The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten YA Classics

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week, the theme is classics and I've chosen to go with my top ten YA classics. Actually, some of these are established classics, some are titles which I have no doubt will go on to be viewed as classics in the future. Any of these htat we've reviewed have links in the titles. Enjoy.

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

It's an obvious one, really.  A book beloved by both adults and young adults alike, it has recently suprised me how few teenagers that I work with have actually read it - something I am actively striving to remedy in the library I work in. Holden Caulfield is the epitomy of disaffected youth, with his questions and his attitude and his desperate desire to be heard.

Might as well get this out of the way right at the beginning, yes?  Unlike The Catcher in the Rye, the teens in my library cannot get enough of this.  We literally cannot produce enough copies to keep up with their demand to read and then re-read a book that has them thinking and talking and crying and wondering. It is an extremely good book and one that will remain popular for years to come, despite the current John Green backlash that its popularity has brought the author.

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

A favourite of mine since I first read it aged nine, this is a book for all ages but one that will particularly speak to teenagers.  Particularly teenage girls because Jane is as compelling a female character as you will find in any Hunger Games or dystopian Chicago.  Smart, focussed yet more than a little naive, she is a pleasure to watch as she grows into an accomplished and independent woman.  Also, spooky attics in creepy houses, endless moors and the intriguing Mr. Rochester combine to make this one of my all time favourite stories.

The nice thing about Jellicoe Road is that, on a fairly regular basis, you come across someone who has just discovered it for the first time and has been as utterly blown away by the story as everyone else.  An exceptionally well written book, it tells a story of love, loss and family as well as one which charts the choppy waters of one girls coming of age while adding an almost, if not quite, air of the supernatural. There are many of Marchetta's books that could be billed as classics (er, see below) - but this one is my favourite and arguably her best work.

The Secret History - Donna Tartt

This was published as an adult book - much like Jane Eyre and The Catcher in the Rye - but the story is about a group of students aged between about eighteen and twenty-two who have become embroiled in murder. While there is mystery at the heart of Tartt's astonishing debut, she is really riffing on themes of privilage, friendship and influence.  It is utterly unputdownable and should be read by all age groups.

How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff

One of the first young adult books that I read and still one of the best.  Rosoff's vaguely dystopian tale of a summer holiday gone wrong (via WAR) and forbidden love made right is utterly mesmerising, unique in it's use of language and both magical and horrific in turns.  It is a story that will stay with you for years after you read it and the recent film adaptation isn't too shabby either (Hellooooo, George Mackay!)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chobsky

This is perhaps the perfect Bildungsroman.  Readers watch Charlie navigate the choppy waters of high-school, girls, friendship, love and loss with a heartbreaking mixture of naivity, hope, success and disaster.  As a study on the fragility of mental health it is fascinating and moving, as a coming of age story it is pretty much perfect.

Inhabiting a timelessness that only the best fantasy can, Sabriel is pretty special. The story of one girl's battle against evil, Nix creates a completely unforgettable world filled with uniquely beautiful, if broken, magic and one delightfully acerbic cat.   While Sabriel is the first in a series, it stands alone perfectly - although I can guarantee you will want to read more.

Chaos Walking - Patrick Ness

Comprising of The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men, Ness's tour de force is like nothing else out there.  At heart, a coming of age story set against a backdrop of tyranny and oppression it is breathtaking, thought-provoking and completely unique.

As we've previously stated on MOI, myth and magic never threaten to overwhelm Finnikin of the Rock (Marchetta's first venture into fantasy), which is ultimately the story of those made homeless by tyrants but a people who also struggle with a guilt of their own making. It a the story of exiles and while embedded in high fantasy, it brings to mind images of refugees the world over. This is reality writ large on a fantasy stage and the result is a powerful tale for the modern world.


Anna Scott said…
Great selection - Jellicoe Road, How I live Now and The Knife of Never Letting Go would be on my list too :)
JaneGS said…
Interesting list--I don't think of Jane Eyre as a YA book, but I read it when I was 12 or 13, and have reread it many times since then.

Still haven't read Catcher in the Rye myself, and it didn't make my Classics Yet to Read list. Not sure why I keep on avoiding it.

Planning on reading The Secret History later this summer.

The Chaos Walking Trilogy is amazing. My partner is reading it right now and we're having fantastic conversation about colonization and manipulation (she's about halfway through The Ask and the Answer).

Second semester, many of my students went through The Fault in Our Stars, but I haven't had a student get through The Knife of Never Letting Go in years. It's "too long."

I love that you included books that you think will be classics. I'm interested to see how these books fair in years to come.
Sandy said…
I'm a little embarrassed to say that I've only read 3 books on this list. (Btw I LOVE JANE EYRE. SO. MUCH.)

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