This is the final discussion topic for Armchair BEA and as I predominantly read these types of books I thought it was more than fitting to write a post on it! I’m using this post as a platform to explain my journey of discovery with young adult literature and some of the books that stand out as pivotal reads to me.
To start off with I think I should admit that I was not naturally a YA reader, even as a teenager I, for the most part, chose to read novels marketed to adults and found these to be more relevant than those marketed for teens and older children. 20 years ago when I was in high school the YA genre didn’t really exist, the library had a shelf in the children’s section for “older children” and these books were ones I would classify today as middle grade.
As a teen there is only one book that stands out as truly Young Adult and it was incredibly popular in Australia upon release, Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden. I think the reason this was such a hit is that it was appealing to older teenagers, there was no “dumbing down” just because it was written for kids, there was romance, danger and lack of parental involvement all classic archetypes of a good YA novel.
I went on to spend my late teens and early 20s immersed in classic science fiction and fantasy novels. I absolutely loved The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and even though this is a sci fi novel I find it worth a mention as I believe had it been written today, it would be marketed as a Young Adult dystopian! The book is set in a post apocalyptic society where nuclear war and religion have mixed to create a very strange and scary world order. The main characters are teenagers who are hiding a dangerous secret from the adults in their community and they are constantly wary of being discovered. These ideas to me read very similar to many YA books I’ve read in the last 12 months.
I then spent the majority of my 20s reading popular fiction and still forayed occasionally into fantasy novels. One evening when I was 27, I was doing my normal Friday night after work ritual where I would walk into the city and wander through Borders bookstore before meeting my sister for dinner. There, on one of the feature stands my eyes was drawn to a simply beautiful book cover and I decided I just had to read it! That book was Twilight by Stephanie Meyer and while the rest of the series went a bit downhill I will admit that I absolutely loved this book when I first read it and I still adore the cover its a great piece of imagery.
At this point I was now reaching the end of my 20s, I still didn’t know about the YA market and I was now pregnant with my first child. I was incredibly sick, exhausted constantly and barely had the ability to function at work let alone concentrate on reading. I decided to have a look at some kids books, I had loved Harry Potter and the Philip Pullman series, His Dark Materials so thought perhaps I would find something else that was fun and easy to read. I soon discovered and devoured 2 book series that are now considered staples to the YA genre and that was The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.
After having my baby and entering the land of the sleep deprived, I wanted to find some easy reads that I could do on my iPhone in the middle of the night while breastfeeding. I start searching on Goodreads for books that had high ratings that were aimed at juvenile readers and I settled on The Hunger Games series.
I was hooked both on YA books and on Goodreads. I then continued to use Goodreads to follow bloggers and would stalk their book reviews and favourites shelf to come up with a great to read pile.
3 years later and I’m still reading YA books and still enjoying them immensely! Below are some of my all time favourite YA reads – in the case of series/trilogies, I’ve displayed the cover of book 1 only.
Do you read YA and which books hooked you into the genre?
The Armchair BEA logo in this post was designed by Amber from Shelfnotes.com.