The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
The first day of November welcomes the celebration of National Author’s Day. It is a day that celebrates the many authors who have spent their lives weaving tales of heroism, tragedy, romance, adventure, and contemplation for readers to enjoy. What better way to celebrate the many authors that have kept my life entertaining than to acknowledge the literary genre that defined me the most: young adult literature.
Many stories pop into my head when thinking about the young adult books that impacted my adolescence. From classic novels like Frankenstein, to tragically romantic chronicles like The Fault in Our Stars, and even action packed adventure tales like Divergent, YA fiction plays a part in every young reader's life in some capacity. But what books are most impactful? I believe YA fiction books are universal across all cultures, time periods, and walks-of-life. These books, in no particular order, best fit my definition of the best YA fiction books of all time.
The dystopian world of Lois Lowry’s The Giver is unique in comparison to other stories within the same genre. Instead of senseless violence and killing, there is an eerie feeling of a world seemingly “perfect”. Readers are introduced to a world with no pain, no extreme emotions, or any doubt in one’s life path — everything has a place. However, as the book continues, readers are able to see the main character, Jonas, develop new-found abilities to see color, love in an unregulated way, and experience memories. This allows him to break free from the society's mold. There is no romantic subplot, only a story chronicling the journey of a boy realizing the flawed system he is in, taking risks to realize the dark truth of the community where he resides. But my favorite part of Jonas’ story is that it doesn’t have a clear end. Some readers may be left with an unsatisfactory, ambiguous ending, but it cultivates a sense of imagination and wonder. There is no clear epilogue where Jonas triumphs over the “bad guys” and saves a “damsel in distress”. No, The Giver is a great young adult book because it forces readers to think for themselves and examine how relationships affect one’s view on humanity and society.
The Hunger Games
It is no secret The Hunger Games series was a huge phenomenon that kicked off a renaissance of YA novels. This book is excellent, not just because of my overwhelming love for the story, but because of the message the story contains. These books are rife with survival strategies and repeated attempts to overcome personal and societal obstacles. Not only does Katniss Everdeen, our main character, fight to the death with 23 other young adults , but she rebels against the political schemes keeping her in a broken, violent system. Young adults everywhere can appreciate the struggle Katniss endures, and apply her lessons to their own lives —considering the current pressing social and economic issues of inequality. The Hunger Games captures the depth of hurt, loss, courage, and anger in each character, developing a relatable story in the most unrelatable world.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
What young adult isn’t on the journey to figuring out who they are, what their role in life is, or who’s willing to support their dreams and aspirations no matter what? This book is a collection of memoirs chronicling the two-year evolution of Ari as he discovers his sexuality, and place in the universe with his best friend Dante by his side. Like Ari, every young adult makes mistakes, gets into fights, and discovers new ideas; thus, Ari’s story, though set in El Paso, Texas in 1987, is transferable across all cultures, lifestyles, and time. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe teaches people to focus on internal growth and self-acceptance into adults. It is a must read for every young adult.
The Hate You Give
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this story follows Starr Carter as she faces tragedy, racial tension, and family struggle. Forced to witness the sexless death of her friend, Starr becomes overwhelmed with the social pressure she faces in order to achieve justice. However, Starr eventually overcomes her anxieties and accepts the reality of her two worlds—a private, predominantly white school and a crime-ridden, gang-filled neighborhood— colliding. This book unites its readers and encourages them to speak about important issues affecting society today. It forces people to question appearances compared to reality and the resulting effects of making wrong choices. As a young adult, this book is a must to read. I loved the hard-hitting details and topical subject-matter that allowed me and other readers to understand the perspective of a young black woman fighting for change.
The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson and the Olympians has to be one of the most impactful series I have ever read. To start, the main character is a troubled young boy who is unsure of his place in the world; however, he soon finds out that he is a demigod destined to fight monsters and fulfill perilous prophecies. Every young adult out there has wondered where they belong in the world, hoping there is a special, secret world out there. The Lightning Thief allows readers to enter a new world, even if the setting of New York is still very real. Readers get to explore a secret world through flawed characters just like themselves. I highly recommend The Lightning Thief to all readers, any age. This young adult book not only teaches people valuable knowledge about mythology, but it also teaches the value of self-acceptance, self-realization, and tenacity.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter is a world-renowned name, so there is no denying that it is a young adult novel worthy of this list. While the author has a few controversial opinions, her work is still impacting many people today. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was one of the first books of its kind, introducing a young wizard who must defeat a great, villainous power. In particular, Harry starts as a young unknown boy who is flung into a world of magic and mystery. Meeting new friends and discovering his powers along the way, Harry learns to utilize the relationships he has built and courage within himself to conquer his first villain, Quirrell. These books combine an intricate plot with a magical world of epic fantasy, while still incorporating relatable character development in a well-known school setting. Though most people have already read the Harry Potter series, revisiting this classic young adult book may provide a new view on friendship, bravery, and choice.
Anne of Green Gables
Unlike other classics such as Little Women or Lord of the Flies, Anne of Green Gables may be an unfamiliar name. The themes within Anne Shirley’s story are more relatable and topical to young adults than any other classic. Anne of Green Gables is a tale of an orphan girl finding a new family, discovering romance, and realizing the meaning of life. Anne is an inspirational heroine who, even in the early 1900s, spoke her mind. She has a passion for reading and learning, and even organized political resistance groups. Though she makes many mistakes along the way, Anne never fails to be optimistic, let go of unnecessary grudges, or allow her fears to hold her back. Anne is a shining paragon that serves as a guide for young adults today. This book is an important piece of literature that should be read for its topical themes and light-hearted commentary on today’s social issues.
Feature image from IMDb