A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be included on the list of scholars Steven Bickmore asked to comment on one of the YA (young adult) books he deemed classic. While he asked me to comment on The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963—and boy, did I enjoy doing so— for his edited issue of First Opinions, Second Reactions, I began to wonder what my own list of classic YA titles would look like.
Since Steven set the tone by arguing that a book published in the 1990s could be considered classic, I decided to follow suit and list books published no later than that decade.
But what is YA? For me, it’s books with protagonists somewhere around twelve-eighteen that are generally marketed to middle/high school age youth.
What would your list contain? Here’s my list in no particular order:
1. I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This (1994) by Jacqueline Woodson
2. Zeely (1967) by Virginia Hamilton
3. The Friends (1973) by Rosa Guy
4. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976) by Mildred D. Taylor
5. Forever (1975) by Judy Blume
6. Annie on My Mind (1982) by Nancy Garden
7. Tears of a Tiger (1995) by Sharon M. Draper
8. The Outsiders (1967) by S.E. Hinton
9. Z for Zachariah (1975) by Robert O’Brien
10. Toning the Sweep (1994) by Angela Johnson
11. My Darling, My Hamburger (1969) by Paul Zindel
12. Jacob Have I Loved (1980) by Katherine Paterson