When Entertainment Weekly made their announcement about an upcoming showdown of the best young adult books, I scowled. EW’s history with these bracket contest usually boils down to which fandom is the craziest. They are less about the actual best of anything.
This almost guarantees a Twilight or John Green book victory.
Young adult books remain one of my favorite genres. Their affects have decreased since I have reached adulthood. However, a good book is a good book no matter what genre it falls.
After EW’s contest announcement, a friend asked me what books would I place as the best.
After pondering this question, I constructed my own list of the books that are my favorite young adult books.
Here is my list (May Contain Spoilers. Read with caution.)
2. Noughts and Crosses by Marlorie Blackman
I go back and forth on which of the final two books I love more. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson or Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. By an inch, Speak wins the battle today. But Noughts and Crosses could win tomorrow. They really are my top two favorites, it just depends on the mood of the day.
Blackman not only creates a universe that’s destructive and lonely but one more terrifying than other dark universes, because it’s our world in reverse.
Noughts and Crosses is about Callum and Sephy growing up in a world where they’re taught to be enemies. This society basically suppresses whites and gives black people all the power. Callum is white and Sephy is black.
The most haunting scene is after Sephy and Callum have sex for the first (and only) time. Sephy cries after it, not because Callum hurt her but because in that moment she gets it. The entire book she has been the most hopeful of the two. The one fighting for change. But in that moment, Sephy realizes they’ll never be together.
The scene is made even more tragic when Callum’s brother enters and figures out what happened; he freaks out. He tells Callum that what he did was stupid. They’ll claim he raped Sephy and he’ll die. What makes this scene more tragic is it’s in that moment that you know Callum’s fate.
The final scene is even more heartbreaking. As sad as the book is, it’s one of the most realistic portrayals, in a modern YA book, of the struggles of being a minority growing up in a racist society.
Unlike the other books mentioned, Noughts and Crosses was so perfect in its solitude that I didn’t want a sequel. Later, I found out there were many sequels. I’m scared to read them because I loved the original so much that I don’t want the story to be corrupted by the sequels (which often is the case). But I also have faith in Blackwell’s storytelling abilities to know that one day I will journey back into the world of Noughts and Crosses.
1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Why I put Speak as my number 1 is because it contains all the elements that made me love the previous nine books. It’s dark. It balances comedy and tragedy. It has 3-Dimensional characters. It discusses a serious teen issue. Finally, it made me view the world differently.
Speak was the first book that made me want to become a YA writer. I’ve wanted to be a writer since second grade. However, reading this novel made me realize how important YA books can be in helping lost teens.
Sometimes teens need books to heal them. For me, Speak allowed me to see the importance of finding one’s voice, of speaking up through the pain.
I related to Melinda in I feared being noticed and heard. I feared being judged but also being ignored. And not loved for speaking my truth. Thankfully, I never went through something as painful as Melinda. But like all teens, I had my own demons.
The powerful thing about all good young adult novels is it teaches teens and young people how to cope with their own personal struggles. Even if they don’t relate to the ones exactly expressed in the novel, they see a universe truth in it.
I love YA novels because they helped shaped my identity. For that, I owe them great admiration and respect.