Ron’s experiences through puberty and adolescence mirror those of readers who were around the same age when it all began.
Young Adult is fiction written for and⁄or marketed to adolescents and young adults. The American Library Association defines YA as literature intended for audiences between the ages of 12 and 18 but in 2012, a US study revealed that 55% of YA books were purchased by people older than 18 – sometimes by a considerable margin. Many authors also say they didn’t write their book specifically for a YA audience – either it was a marketing strategy decided upon by the publisher or the YA audience found the book on its own.
But regardless of who a book is intended for, when those of us who aren’t familiar with Harry, Katniss, Bella, and Edward think of Young Adult, we often have less–than–pleasant flash–backs to those dusty, difficult, and sometimes dated tomes we were forced to read in high school. Books like Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. While each is a classic in its own right – and for good reason – few of us can honestly say we loved them as teens. (Personally, I distrust anyone who waxes poetic over Animal Farm at any age. And To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was intentionally left out – it’s a must-read for everyone, whether you’re 12 or 112.)
Modern YA fiction can inspire devotion to rival that of the biggest pop stars. Spanning genres from fantasy to sci-fi, historical fiction, crime fiction, and romantic comedy, and covering topics as far ranging as World War II adventure, fallen angels, young love, adolescent alienation, sibling rivalry, drug abuse, sexuality, and even mad cow disease, this selection of novels both old and new will challenge and delight avid and reluctant readers alike, regardless of age.