May 30, 2011

YA Through The Ages: the 21st Century (so far)

We've seen the appallingly few books that were available to teens in the 1800s and early 1900s. We've looked at the amazingly cheesy covers of books from the '60s and '70s. We've discussed how YA fiction exploded in the '80s and '90s. Which brings us to...the present.

There have been so many YA books published in the past decade that there's no way that I can possibly begin to cover all of them. So here are just a few, divided into categories (and yes, some of them fit into more than one category, but I liked the symmetry of having three in each):

The Such-A-Big-Phenomenon-We're-Making-Movies-Of-Them books:

1.) The rest of the Harry Potter series. No one can dispute how influential these books have been. Thank you J.K. Rowling!

I think my favourite cover is the Order of the Phoenix one — I love the warm colours and graceful strokes used for the phoenix!

2.) The Twilight series. I know, there is a big love-it-or-hate-it divide among readers about this series, but let's face facts — it was enormously popular and spawned a huge number of other paranormal reads.
I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I do own three out of the four Twilight books. And I do think the covers are pretty :D
3.) The Hunger Games series. Much less controversy over these than Twilight — their awesomeness seems to be unanimously agreed upon. And they're pretty much solely responsible for the current explosion of dystopian YA books.

The Less-Hyped-But-Widely-Recommended-By-YA-Readers books:

6.) John Green's books — such as Looking for Alaska (2005; 2006 Printz Award winner), An Abundance of Katherines (2006), and Paper Towns (2008). Personally I haven't read a lot of his books, but he's been one of the authors responsible for keeping contemporary YA on the map. Along with...

7.) Sarah Dessen's books — such as This Lullaby (2002), The Truth About Forever (2004), Just Listen (2006), and Along For The Ride (2009). I've actually only read a few of hers too (okay, okay, I don't read tons of contemp YA) but we all know how well her books have been received by YA readers.

8.) Neil Gaiman's books — such as American Gods (2001), Anansi Boys (2005), and The Graveyard Book (2008; 2009 Newbery Medal). I haven't read any of these, actually — suggestions for which to start with?

The This-Series-Has-An-Almost-Cultish-Fanbase books:

9.) The Mortal Instruments series — Cassandra Clare has an absolutely massive following of fans for these books.
Although what is up with the covers? I like the silhouetted cityscape but why must you cut off his head? And why is his shirtless chest shooting out rays of light?

5.) The Uglies series — Scott Westerfeld was way ahead of the dystopian bandwagon with these.

10.) The Vampire Academy series — these are on my list to read because most bloggers seem to swear by them.

 The covers need some work, though. They're not terrible but they don't stand out among all the other paranormal YA books...and they don't even stand out from each other! Judging by the covers you'd think these were the same story with three different titles.

The Recognized-By-Literary-Awards books:

4.) The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (2005). One of just a few YA books that has been able to make the crossover to an adult audience, and a 2007 Printz Honor book.

5.) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006). 2009 Printz Award winner. What I've read of this one didn't work for me, but I know lots of other bloggers who rave about it.

6.) How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (2004). 2005 Printz Award winner. I'm not actually sure if I've read this one or not — I might have years ago, but I may have confused it with a completely different book.

The Personal-Favourites-Of-Mine books:

1.) The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (2003). I love this fairy tale retelling so much.

The free-flowing lines of the art here give it that perfect windswept, anything-can-happen look.
2.) Feeling Sorry for Celia (2001) and The Year of Secret Assignments (2003) by Jaclyn Moriarty. She has the most amazing ability to create such distinct characters.

Normally I would not be a fan of hot pink, especially not combined with green. But the book is quirky so it kinda works.
3.) The Mediator series. Sure, these are light, "fluffy" paranormal books — but they're lots of fun!

So, which are your favourites of the past decade? What books do you think have been over-hyped or under-appreciated? What topics, genres or categories have been missed? In terms of minority groups, which we've seen all along have struggled to be represented in YA, I think LGBT books have done much better in the past decade than previous ones, but POC characters continue to be under-represented. Also, cover design has really evolved immensely over even the past 20 years. They only recently started using photos for some covers, rather than illustrations.

And what do you think the future holds for YA for the rest of the 21st century? Any guesses as to what it will look like 10 years from now? What will be the next big trend when paranormal and dystopian have run their course?

This is effectively the last post in this series, although I think at some point I'll make a post linking to some of the resources I used to research these books. I learned a lot about YA from writing these posts, and I hope you enjoyed reading them!


  1. Awesome lists!

    I know The Year of Secret Assignments is a personal favorite of mine, too. :]

  2. Having just finished Vampire Academy today, I will say that it is actually quite good despite it's not so attractive cover.

    I read Feeling Sorry Celia several years ago and remember enjoying it. Great post!

  3. I absolutely loved your series and this was an awesome way to end it. I liked how you didn't just feature popular or bestseller titles but also blog favourites and award winners.

  4. Ooh, I love the books you chose to feature!

    The covers for TMI make me laugh.. I love the backdrops, but the people on them look so weird. I much prefer the adult mass market ones that are released here

    Yay, Vampire Academy! They are definitely good books, I absolutely loved them when I read them all a few months ago. I think the covers are HIDEOUS... they definitely deserve a repackaging.

  5. @Alissa: Thanks! Yeah, The Year of Secret Assignments is such a fun read, I love that we get to see so many characters' personalities shine through the letters they write.

    @Liz: Good to know! That's what I've heard, so I will definitely be giving Vampire Academy a try despite the covers :)

    @Laura: Aw, thanks so much! Yeah, I tried to get a variety of books in here, although I know I barely scratched the surface since they are so numerous :D

    @Ashley: Oooh, I hadn't seen those TMI covers before! Thanks for sharing :) And yes, I agree, the Vampire Academy covers could definitely stand to be repackaged.

  6. Loved the Vampire Academy series, Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot and Harry Potter! I thought the Uglies series should have remained a trilogy and wasn't a fan of Twilight. I've only read The Hunger Games but I loved it and hope I can find the time to read the other books in the trilogy.

    I'll have to add The Goose Girl to my wishlist since it's a personal favourite of yours :)

  7. There have been SO MANY books released the past few years but you've done such a great job picking these ones! TMI, Harry Potter, Twilight Saga, VA series, etc, etc. They definitely have quite the following! I also really like The year of Secret Assignments... it makes me laugh so hard every time I read it. :)

  8. Such an awesome post! I think that our trends will recycle over the years, if you know what I mean - much like fashion does. Either way, I'll sure keep reading ;)

  9. @A Canadian Girl: Agreeing with you about the Uglies series - what I've read of Extras (I kind of skimmed/skipped most of it) just didn't work for me. And oh, you should definitely finish The Hunger Games series! And read The Goose Girl, I love it :)

    @Midnight Bloom: Thanks! The Year of Secret Assignments is such a fun read :) Have you read Feeling Sorry for Celia as well?

    @Melissa: I totally agree, I think fads are recycled in books just as in fashions!

  10. *sniff* It's the end of your series! I loved reading this feature. It must have taken so much time to put it all together, but I totally appreciate everything you did!

    The 21st century has been absolutely amazing for YA. It makes me really wish I was a YA now, but I guess I can spend more money on books now that I'm an adult soooo guess it balances out :P There's such a wide variety of books to choose from now and so many more being published each year. What's really nice is how the internet has helped us all come together to talk about these books.


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