Spoofy Brilliance + the Anti-Anti-YA Book List, Compiled

Elizabeth Bluemle - June 13, 2014

Earlier this week, I posted a call to gather titles to counter one writer’s Slate article dismissing YA books as not suitably literary or complex reading for adults. Suggestions poured in, and I’m posting the list of books below.

First, however, I wanted to share the first bit of my favorite response to the Ruth Graham article. Titled “A Young Adult Author’s Fantastic Crusade to Defend Literature’s Most Maligned Genre,” it was posted on Nerve.com by YA writer Kathleen Hale, and it begins this way:

Last week, I read Ruth Graham’s article “Against YA.” In it, Graham contends that adults should be embarrassed to read YA novels. Instead, grownups should focus their attention on serious, “literary fiction” that grapples with “big ideas about time and space and science and love.”

As a YA writer myself, I was understandably offended. I’m not some schlocky trash-peddler. I’m a serious author, capable of far more than maudlin plot twists and clichéd dialogue. That’s why I decided to confront Graham in person.

I picked her up outside the graveyard before nightfall.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, as we stepped into my father’s beat up Chevy. We were going 70 miles an hour, two girls with different colored hair.

“Why did you say that about YA?” I asked, as tears streamed down my face like rain.

“Because it’s true!” she hissed. And I saw in the moonlight that her anger made her beautiful. This was before the war, when the oceans still had water, and the moon was still visible in the sky.

Hale’s post continues, hilariously, in this vein. It is clever, spooftastic fun, but also a glorious, smart reply to the issues raised in Ruth Graham’s article.

And now for the Anti-Anti-YA Book List of complex, rewarding young adult reads no one should be ashamed of reading and enjoying. The aim was to include only realistic YA, but a few fantasy, alternative reality, and graphic novels sneaked in. Thanks to all of the ShelfTalker readers who contributed:

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

17 and Gone by Nova Ren Suma.

33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler

anything by Sarah Dessen

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Black Juice by Margo Lanagan

Bone Dance by Martha Brooks

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Breathe My Name by R.A. Nelson

Candy by Kevin Brooks

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Confessions of a Hater by Caprice Crane

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Downriver by Will Hobbs

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Every Day by David Levithan

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak

Finninkin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Gil Marsh by A.C.E. Bauer

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

Heart’s Delight by Per Nilsson

how i live now by Meg Rosoff

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Hush by Eishes Chayil

I Am J by Cris Beam

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

In Darkness by Nick Lake

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal

The Kings Are Already Here by Garret Freymann-Weyr

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking trilogy) by Patrick Ness

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Life as We Knew It (Mooncrash series) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet

Like the Red Panda by Andrea Seigel

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt

My Soon-to-be Sex Life by Judith Tewes

No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

the perks of being a wallflower by stephen chbosky

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt

The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Served Anytime by Sarah Combs

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Since You Left Me by Allen Zadoff

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode

Skim by Mariko Tamaki (graphic novel)

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Stick by Andrew Smith

Stoner and Spaz by Ron Koertge

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Suckerpunch by David Hernandez

Tamar by Mal Peet

Taste of Salt by Frances Temple

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

This is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky

Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

The Tyrant’s Daugher by J. C. Carleson

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Whale Talk (and other novels) by Chris Crutcher

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Winger by Andrew Smith

With or Without You by Brian Farrey

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

4 thoughts on “Spoofy Brilliance + the Anti-Anti-YA Book List, Compiled

  1. Sophie

    Quote from the Against YA article : “YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering.”

    As if anybody was satisfied with the end of Allegiant… and the end of The Fault in Our Stars… and the end of The Hunger Games… and the end of Delirium… I was angry at the end of each of those books, only to mention these. I was certainly not satisfied. It took me two weeks to start another book after Allegiant, in fact.

    I don’t think this person knows anything about YA, since she only talked about what’s on the surface of all the books she mentionned. There’s so much more to a book than the story itself, let alone the themes. Are all the adults comfortable with the subject of cancer? I believe not. And yet, The Fault in Our Stars helps us getting accustomed to this subject so it won’t be taboo anymore. What about a totalitarian government as seen in the Hunger Games? How will we react to this if it happens? Have you ever thought about it? After reading the Hunger Games, I actually did this reflection because it COULD happen, one day ; it’s plausible.

    Thinking YA is only for teens only means that adults know everything and are above all the reflections you do while reading YA. Is any adult here a perfect human being? Nope. Then, I guess ever adult needs to read at least one YA novel in his/her adult life because we learn everyday, regardless of our age.

  2. Lia Keyes

    Happy to see Andrew Smith and Meg Medina on this terrific list, and I’m so glad you didn’t exclude fantasy and graphic novels, as that would be a bad message to send out into the world. Speculative fiction has always had much to give to debates on important questions (Bradbury, Orwell, etc).


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