NPR Books – Your Favorites: 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels

According to NPR, 75, 220 readers participated in their 2012 Best-Ever Teen Fiction poll. Surprisingly, the classic Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews did not make the cut. I kid. The top three picks on the list are not a surprise, although the ranking of the Hunger Games in the number two spot speaks to the increasingly complex and mature storylines that have in part led to the crossover popularity of YA Lit among adults.ter

harry-potter-books1) Harry Potter
The number one book on the NPR Best-Ever Teen Fiction poll, Harry Potter was also voted the best young adult novel of all time by Entertainment Weekly readers.

One person who cannot give an opinion one way or the other is yours truly, as I have to admit I have not read the books. How will I address this huge gap in my YA Lit readership? At this point, there are only two words on how I’m going to catch up—audio book.

Hunger_Games2) The Hunger Games series
My sister, now a teacher but at the time an assistant manager in the young adult section of Barnes & Noble, turned me on to the Hunger Game series. I devoured the entire series in about three weeks. I was surprised at the sophistication and depth of the books and the complex issues of freedom, human rights and democracy that they tackle and how well these themes lend themselves to the experience of adolescence. After all, doesn’t every teen feel they are the object of persecution by either their parents, teachers, fellow students or sometimes the world?

The books also deal with the question of identity, ethics and belief systems and what role(s) we are meant to and choose to play in life. The series addresses fundamental questions of right and wrong and these are universal themes teens face everyday as they decide who they are and who they want to become.

Author Suzanne Collins’ honest depiction of these themes that resonate into adulthood is the reason that the Hunger Games series will continue to be discovered by future generations of young adults.

mockingbird3) To Kill A Mockingbird
I don’t remember when I first read To Kill A Mockingbird but that first wondrous reading was certainly not to be the last. The story is so indelible that I can barely recall a time when I didn’t know Atticus Finch, Boo Radley and Scout. I also don’t remember when I first bought the book but it was years ago because my copy is yellow, worn and marked up. That is what makes it one of my most treasured possessions. In the wear and tear is the evidence of my love for To Kill A Mockingbird, one of a handful of books where the movie adaptation does the source material justice.

It’s a timeless story that encompasses a number of themes: childhood loss of innocence, injustice and discrimination, class and racial divides, fatherly love bound by familial and non-familial ties, social and personal responsibility, to form a picture of the human condition. Incredibly, To Kill A Mockingbird addresses all these issues through the eyes of a child, a six-year-old small town southern girl. It is this unique perspective that gives the story its power. For Scout represents adults before they’ve been tainted by the world, their surroundings and failures. She is the simple and innocent voice of reason. Through Scout we see her father Atticus and neighbor Boo Radley, we see the town, in fact we see the world as we would like it to be and that ultimately her viewpoint is a hopeful one that we can all strive for although rarely achieve.



One thought on “NPR Books – Your Favorites: 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels

  1. I remember when this list was first released, I still think a number of the books are misplaced. If this is a list of “teen” books there are a number that I really don’t fall under that category. Harry Potter may have ended up being for teens, as the readers aged with the characters, but it started our squarely in middle grade, which really isn’t for teens; pre-teens maybe, teens, no. Another one that stood out to me was A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Granted this book features a teen narrator, but most categorize it as a piece of adult fiction, not YA. Just because a novel features a teenager it doesn’t mean that teens are necessarily the target audience. Another problem is that this list was very, very white. Granted there are some outliers, like the Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian, but I think there are more excellent books by authors of color than are represented here. -JMV

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