I’ve been writing for the YALSA blog over a year now, mostly about books and in particular YA classics.’ I love talking and writing about books, and I’ve found that the New to Me columns have given me a new appreciation for YA literature and reading.
Prior to beginning, I didn’t care for most of the YA literary classics that I had read.’ The Pigman felt much too dated to me and the characters were so unlikable that I couldn’t see the appeal of the novel.’ The Chocolate War was better, but it was somewhat didactic.’ And I still haven’t read The Outsiders, something that I’ve jokingly said will get me drummed out of the YA librarian corps.
My reactions to the YA classics I’ve read for my posts has changed my opinions somewhat.’ YA literature is often marked by trends: something that is popular today is passe within months.’ In addition, since it often reflects a moment in time, some YA novels date quickly, full of references to party lines, teased bangs, or flannel shirts.
But even with all this, reading these older YA titles has opened my eyes to what YA literature is all about: teens, at one moment in their lives.’ Feeling the excitement of the first kiss, the nerves of the first drive, the pressure of first place in sports or school or community.’ It’s been commented that adults like reading YA novels because they remind us of all those firsts that we experienced as teens.’ And whether it’s a book published today or in 1975, those experiences are universal.
Why not take advantage of the new school year to crack a classic–a YA classic?’ See if it’s held up or if some books are wrongly judged as classics.’ Or read one of my New to Me selections and judge whether I’m on target or all wet.
Here are some suggestions:
The Goats by Brock Cole
Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
I devoured everything by Robert Cormier and Cynthia Voigt when I was younger, but I haven’t tried to revisit either in quite a while. More power to anyone who makes it through Seventeenth Summer–Linda Braun made it required reading when I took YA lit, and I couldn’t believe how uneventful it was!
My classic recommendations:
Anything by William Sleator, but especially Strange Attractors (which I think was his first title that I read)
The works of Paul Zindel (Pigman was already dated when I read it as a teen, but I really enjoyed it anyway–and I Never Loved Your Mind)
The Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper, which for some reason never really caught on here the way Rowling or even Pullman’s series have