Besides spawning blockbuster film franchises, one of the things that’s made such series as Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight so iconic is that they were hugely popular not just among their targeted “young adult” audience but among people old enough to drink as well. It just goes to show that YA fiction has come a long way and it’s possible these days to find books that will appeal both to tweens AND their parents alike. Here are some examples.
Daddy-Long-Legs (1912) By Jean Webster. This epistolary novel follows young Jerusha “Judy” Abbott an orphan, who receives a full college scholarship including monthly allowance from a trustee at the orphanage who asks that she write him a letter each month, but he asks that she write to “Mr. John Smith,” since he prefers to remain anonymous. Knowing only that her mystery benefactor is a tall long legged man, Judy addresses the letters to “Daddy-Long-Legs” as she keeps him informed of her life at an all-girls Eastern College.
The Black Pearl (1967) By Scott O’Dell. This Newberry Honor book is a coming of age story that stars sixteen year old Ramon Salazar whose father Blas Salazar is the most famous pearl dealer in Baja, California. Salazar’s best pearl diver is Gaspar Ruiz known as “The Sevillano,” and Ramon dreams of following in Gaspar’s footsteps. After days of dangerous dives, Ramon finds the Great Pearl of Heaven – a magnificent Black Pearl. Little does he know this is only the beginning of his troubles.
Charmed Life (1973) By Diana Wynne Jones. Before there was Harry Potter and Hogwarts there was Jones Chrestomanci series. Set in a parallel universe, Chrestomanci refers to a British government office in charge of regulating the use of magic and enchantment, that works out of Chrestomanci castle headquarters and residence to the current Chrestomanci (Christopher Chant) himself. Charmed Life is the first of the series where orphaned young Eric (Cat) Chant and his evil, manipulative sister, Gwen, are sent to live at Chrestomanci castle. It won the annual Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, a once in a lifetime achievement award.
The Giver (1993) Lois Lowry. This Newberry medal award winning novel was a young adult dystopia novel LONG before young adult dystopia became a thing. Eleven year-old Jonas lives in a community where pain and strife have been eliminated thanks to a cultural commitment to “Sameness.” Jonas is chosen to become the Receiver of Memory (aka a living storage unit of all memories before Sameness) and soon becomes conflicted by the new emotions he’s experiencing in stark contrast to the colorless society in which he lives. It’s widely ranked among the best YA novels of all time; but it’s also one of the most challenged books as well. (Ironically proving Lowry’s point.)
The Goose Girl (2005) By Shannon Hale. Based on the classic Grimm fairy tale of a princess who is displaced by her evil lady in waiting and thus takes the role of a goose girl rather than her rightful place as Queen. Hale finds new life and depth in the story with complex characterization and great use of magical realism. It became the first in the popular series known as The Books of Bayern but in order to really appreciate the series (and the world Hale painstakingly builds) it’s best to start with the beginning and how Princess Anidori-Kiladra in her early years learned the language of birds.
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