Starting Monday, EW is running a bracket game that asks the question: “What is the best young adult novel of all time.” Here is an introduction for our book editor Tina Jordan.
As the book editor for EW, I read a lot. I mean, a lot—at least a book a day. (It helps that I have a long commute—at least an hour each way on the train.) And what I’ve been finding of late is that I read more YA than anything else. Not because the books’ plot-propelled arcs makes them satisfyingly swift reads (though I find that’s true), or because I don’t have the attention span or chops for “adult” books (please: can we dispense with the belief, once and for all, that YA is meant just for the under-21 set?). No, I’m reading a lot of YA because I’m finding that some of the best, most innovative work in fiction these days is being done in the genre: gutsy topics, imaginative storylines, utterly fearless writing styles (like blank verse).
But even given my love of YA, I was flustered recently when someone asked me what my favorite YA novel was. There are so many, I thought, as titles bubbled up in my brain: A Wrinkle In Time, The Book Thief, the Betsy-Tacy series. I may have had a hard time nailing down my favorite, but here’s hoping you won’t. Our “best YA novel of all time” bracket game begins Nov. 4 and doesn’t wrap up until Nov. 22, when we’ll post our winner. Will it be a current favorite, like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, or something from further back, like Holes?
Coming up with a roster for the contest wasn’t easy—in fact, the first list I drew up had almost 300 titles on it. Though I oversaw it, literally everyone on the EW edit staff contributed ideas. There are a couple of things to keep in mind about it before you start voting. One, when we’re talking about a series, like Harry Potter, then the series itself is the entry—otherwise the list would get too cluttered with multiple titles from the YA’s most outstanding series. And two, some of these books were not technically written as YA novels, but we’ve included them because their primary audience is YA. In our defense, books like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird were written long before the YA designation even existed (though they would have, without a doubt, been published as YA today). A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was published as YA in England, but not here. And so on—you get the drift.