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I Still Don’t KNow What I Was Waiting For

If I hear one more person say that YA is the hottest category I am going to strangle myself (forget that after I get my script off my hands I’m turning to a YA novel I started a year ago after a publisher contacted me because she loved the blog and wondered if I ever thought of trying to write one. I lied and said I had). And, I confess, I just bought a copy of Hunger Games. I didn’t go near Harry Potter or Twilight, but when I heard that kids killed kids in Hunger Games, I confess I was curious. The YA books of my youth: Go Ask Alice, Flowers for ALgernon, David and Lisa, The Butterfly Revolution, THe Outsiders, Of Mice and Men, In This SIgn, and purloined copies of The Godfather. Now apparently there are hundreds of series about mean girls, rich girls, blonde girls, and undead girls. Go girls!

Do you, as an adult, read YA and what are your favorites. And what were some of your favorites?

62 Responses

  1. Went through a YA kick back in November and December. Read the Twilight series and The Hunger series within a few weeks. Twilight was fun escape reading. I adored The Hunger Games and can’t wait for the movie. I think it’s cool that YA has the front shelves at B&N stores right now. Been hearing great things about The Fault in Our Stars. Moving that up my TBR list.

  2. Slogging through The Hunger Games to keep a promise to my daughter. No one has killed anyone yet. Will giving up in the middle make me a bad mother or just bear further witness to my short attention span?

  3. I like Jane Yolen’s books quite a lot. I loved the Harry Potter series and can’t wait until they come out in Kindle format so I don’t have to heft all that weight. I read the first books in the Hunger Games series but didn’t want to continue. Nothing wrong, just nothing spoke to me. Twilight was a forced read, pressed upon me by a coworker who loves the series. I finished the first book and felt I had done my duty. I still reread books I loved in high school, especially by R.A. Heinlein and Andre Norton and find they stand up well to the ravages of time. I don’t seek out YA, but I don’t avoid it either if it comes with a recommendation from a friend or has an intriguing concept.

  4. I’m working on a YA after some success with picture books. I love reading YA novels. Some favorite authors – Susan Cooper, Karen Cushman, Neil Gaiman (who writes for grown ups too, of course) and Madeleine L’Engle. I LOVE the Dangerous Angels series by Francesca Lia Bloch. I read “Go Ask Alice” when I was 16. I had to hide it from my parents. It’s so important for kids to be able to confront real life issues in a safe place. Books give them the opportunity to do that.

  5. I don’t like reading about kids, because I didn’t especially like being one. They have their books, we have ours. I like it that way.

    My son is huge John Green fan and says The Fault in Our Stars is great. Though apparently the guy has a weakness for the “manic pixie dream girl” thing. Or so says my son.

  6. I heard YA’s cooling off, so you’re just in time. (Maybe that’s only paranormal YA. Not what you’re hearing?)

    You might wanna check out Myers’s MONSTER and Anderson’s SPEAK.

  7. I don’t read very much so-called YA, nor fantasy, paranormal, etc. etc. I did read Hunger Games but not the sequel. There are so many adult novels on my to-read list, I’m not attracted to many YA books. The YA of our youth is not the YA of today.

  8. I read YA because I teach YAs. I also have a boy YA, and he reads everything he can get his hands on, so in order to have common ground with my kid, I read what he reads from time to time.

    Hunger Games: Meh. As a Latin teacher, I liked the references to Rome and the Ariadne/Theseus thing, but, well, meh.

    I love Skellig, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Nothing to Fear, I Capture the Castle, A Member of the Wedding, The Elegance of the Hedgehog…

    I did read Twilight because I had to know if I should hate it or like it. My students care about these things. To my horror, I found myself unable to put that piece of crap down. I don’t give independent reading credit for it, and I feel like taking a shower after reading it, but, well, there it is.

  9. Jewboy of the South, a great YA and A book.

  10. No, I do not, as an adult, read YA. You and I are of the same generation and we read some of the same YA when we were YA: The Outsiders; That Was Then, This Is Now; Go Ask Alice; The Grass Pipe; purloined copies of Ball Four and Manchild in the Promised Land. Every one of them had a terrible influence on me, leading me to long for sex and drugs and some kind of excitement, all of which I sought and found. And I don’t dare regret a bit of it.

  11. I read the first Harry Potter but the quidditch parts were boring and got longer in successive books I heard. I am pushing my fourth as YA. Just say fuck less often. And sex not so wet.

  12. Never really thought Of Mice and Men as a YA novel myself. But I’m not one to judge since I read and frequently recommended A Clockwork Orange in middle school.

    Yes, I do read YA and appreciate the genre (aesthetic? Whatever). My favorites are Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Coraline, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Madaleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. And, yes, I’m a fan of Harry Potter.

  13. I don’t real a ton of YA, but I agree with Sam that Neil Gaiman’s books The Graveyard Book and Coraline are worth it. Modern fairy tales. Gothic. But modern.

  14. I haven’t read Hunger Games yet though it’s been on my TBR pile for a year or so. And I did read the Harry Potter series to find out what the fuss was about–though she nearly lost me on that last one. But my favorite book in that category — and when I read it, I didn’t even know it was YA — was The Book Thief by M. Zusak. That was literature, YA or whatever.

  15. The problem is, I’ve always read all over the place, so figuring out what was YA and what was younger or older is a problem. Not all coming-of-age books are YA . . .

    Maureen Johnson’s Name of the Star knocked my socks off a couple months ago. And anything by Chris Crutcher—if you get a chance to listen to him speak, do it. Francesca Lia Block is always good—love her magical metaphors.

    I suppose the first two books of Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes series could be considered YA. And the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett starts with a younger MC, but she matures . . . The Lloyd Alexander Prydain Chronicles, too . . .

    I love Susan Cooper’s books, but I read them in 4th grade, and don’t consider them YA, even if the characters are 13. Same with the fantastic Skullduggery Pleasant series, which is shelved in Children’s.

    Shoot—I read a lot of fantasy for a crime writer. Wonder if that’s because I tend to read YA more for entertainment now, instead of the lonely, desperate need to understand and be understood that I had as a teenager?

  16. Most recent YA book I’ve read was War Horse – read it in one sitting. A difficult story for a horse-lover like me, but worth the emotional toll.

    I also read a-l-l the H. Potter books – aloud, in individual voices for each main character, at least three times – to my son. He was starting elementary school when the series was first getting attention and those evenings of reading a chapter or four is a warm memory for us both. Ironically, the last book came out just as he started HS and became too ‘sophisticated’ to continue this little ritual.

  17. I read about 50 pages each of Harry Potter and Twilight — which I thought was generous — and then donated them to the library. As someone said above: “Meh.” I never never read YA books. Never.

    But guess what the hell what. I loved The Hunger Games. Over Christmas, I was bored to tears with every book I had on hand, so I one day at the used book store, on a shelf outside in the sun, I bought The Hunger Games. Three days later, I went back and bought the next 2 books in that series. They were fun as hell. I’d had enough of Madame Bovary, I guess. Sometimes you need a real holiday.

  18. Try BOY TOY by Barry Lyga. Slated me.

  19. Oh, and LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow

  20. Read Speak and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Just read them. So dark and funny and moving.

  21. Yep. Have read quite a few of them in the last year. Divergent by Veronica Roth is quite a nice dystopian story (where again, kids kill kids, if that’s intriguing to you), all those Cassandra Clare Mortal Instruments books, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.

    If there’s a good story, I won’t quibble at the age of the protagonists.

  22. Pride and Prejudice. Not classed as YA. But is a brilliant book that, if written now, would be classed YA.
    The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Classed as YA, but an outstanding book for adults. He doesn’t consider himself a YA author.
    Neither does Sonya Hartnett, another great author. Although she was happy enough to accept the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.
    It seems to me that YA is simply fiction with young adults in it.
    Or old kids maybe.
    Just shows one more failing with the classification system.
    How many agents and publishers have been rude to writers because they’re not sure how to classify their books ? Like it’s the label that matters, not the content. Then they blame it on the supposed fact that all that matters is where it gets shelved in the bookstore.
    I’m gonna shut the fuck up now before I start ranting about all us stupid fuckers handing the industry to Amazon on a platter and that there’ll be no bookstores and Amazon will just replace writers with book writing software once they have a monopoly anyway.
    Where the fuck is my medication ? And somebody else’s… mine’s obviously not enough.

  23. Honestly, I don’t understand the distinction between YA and lit fiction. Some of my favorite, recent reads are “YA,” and I don’t get what differentiates them from other treasured reads on my shelf. For example, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron. I defy you to read that and tell me it’s not straight up literary fiction. Really fucking good literary fiction.

    Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

    Stay With Me by Garret Feryman-Weyr.

    And why the hell are Of Mice And Men and Flowers For Algernon “YA?” This is not a rhetorical question.

  24. Ugh, Stay With Me by Garret Freyman-Weyr. You knew what I meant.

  25. A good friend of mine had a daughter that would never read. Hated it. Then Twilight. She kept going on about how wonderful it was, and I asked “what do you have to compare it to since you don’t read?” So we made a deal, I would read Twilight if she read a book of my choosing. I choose A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. One of my favorites at her age, (14). I read, she read, I thought well….. not too bad. I read all of the “Twilight” books just to see what happened. (I Liked them). The last book not nearly as good as the second. She hasn’t read much of anything else except for what is required at school. I read the same books Betsy and Jess read. But I remember thinking while reading Twilight, man , wouldn’t it have been great to have books like this, (and movies) when I was 14. I remember passing around a much read copy of Valley of the Dolls, catholic high school circa 1968. We WERE Shocked! Nothing fazes these kids. They have the internet, unbelievable video games. I watch a movie now that I thought was pretty amazing at the time and now it seems so tame. I sound, and feel pretty old right now.

  26. I never read Harry Potter as a teen; neither did my kids, as they were past the YA stage when the books were popular. I got into the series for a recent PR assignment: marketing Harry Potter Fan Trips to Orlando, Florida + the UK. As an adult, I find them fascinating morality tales with great characterization, wry wit and clever plot twists.

    Want to win an HP Fan Trip for 2 to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Orlando® Resort? You have until March 31 to enter the contest at https://www.facebook.com/HPFanTrips#!/HPFanTrips?sk=app_154581087931912.

  27. Catcher in the Rye was my favorite YA novel. I read the Narnia series to my boys as they marvelled at kids disappearing into other worlds or flying on carpets. They snatched up the Hunger Games, Percy Jackson and more recently M.T. Anderson and Philip Kerr’s YA books but their favorite remains Pittacus Lore who I think is James Frey in disguise, I am No. 4 & I am No. 6, you know the urgency of don’t speak to me now mom and I can’t sleep until I finish reading this…

  28. I read a book I thought was YA called Daddy but I now think it was porn. Same with The Story of O. YA or porn? Is The Hunger Games porn, or just perverse? I’m very confused.

  29. I read and reread children’s books, but I stay away from that whole YA genre, including live and in person. Teens frighten me, and always have, even when I was one. I’m nearly amnesiac about that whole period of my life. I understand it’s much worse now, and lasts into the early 20s. Gadzooks.

  30. No.
    I think I owned a Nancy Drew book once. But I can’t remember back that far.

  31. As a teen, I read L. M. Montgomery, Diana Wynne Jones, Madeleine L’Engle (early teen), Robin McKinley, and Lois Lowry. Those are the high-brow books I’ll cop to. But I was also reading V. C. Andrews (I can’t believe I just admitted that to the world), Lurlene McDaniel, and Sweet Valley High.

    As an adult, I still read Diana Wynne Jones, Jane Yolen, and Neil Gaiman. I loved The Messenger by Zusak. I made my way through Hunger Games, Cassandra Clare’s books, and the Wicked Lovely series, and liked them well enough. I haven’t read Sweet Valley High since I was fourteen. Thank god.

  32. I loved Looking for Alaska (John Green) and The Book Thief which was outstanding. I didn’t know it was YA.
    I also read Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Taylor), Paranormalcy (White) and the Harry Potter books. I loved the pace of these, the mysteries that kept me flipping the pages, just reading something I could take at face value. As someone mentioned above, there is a different aesthetic there that I enjoyed.

  33. Young Angst? Nope. Got enough of it at home.

  34. As pop culture phenoms, I read Twilight and Harry Potter to see all the fuss, and I couldn’t put either down, though I stopped at the first one of each. I’ll probably do the Hunger Games too for the same reason.
    A friend passed on the Book Thief to me as I was writing part of my own book about WWII Germany. I too didn’t know it was classified YA while I was reading it but it was brilliant.
    Old school: I remember peers reading Sweet Valley High but I didn’t. Is Judy Blume just Y and not YA? Go Ask Alice and The Outsiders were up there for me. Oh, and when I was 17 and a lifeguard at a pool with no swimmers my summer before college, I read many Danielle Steel “novels.”
    I’m reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles now. Is that YAish?

  35. I have always loved YA, and experienced a real reading crisis when I moved from YA to “adult fiction” because the stories, well….sucked by comparison in many cases. I actually quit reading for a while until I finally found some adult fiction that engaged me the way I had come to expect with YA.

    As a kid, I read all the time, and everything from all the Anne of Green Gables books to all things Tolkein, although he is not necessary YA, I suppose. I loved books like Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Chaim Potok’s My name is Asher Lev, as well as Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles (most of the rest of which are better than The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe), A Wrinkle in Time series (all the Madeleine L’Engle books). Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series was terrific, as were the books of Lloyd Alexander. Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and many of the rest of the Enderverse series have been favorites for years.

    As an adult, I have returned to YA, in part because I love it, and in part to try to help young readers find things that they love, too. I loved Harry Potter before he became a worldwide sensation. Currently, I love Shannon Hale’s series that started with Goose Girl and includes River Secrets, and Forest Born. Right now, I am reading Cris Beam’s “I Am J”, whose protagonist is a transgendered teen. There’s just so much great stuff out there, and it does my old English teacher’s heart good to see kids clamoring to read the next ________ whatever it is, simply because that means that they’ve been bitten by this bug, too, and they will never, ever be the same as they were before they loved books.

  36. Haven’t read Twilight but enjoy Richard Peck’s books. Harry Potter has some good points (humor mainly) but too many adverbs. Thinking of returning to Nancy Drew. Now there was a girl with a sharp eye.


  37. Ellen Hopkins’ novels-in-verse are beautiful and dark. Sometimes too dark, but then I loved S.E. Hinton as a teen.

  38. I took my then 15-year-old daughter and a friend to a reading/signing for Mockingjay. Suzanne Collins looked like a sweet old fashioned librarian but you would have thought I took them to a Stones concert. They were besides themselves. It was the first author they had ever met. Who knew YA could make you a rock star?

  39. I was a Go Ask Alice and Prozac Nation kind of a girl. Now I find I really appreciate illustrated YA. Two of the most recent and notable: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, and How I Made It to Eighteen, a “mostly true” graphic memoir, by Tracy White.

  40. I really make no distinction by age group when I read. Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Tiffany Aching’s wee free men; loved them all. Maybe I am emotionally retarded.
    But I can’t believe The Book Thief was YA. It gave my 70 year old mother psychological damage.

  41. What I’m seeing over and over in these comments is that the distinction between YA and litfict is a false and in some ways debilitating distinction foisted upon readers by anal-retentive constructors of artificial categories. It’s almost as though if a work of fiction is exciting and engaging and has young or teenaged characters, it is deemed by some cabal of tastemakers to be of lesser value, or is a less than truly serious literary work.

    • Which is probably also the reason most adults who are not parents or grandparents keep a healthy distance from the section in libraries and bookstores dedicated to children’s books.

  42. During my teen years as an androgynous goth, I read a lot of manga-those Japanese comic books. Out of the many series I read and the hundreds of dollars I spent, there is only one set of books that I still love and reread: MARS. Overall, I didn’t read much YA then and I don’t read much now. I think it is because, like someone else on here said, I didn’t enjoy my teenhood or the company of my teen peers.

  43. There was a YA novel where the “bad” kids were sent to a survival camp where they then got picked off. The one girl has an affair with one of the leader/counselor guys and they escape… I probably read this when I was 11 or 12 circa 82 or 83. I don’t know when it was published. Sound familiar to anyone out there…

    • I read that book ragged and secretly wanted to be one of the bad girls in smut-camp, running for my life with the hot camp counselor. I can’t remember the title, though.

      • I can picture the cover too! Title… Grr. Good to know I hadn’t imagined it though. There was another book about a friendship between two girls, they created collages of I don’t know, pictures of each other or magazines and then there was something about their families splitting them up for being gay. Nothing like Heavenly Creatures with murder, much more mundane and relate-able. Again, early 80s I’d love to know I’m not making up stories–hehe.

  44. But the books I read as a teen? Trash. Beautiful glorious trash. I read Sweet Valley High and worse, hid books like Princess Daisy and Lace I & II behind them. I was not a teen who loved Shakespeare. The two creative writing assignments I did landed me in the guidance office. That went well. I dropped the class. A friend of mine in high school retitled The Scarlett Letter — Hester the Hussy Has No Hubby — I still love her for it.

  45. Anything by M.T. Anderson. And one of my recent favorite YAs is YOU KILLED WESLEY PAINE by Sean Beaudoin – wickedly funny.

  46. i read ya authors who cross over from lit. fiction like isobel allende, jeanette winterson, etc.etc. just to see what happens.

  47. I woke up 5:00 this morning to finish reading “The Hunger Games” before I had to start my day. I was totally hooked. I love a good young adult novel. Sometimes I think children and young adults are the only ones reading anymore.

  48. I read YA almost exclusively these days. It’s a lot better than most adult fiction I’ve read lately. Try Marcelo in the Real World (Francisco Stork); An Abundance of Katherines (John Green); Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green and David Leviathan); Liar (Justine Larbalestier); Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver); When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead); Jaclyn Moriarty’s Ashbury High series; Graffiti Moon (Cath Crawley); Dark Water (Laura McNeal); Plain Kate (Erin Bow).

    There is SO MUCH good YA out there, I’m almost excited for people who haven’t read any because it’s like opening up a whole new world of really amazing fantastic books. And I’m not just saying that because I write it, too.

    (It does feel a little weird when people say, “Oh, YA is hot, I’m going to try writing it.” Not that you’re doing that, but it also feels funny that a publisher would reach out and say, “Write YA!” It’s not like there is a shortage of YA writers out there… besides which, YA is a marketing category for publishers and generally the protagonists tend to be young, but it’s not something you kind of intentionally write, is it? It’s just where the publisher is going to put it on the shelf or in the catalogue. There is definitely no difference in quality, not to me anyway. It’s not “easier” to write, that’s for sure. A good book is a good book regardless of the somewhat random marketing spin that is put on it. The Book Thief is a great example of that…)

  49. Lots of fun reading already listed here. My favorite recent YA read was The Absolutely True Diary of A Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. A delicious, wise, funny, and inspiring story told by one of our great Native American writers.

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