The trend of realistic novels looking at some of the darker/grittier issues teens face continued, with novels such as the Tillerman Cycle by Cynthia Voigt (Homecoming, 1981; Dicey's Song, 1982, won 1983 Newbery Medal; A Solitary Blue, 1983; The Runner, 1985; Come A Stranger, 1986; Sons from Afar, 1987; Seventeen Against the Dealer, 1989), Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved (1980; 1981 Newbery Medal), and Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind (1982), which was one of the first LGBT YA books published and still one of the most well-known today.
I'm sensing a bit of a theme here...the 'forlorn teen posture' must have been popular in cover design back then.
A sub-category here would be the 'sad, depressing, character-is-going-to-die' novels. Namely, Lurlene McDaniel books. I will admit that I went through a Lurlene McDaniel phase when I was younger, but thankfully that was fairly short-lived (LOL, pun not intended). Some of her novels from the '80s include Six Months to Live (1985), I Want to Live (1987), Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever (1989), and Too Young to Die (1989). These covers are too fantastic to pass up:
Oh, the old-school hospital beds...and the headband. And the teddy bear, which is clearly an extremely critical addition to the storyline.
The covers were pretty much gigantic fails, though. Seriously, these look like those books you are assigned to read in elementary school to learn a moral from. Which is SO not what they are really like.
Lois Lowry wrote some more in her Anastasia Krupnik series, including Anastasia Again! (1981), Anastasia at Your Service (1982), Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst (1984 – love the title of this one!), Anastasia Has the Answers (1986) and Anastasia's Chosen Career (1987). And one of my favourites, the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, got started in this time period. It's a fabulous blend of humor and heartfelt emotion, and tackles problems that all teens encounter. The first was The Agony of Alice in 1985, followed by Alice in Rapture, Sort Of in 1989.
|"I am so winning this staring contest..."|
|And 27 books later, they STILL haven't given up...|
|"You look a little out of control. Let me just take your pulse for a minute..."|
|Yep, that is so totally the face I make when someone kidnaps me. Or taps my shoulder. Whatever.|
|"Ugh! Get that germy handkerchief away from me!"|
Topping this trend was Tamora Pierce, of course, whose Song of the Lioness series (Alanna: The First Adventure, 1983; In the Hand of the Goddess, 1984; The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, 1986; Lioness Rampant, 1988) should be on every teen's must-read list in my opinion. This was THE series that got me hooked on YA fantasy (before then I was a pretty die-hard realistic-fiction-only kind of reader), with such engaging kick-butt female characters and action-packed plots.
These covers are actually a lot better than I thought they would be. Although...why is she wearing what looks like a mini-skirt in the first cover?? That can't be very practical...
And I didn't picture the Dominion Jewel as being so huge. It looks like it's about to crush Alanna. *blinks*
|And this is my copy of the first book, a 1989 paperback edition. It was actually my sister's originally, but I read it so often (as you can tell by the well-worn cover) that she eventually just gave it to me.|
Equally famous is Diana Wynne Jones, who published her extremely successful Howl's Moving Castle in 1986, which branched out from typical fantasy in being humorous, quirky, and altogether unique.
So You Want to be a Wizard, 1983; Deep Wizardry, 1985), which blends fantasy with science fiction in a modern-day setting.
These covers aren't too bad, actually – I especially like the second one where they're riding on the
dolphin fins (these are actually sharks below the surface – straight from the author herself!) and she's almost falling off.
We can't forget a couple other very well-known names in the YA fantasy department: Robin McKinley and Madeleine L'Engle. Robin McKinley's novel The Blue Sword (1982) was a 1983 Newbery Honor book, and The Hero and the Crown (1984) won the 1985 Newbery Medal. Meanwhile, Madeleine L'Engle was continuing her series about the Murrys and O'Keefes with Many Waters (1986), A House Like a Lotus (1984), and An Acceptable Time (1989). L'Engle also wrote the third book in her Austins series, and arguably the best-known: A Ring of Endless Light (1980; 1981 Newbery Honor). I read this one multiple times when I was younger and really loved it (of course, I adore dolphins, so that could be part of the explanation there.) Actually, I've also featured it as a Forget-Me-Nots pick before.
|Yep, this is our well-worn copy of it. Maybe it's just for nostalgic reasons but I still quite like this cover...the water looks so inviting!|
|The 1984 paperback version we have. Gotta say, it looks a little bit like he's dancing a waltz with the dragon.|
|And these are the first edition hardcovers! I got these as discards from the library.|
|I haven't read it myself, but the cover is definitely giving out a surreal vibe.|
In this decade, it looks like science fiction became a genre in and of itself within YA. Orson Scott Card is famous for his novel Ender's Game (1985), which was originally intended for an adult audience but was later listed on the ALA's "100 Best Books for Teens." Both William Sleator and Christopher Pike also penned novels with the sci-fi essentials of spaceships and aliens: Sleator with Interstellar Pig (1984), and Pike with The Tachyon Web (1986). And Monica Hughes wrote her Isis series: The Keeper of the Isis Light (1980), The Guardian of Isis (1981), and The Isis Pedlar (1982).
Looks like she was taking a leaf out of Alanna's book with that barely-there mini-skirt. And the second cover shows...Aragorn, Gandalf and C-3PO?
YA historical fiction was holding its own as well. Ann Rinaldi came on the scene with Time Enough for Drums (1986) and The Last Silk Dress (1988). Lois Lowry published Number the Stars in 1989, which went on to win the 1990 Newbery Medal. Maus I: My Father Bleeds History (1986) by Art Spiegelman took a completely different tack to WWII using a graphic novel format and animals as the main characters.
|Love the original cover of this one. Very striking and eye-catching.|
|Well, it's pretty basic, but I do like the rich colour of the crimson gem.|
I actually would have thought both of these were fantasy novels, just based on the cover. Especially with a title like Magic Flutes. But no.
Oh, how I love these early horror book covers. The girl looks a) like she is freezing cold, despite the large baggy sweater she's got on, and b) positively creepy. I would be more disturbed about hiring her to watch my kids than anything lurking around in the bushes. Although you've gotta love that tagline: "Every step she takes, he'll be watching." Dun-dun-DUNNNNN...
Lois Duncan continued publishing YA suspense novels, such as The Third Eye (1984), The Twisted Window (1987) and Don't Look Behind You (1989). Christopher Pike was becoming a big name in the thriller section as well. He published a whole slew of these novels in the 1980s, such as Weekend (1986), Spellbound (1988), Gimme a Kiss (1988), Scavenger Hunt (1989), and Last Act (1989).
Well, their cover design may have been deplorable (oh, that cheesy font!) but you can't say it wasn't consistent. I love the tagline for Spellbound, too: "You can close your eyes...it won't help." *tries to cue spooky music but dies laughing instead*
"Gimme a Kiss" as a title for a thriller? Seriously?
|With a wolf perching on his forehead and a hatchet buried in his skull, it's all he can do to carry on.|
The second is that there was still only a smattering of novels with POC characters, perhaps even fewer than in the 1970s. Walter Dean Myers wrote several featuring African-American characters from Harlem, such as Hoops and The Outside Shot as well as Won't Know Till I Get There (1982), Fallen Angels (1988) and Motown and Didi: A Love Story (1984). He also wrote fantasy novels with black characters, such as The Golden Serpent (1980) and The Legend of Tarik (1981). Other voices to add to this category were Virginia Hamilton, whose novel Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982) was a 1983 Newbery Honor book, and Bruce Brooks with his previously mentioned The Moves Make the Man.
|The poor horse must be excruciatingly hot in that outfit.|
YA had solidified itself as a completely independent category of fiction by the end of the 1980s. This was reflected in the creation of the Young Adults' Choices lists (1987) and the Margaret A. Edwards award (1988). Up until then there hadn't been any specific award for YA fiction, only awards for children's books (into which YA was often put) or other categories.
So...which of these books have you read? Loved, liked, or hated? Any important titles I've missed (I couldn't possibly cover them all here!)? I've read a *lot* of the fantasy novels mentioned as well as the light realistic fiction, and much less of the darker realistic, sci-fi, "boy books," POC, and horror/thriller categories. Which would you recommend I add to my tbr list?