At the height of Fault in Our Stars fervor — just before the film adaptation hit screens this month — Slate published an essay by Ruth Graham with the incendiary headline “Yes, Adults Should Be Embarrassed to Read Young Adult Books.” Graham, who argued that young-adult novels such as Fault were mostly about “escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia,” proceeded to get clobbered on social media. Not-so-young adults, bloggers, esteemed critics, and tweeters flaunting the hashtag #NoShameYA took to the Internet to berate her, and their message was loud and clear: There’s no shame in YA—and don’t you dare call it mediocre and clichéd.
So who’s right? The fans, it turns out. Sure, there’s treacly garbage on YA shelves. That’s true of any book category. But not only is Fault as emotionally complex as adult fiction, quite a few books now considered literary classics—from The Catcher in the Rye to Jane Eyre—might well be classified as YA (or its older cousin New Adult) if they were published for the first time today. Need proof? EW combed the canon for de facto young-adult reads and then asked Jason Booher, art director of Blue Rider Press, to redesign their covers for a modern YA audience. Take that, shamers.
[Ed. note: The EW.com version of this post, which originally ran in the print edition of EW, includes commentary from Booher on his designs. They are reproduced below each book-jacket image.]