Top 10 Most Influential Young Adult Books of the 20th Century
Top 10 Most InfluentialYoung Adult Booksof the 20th Century Guest Post by Sara Zaske
Young adult books have come of age. They’re everywhere. Young adult, or “YA”, is now one of the fastest growing genres in publishing, and both kids and adults are reading—and writing—YA by the thousands.This is absolutely fabulous! And I’m not just saying thatbecause I write young adult fiction. The YA explosion meansmore kids are reading, and more adults are reminded of that all-important time in their lives, when their eyes were first openedto the “real” world—and not necessarily liking what they saw.Teenagers are some of the best critics of society for the simplefact that they are new to it. There’s a reason why so manyyoung adult books are dystopian. And it’s hard to find one YAfantasy that doesn’t have some heinous evil character to battle.Fight the power, indeed.Magic themes aside, YA didn’t just pop into existence. Seriousbooks with a young protagonist have a long history. Yes, therewere YA books before Twilight, The Hunger Games, andHarry Potter.
Here are few of the most influential from the last century1. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (1951) gave us one of thefirst modern, disaffected teens, Holden Caulfield. Holden takes a fewconfused days to run around in a seedy adult world only to realize hisreal dream is to catch the other kids before they fall into the trap ofadulthood.2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954) Frodo andhis quest to destroy the ring of power resonates with people of all ages,
but it has entranced generations of young adults—many have read theentire trilogy multiple times. LOTR’s influence is so pervasive in YAthat you’d be hard pressed to find a fantasy that doesn’t reference itsmythology in some way.3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (1956) sent four childrentumbling through the back of a wardrobe into the another world, wherethey helped a lion battle for power against the evil White Witch. TheChronicles have inspired many YA writers. Philip Pullman’s heroiccold world in His Dark Materials is almost the opposite of Narnia.4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (1960) showed that no topicis off limits for a young audience. Young Scout narrates the story aboutthe trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman, giving achild’s wide-eyed view of racism and justice in America.5. The Earthsea Cycle, by Ursula LeGuin (1968) begins with amistake. A wizard-in-training releases an evil shadow into the world,setting him on a lifelong quest to make it right. Earthsea is a classicand his premise influenced many later books, including Harry Potter.6. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973) has made italmost impossible to tell a fairy tale with a straight face. It makes funof all the fairy tale clichés—sword fights, monsters, daring rescues, andthe triumph of true love—even as it uses these same elements to weavean enchanting story.
7. Carrie by Steven King (1974) will scare the bully out of anyteenager. Sure, Carrie is strange and has a crazy mom, but she also hastelekinetic powers which she uses to take revenge on her tormentors.Maybe, King isn’t known as a YA writer, but many of his storiesfeature young characters, and you can’t ignore his influence on today’steen horror books.8. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985) shows a dark futuristicworld where politicians use kids for warfare. The book follows thebattle education of Andrew “Ender” Wiggins who is particularly giftedat war games. Sound familiar Hunger Games fans?9. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (1993), one of the earlier YA dystopiannovels, tells the story of young Jonas as he discovers that the peace ofhis very ordered world is based on a secret evil. Veronica Roth’sDivergent and Lauren Oliver’s Delerium owe a huge debt to this novel.10. Harry Potter , by J.K. Rowling (1997) just comes under the 20thcentury mark, but from the first book, this fanciful story of a youngwizard battling a fearsome sorcerer so evil he cannot be named, hashad an astounding impact, riveting readers of all ages and starting arevolution in YA lit.Sara Zaske is a young adult author and blog host of the YA FantasticBook Review. Her debut novel, The First, a YA eco-thriller fantasy,was released in April.