The History Of Young Adult Books

The roots of young adult go back to when "teenagers" were given their own distinction as a social demographic: World War II. Seventeenth Summer, released by Maureen Daly in 1942, is considered to be the first book written and published explicitly for teenagers, according to Cart, an author and the former president of the Young Adult Library Services Association. It was a novel largely for girls about first love. In its footsteps followed other romances, ands sport novels for boys.
The term young adult was coined by the Young Adult Library Services Association during the 1960s to represent the 12-18 age range. Novels of the time, like S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, offered a mature contemporary realism directed at adolescents. The focus on culture and serious themes in young adult paved the way for authors to write with more candor about teen issues in the 1970s, Cart said.
The first golden age is associated with the authors who the parents of today's teens recognize: Judy Blume, Lois Duncan and Robert Cormier. The young adult books of the 1970s remain true time capsules of the high school experience and the drama of being misunderstood. Books like Cormier's The Chocolate War brought a literary sense to books targeted at teens.
But once these books devolved into single-problem novels -- divorce, drug abuse -- teens grew tired of the formulaic stories. The 1980s welcomed in more genre fiction, like horror from Christopher Pike and the beginning of R.L. Stine's Fear Street series, and adolescent high drama a la Sweet Valley High, while the '90s were an eclipse for young adult. With fewer teenagers around to soak up young adult lit due to low birth rates in the mid-1970s, books for tweens and middle-schoolers bloomed. But a baby boom in 1992 resulted in a renaissance among teen readers and the second golden age beginning in 2000, Cart said.

"When I was a teen in the '90s, there were probably three shelves of teen books I wanted to read," said Shannon Peterson, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association. "Now, I feel like it's evolved from three shelves to whole hallways of books."
The book world began marketing directly to teens for the first time at the turn of the millennium. Expansive young adult sections appeared in bookstores, targeting and welcoming teens to discover their very own genre. J.K. Rowling's well-timed Harry Potter series exploded the category and inspired a whole generation of fantasy series novelists, Cart said. The shift led to success for Stephenie Meyer's Twilight vampire saga and Suzanne Collins' futuristic The Hunger Games.
But why did paranormal and dystopian tales connect so well with teens?
"Just like adolescence is between childhood and adulthood, paranormal, or other, is between human and supernatural," said Jennifer Lynn Barnes, a young adult author, Ph.D. and cognitive science scholar. "Teens are caught between two worlds, childhood and adulthood, and in YA, they can navigate those two worlds and sometimes dualities of other worlds."

Types of genres


Adventure fiction usually involves the main character going on a quest or journey and experiencing extreme conditions. The adventure may or may not involve history but has plenty of action. Some adventure fiction could also involve elements of mystery, dystopia or fantasy. Examples: Indiana Jones series by Rob MacGregor and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

Chick lit

Penned by women authors, these books can be light and funny and usually deal with relationships, dating, romance and sometimes even more delicate themes such as pregnancy, abortion, weight problems or drug abuse etc. Examples are Ten things we shouldn't have done by Sarah Mlynowski and the series Hello Gorgeous by Taylor Morris.   


The classics are titles that have established themselves as distinguished examples of penmanship of a particular period in history. Classics are time-honored, which is why there are 'classic' classics and modern classics. Titles by Charles Dickens or H.G.Wells would be examples of older classics whereas John Marsden's Tomorrow when the war began series would be considered a modern classic.

Contemporary fiction

This is the kind of fiction that stands out, gets mentioned and recommendedUsually set in the recognizable present, contemporary fiction is realistic with contemporary characters, events and dialogue. Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by


Narrated in diary format these fiction or non-fiction tales are personal recounts usually played out day by day. The narration could be based around an adventure, an historical event or a personal experience. Examples include: The Princess Diaries by MegCabot and Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.


Dystopian fiction is set is new or alternative worlds, or futuristic societies and is characterized by degradation in values, social hierarchy, terror and oppression. These titles often include elements of science fiction, conflict and romance. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Maze runner series by James Dashner and The Divergent trilogy by Veronika Roth are great examples. 

Family and relationships

Books that reflect children and teens (and even adults) having to undergo some kind of inner conflict or interpersonal conflict at some point in their life - including 'coming of age' stories. This may involve relationships, bullying, decision making, identity crisis etc. Bruiser by Neil Shulsterman and Wonder by R.J. Palacio are two titles that resonate with this genre.


Think imaginary lands, myths and magic. Popular examples include Lord of the rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (elves, wizards, goblins) and the Harry Potter series by J K Rowling (wizards and witches).

Gay and Lesbian

This genre of literature deals with the struggle for identity, acceptance and relationships of gay and lesbian protagonists. Examples include the short story collection How beautiful the ordinary: twelve stories of identity edited by Michael Cart, and The vast fields of ordinary by Nick Burd.

Graphic Novels

The graphic novel has become increasingly popular among readers from intermediate through to senior secondary and beyond, with an explosion in publishing for this genre, in both fiction and non-fiction. Rather than being viewed as a more sophisticated comic book, these are full-length works of literature in their own right, requiring you to read the pictures as well as the text. While some titles appeal to reluctant readers, much of the graphic novel genre requires a level of sophistication in reading ability. You may now the Hush, hush graphic novel based on the Hush, hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick or The Clockwork Angel graphic novel based on The Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare.


This genre of books has been written with the intention to scare the reader with gory details of blood, ghosts, vampires, skeletons, demons and the supernatural world. Examples include the Zom-B City by Darren Shan, Derek Landy’sSkulduggery Pleasant series (which has a dark thread of humour so crosses genres) and Neil Gaiman's The graveyard book.

Historical fiction

These novels have the story and characters pitched against a significant backdrop of time or history of a place or country. War, social history and political instability often feature, as with The attacks of September 11, 2001 by Lauren Tarshisset and In the shadow of the banyan by Vaddey Ratner set against the Cambodian killing fields. 

Humorous stories

Stories that cause you to smile or laugh out loud at the quirkiness of their characters. Andy Griffiths brilliant Just series and Swim the Fly by Don Calame are good examples. 


These are the Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christies of the collection. Examples of this genre are the Theodore Boone series by John Grisham, H.J. Harper's Bureau of mysteries series, and the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz.


Paranormal or supernatural titles involve creatures such as werewolves, vampires or ghosts. It’s the type of fiction where occurrences cannot be logically explained, such as telekinesis or extrasensory perception. These novels span other genres such as fantasy, mystery, horror and romance. Popular examples are Beautiful creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1) by


This genre can stand alone, but romance is often a feature of other genres such as dystopian and supernatural literature. Well known examples are Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry #1) by The Fault in Our Stars by

Science Fiction

The Oxford dictionary defines science fiction as: "fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets."
Examples include The cinder, the first of the Lunar chronicles by Marissa Meyer, The Enders saga, by Orson Scott Card and Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) by

Short stories

Short stories are a delectable anthology of the best of authors and their style. Short stories could be a selection of stories by one author or a collection by various authors. Good examples include Animal tales, a collection of stories by Dick King-Smith, and Under the weather: stories about climate change, edited by Tony Bradman.


Hard to define, but this genre is said to be a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy that includes technology or gadgets from the 19th century. Some describe it as the old aesthetics of the Victorian age mixed with modern technology. For an understanding of this genre try Read Steampunk!: an anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, Gail Carriger's Soulless series and Mortal engines by Philip Reeve.

Urban Fantasy

Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the story has an urban setting. Urban fantasy is the opposite of high fantasy, which is set in an entirely fictitious world. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city. A great example is The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.


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