From the late 2000s and the 2010s, a whirlwind of young adult (YA) literature took centre stage, fueled by the blockbuster successes of movie adaptations. “The Twilight Saga” brought with it a craze for vampire boyfriends, and “The Hunger Games” popularised the post-apocalyptic dystopian landscape. Other YA fiction genres include the enduring legacy of “Harry Potter” and coming-of-age stories like “The Fault in Our Stars.”
A decade on, the cinematic debut of “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” serves as a testament to the enduring enchantment of these franchises.
These YA narratives span a kaleidoscope of genres, from the charming escapades of romantic comedy to the heartfelt journeys of coming-of-age tales and the epic landscapes of fantasy. Picture secret love letters accidentally dispatched to crushes, a la “To All The Boys I Loved Before.” Or the revelation that your mysterious lab partner is, in fact, a creature of the night, as in “Twilight.”
Within the pages of these YA classics—adorned with vivid storyscapes, intricate relationships, and tantalizing plot twists—lies a treasure trove of literary gems. Here’s a selection of cherished YA classics ideal for those eager to delve into the genre.
In the early 2010s, the most popular subgenre within the realm of YA fiction was the supernatural romance. It created a frenzy of narratives exploring a diverse spectrum of relationships between humans and otherworldly beings.
The narrative includes enthralling stories where the protagonists meet entities like witches, angels, aliens, zombies, sirens, and of course, vampires:
- Lullaby (2012) by Amanda Hocking. Gemma Fisher discovers her siren ancestry and faces the complexities of love and power in a world where mythical creatures and ancient secrets collide.
- Anna Dressed in Blood (2011) by Kendare Blake. Ghost hunter Cas Lowood encounters a vengeful spirit named Anna, blurring the lines between the living and the dead.
- Beautiful Creatures (2009) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. In a town with a supernatural secret, Ethan Wate meets caster Lena Duchannes, unraveling a tale of love and dark family legacies.
- Hush, Hush (2009) by Becca Fitzpatrick. Nora Grey’s life takes a dangerous turn as she navigates the mysterious and alluring world of fallen angels.
- Shiver (2009) by Maggie Stiefvater. Grace and Sam’s love story unfolds against the backdrop of a paranormal world where werewolves and humans exist in delicate balance.
- The Twilight Saga (2005) by Stephenie Meyer. Bella Swan’s romance with vampire Edward Cullen explores the complexities of supernatural love and the enduring allure of vampire mythology.
These tales, woven with magic, mystery, and the complexities of extraordinary love, stand as timeless testaments to the genre’s enduring charm. These stories offer readers an escape into enchanting worlds where love knows no boundaries.
Coming of Age
In this YA fiction landscape, characters navigate the labyrinth of identity, relationships, and personal growth. It’s the profound metamorphosis that defines the tumultuous transition from youth to understanding one’s place in the world.
- The Fault In Our Stars (2012) by John Green. A tearjerker where two terminally-ill teenagers, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, fall in love.
- The Princess Diaries (2000) by Meg Cabot. A comedic revelation where awkward teenager Mia Thermopolis discovers she’s the princess of a small European nation.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) by Stephen Chbosky. Introverted high schooler Charlie navigates the challenges of adolescence, friendships, and mental health.
- Speak (1999) by Laurie Halse Anderson. Melinda Sordino confronts the trauma of sexual assault and the ensuing isolation as she finds her voice and begins to heal in the aftermath.
- To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee. A classic tale of the complexities of racial injustice in the 1930s South, portraying the Finch family’s struggle for morality and empathy.
- The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J.D. Salinger. Captures the teenage angst and the pursuit of authenticity of Holden Caulfield through the streets of New York City.
The coming-of-age subgenre provides solace by featuring everyday, relatable teenagers thrust into extraordinary situations, underscoring the vast spectrum of the teenage experience. It vividly captures the unpredictable and often bewildering twists of life.
The allure of fantastical storytelling transcends age boundaries. It enchants with imaginative narratives that spark the imagination and transports you to realms beyond the ordinary.
- Six of Crows (2016) by Leigh Bardugo. A diverse group of skilled individuals undertakes a daring heist in the gritty city of Ketterdam.
- City of Bones (2007) by Cassandra Clare. Clary Fray discovers her Shadowhunter heritage and battles demonic forces in a hidden world, exploring love, loss, and destiny.
- The Lightning Thief (2005) by Rick Riordan. Demigod Percy Jackson embarks on an epic quest to prevent a war between the gods, unraveling his divine heritage.
- Artemis Fowl (2001) by Eoin Colfer. A devious teen genius hatches a plot to restore his family’s fortune by kidnapping a fairy—plunging readers into a world where magic and technology collide.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997) by J.K. Rowling: Young wizard Harry Potter uncovers his destiny and confronts the dark wizard who killed his parents.
These spellbinding tales promise imaginative landscapes and rich storytelling for readers of all ages to explore.
In this genre, narratives blend the complexities of adolescence with the wonders of speculative technology, intergalactic adventures, and dystopian futures. It invites readers to explore thought-provoking themes, embark on exhilarating journeys, and grapple with the moral and ethical dilemmas that arise in the uncharted territories of the future.
- Iron Widow (2021) by Xiran Jay Zhao. In an alternate-history China, young pilot Zetian navigates mecha warfare, societal expectations, and political intrigue to avenge her sister’s death.
- The 5th Wave (2013) by Rick Yancey. A teenage protagonist navigates the chaos, deception, and shifting alliances to save what remains of humanity in an extraterrestrial invasion.
- Warm Bodies (2011) by Isaac Marion. A romantic, post-apocalyptic tale about a zombie who grapples with his evolving humanity and connects with a living girl.
- I Am Number Four (2010) by Pittacus Lore. The titular character, one of nine alien refugees, fights for survival on Earth while being pursued by deadly adversaries.
- Ender’s Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card. Gifted children navigate a military space academy to combat an impending alien threat.
These titles exemplify the diversity in YA science fiction, where inventive storytelling merges with the timeless struggles of adolescence set against the backdrop of futuristic and often perilous worlds.
Dystopian fiction delves into the exploration of societal breakdown, oppression, and the darker aspects of the human condition in a future setting.
- Cinder (2012) by Marissa Meyer. A futuristic dystopian retelling of Cinderella, a gifted mechanic/cyborg who becomes entangled in political intrigue and a deadly plague outbreak.
- Legend (2011) by Marie Lu. In a divided society under martial law, a young detective uncovers unsettling truths, sparking a tale of intrigue, rebellion, and unexpected alliances.
- The Maze Runner (2009) by James Dashner. Amnesiac protagonist Thomas navigates a perilous maze, uncovering the mysteries of a dystopian world.
- The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins. Katniss Everdeen must navigate a televised fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic society grappling with the consequences of technological manipulation.
- Divergent (2001) by Veronica Roth. In a future dystopian city where citizens are divided based on personality traits, a young woman discovers her own divergent nature.
- The Giver (1993) by Lois Lowry. A seemingly utopian society conceals dark secrets as Jonas, chosen to inherit the community’s memories, discovers the true cost of a world without pain and emotion.
These YA dystopian tales resonate with readers by delving into the complexities of power, identity, and the human spirit amid challenging and often bleak futures.
These novels, whether set in dystopian futures, magical realms, or the everyday struggles of growing up, offer readers an immersive experience that resonates with the challenges, dreams, and emotions of youth. Through the lens of YA fiction, readers find solace, inspiration, and a reflection of their own journeys, making these stories not just tales of fiction but mirrors reflecting the myriad facets of the human experience. See if you can identify the story patterns in these titles using author Kurt Vonnegut’s Shape of Stories.