Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Best of Young Adult Fiction: Classic and Revolutionary Reads for 2018

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Best of Young Adult Fiction: Classic and Revolutionary Reads for 2018

Article excerpt

Best of young adult fiction: Classic and revolutionary reads for 2018


This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.


Author: Theresa Rogers, Professor of Education, University of British Columbia and Caroline Hamilton, PhD student in Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia

Young adult (YA) fiction has come into its own. The past 20 years in particular have ushered in a new era of global prominence for the genre.

Twitter campaigns such as #weneeddiversebooks, have advocated for changes in the publishing industry to produce literature that honours the diversity of young lives. Readers' choice awards, such as Inky Awards and Goodreads Choice Awards have all boosted the genre. So have new YA-specific bestseller lists and literary awards such as the Governor General's Literary Awards in Canada and the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature in the United States.

While series such as "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" jump-started YA's commercial success, many other titles offer deeply insightful and often humorous journeys into topics such as war, race, religion, sex and sexuality. These works offer young minds an antidote to the daily onslaught of social media feeds, encouraging deep and sustained engagement with contemporary issues -- from the Black Lives Matter movement to bullying, homophobia and Indigenous identity.

Research has linked such books, and their bold treatment of difficult and uncomfortable issues, to rich classroom conversations on topics of disability, immigration and racism. Young adult fiction also facilitates identity development among adolescents and offers potential for engagement with empathy and cultivation of critical thinking.

As former teachers, and now education scholars, we suggest novels that we believe are must-reads for teens and also their parents. We showcase books from the U.S., Canada and Australia that empower the too-often silenced voices of young people.

A focus on Anglophone fiction is of course narrow in scope. In the Canadian context alone, Quebecois literature is gaining traction for its valuable yet routinely overlooked North American perspectives. Nevertheless, we wanted to highlight diverse and award-winning texts for young adults that have cemented the genre's newfound cultural significance.

These books broaden understandings of contemporary adolescent experiences and subvert commonly held stereotypes, as well as being commercially successful. They are modern classics that have revolutionized the genre -- through their thoughtful reflections on humanity, agency and redemption.

The Hate U Give

Written by Angie Thomas. (2017, Harper Collins.)

Lauded as a tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas's debut novel is as much a call to social justice as it is an intimate story of a young Black woman's struggle to belong.

Commuting between her Black neighborhood of "Garden Heights" and her predominantly white suburban high school, 16-year-old Starr never quite feels like herself. When she witnesses the murder of her unarmed friend at the hands of a white police officer, she is compelled to make a choice -- about who she is and who she wants to become.

This novel could be set anywhere, but Starr's surprisingly funny account of activism is uniquely her own. As Thomas says: "I think that's the big takeaway from the book, is that Starr realizes her voice matters." There are not enough books so unapologetically honest and timely and this is one to be savoured and discussed.


Written by Mariko Tamaki. …

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