Rediscovering the YA Genre

By the time I was 22, the popularity of YA-dystopian books waned and my taste on literary genres had—to my surprise—changed. Names like Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, Marissa Meyer, and John Green—authors I admired and aspired to be—weren’t as great or brilliant as I first thought when I was in my teens.

I was going through a metamorphosis, which made me seek the farthest and less known corners of Goodreads, a site where readers share their thoughts on the books, they either love or hate. Through my Goodreads journey, I discovered authors, whom many of you may not know or even heard of. But, once upon a time, during the peak of their careers, they were awardees, winners of international writing contests; and they are, in my opinion, leagues away in terms of style and imagery compared to the YA authors of today.

I’ve learned to love authors who have been dead a century ago, decades ago, or alive but would be turning 60 or 70 this year. The popular authors of today pale in comparison.

Through my journey of rediscovering the YA genre, I’ve learned to love the genre again and embrace its young heroes and heroines, who go through tumultuous conflicts—be they physical and/or mental abuse, discrimination, and identity crisis.  Rather than raise a skeptical brow, these authors and their books are timeless and have shaped the YA genre through the decades.

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

Summary from Goodreads:
Since the day her father’s fishing boat returned without him, Peri and her mother have mourned his loss. Her mother sinks into a deep depression and spends her days gazing out at the sea. Unable to control her anger and sadness any longer, Peri uses the small magic she knows to hex the sea. And suddenly into her drab life come the King’s sons—changelings with strange ties to the underwater kingdom—a young magician, and, finally, love.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy

Summary from Goodreads:
In an ancient Arab nation, one woman dares to be different. Buran cannot—Buran will not—sit quietly at home and wait to be married to the man her father chooses. Determined to use her skills and earn a fortune, she instead disguises herself as a boy and travels by camel caravan to a distant city. There, she maintains her masculine disguise and establishes a successful business. The city’s crown prince comes often to her shop, and soon Buran finds herself falling in love. But if she reveals to Mahmud that she is a woman, she will lose everything she has worked for.

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

Summary from Goodreads:
As Princess Lissla Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her beauty she is the image of her dead mother, the queen. But this likeness forces her to flee from her father’s lust and madness; and in the pain and horror of that flight she forgets who she is and what it is she flees from: forgets almost everything but the love and loyalty of her dog, Ash, who accompanies her. But a chance encounter on the road leads to a job in another king’s kennels, where the prince finds himself falling in love with the new kennel maid…and one day he tells her of a princess named Lissla Lissar, who had a dog named Ash.

The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan

Summary from Goodreads:
A newcomer to the tiny village of Tocurra befriends a young man whose deafness has left him isolated from his fellow villagers. Marnie and Raver learn to communicate through a series of hand gestures, but when a death shakes the village, their special, silent bond causes the two to fall under suspicion of witchcraft. A compelling, romantic, and revealing story for young readers, Sherryl Jordan’s The Raging Quiet is an ideal kids’ feature for a month of romance.

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Summary from Goodreads:
‘A clammy hand pressed Laura down onto her knees beside Jacko’s bed. It was the hand of terror, nothing less.’

It was a warning. Laura felt it when she looked in the mirror that morning. There had been others: the day her father left home, the day she met Sorensen – the boy with the strange silver eyes.

But nothing had prepared Laura for the horror of today. And now her little brother, Jacko, was fighting for his life after being sucked dry of his youth by the sinister Carmody Braque.

Laura knows there is only one way to save Jacko; she must join Sorensen and use his supernatural powers to change over if there is to be any hope for her little brother.

An unforgettable, supernatural romance.

Mel by Liz Berry

Summary from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Mel Calder is desperate for her life to change, and she is learning the hard way that only she can make it happen. Left alone in their run-down house after her mother’s breakdown, Mel decides to repair and redecorate it for her mother when she comes home, but it’s not long before the whole neighbourhood is involved.

When Mel meets attractive Mitch Hamilton, lead guitarist with top rock group Asssassination, Mitch is more than willing to help with the house, but Mel is suspicious. She has no time for a boyfriend, particularly a famous one who will be off to other girls in other countries soon enough, and, besides, there’s her lovely teacher, young Mr Edwards, so helpful and sympathetic. So when Mitch announces his intention to marry Mel, no one is more astounded than Mel herself except, perhaps, Mitch’s girlfriend, the formidable Roxy Leigh.

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Summary from Goodreads:
In 1558 while imprisoned in a remote castle, a young girl becomes involved in a series of events that leads to an underground labyrinth peopled by the last practitioners of druidic magic.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

Summary from Goodreads:
Young Sybel, the heiress of powerful wizards, needs the company of no one outside her gates. In her exquisite stone mansion, she is attended by exotic, magical beasts: Riddle-master Cyrin the boar; the treasure-starved dragon Gyld; Gules the Lyon, tawny master of the Southern Deserts; Ter, the fiercely vengeful falcon; Moriah, feline Lady of the Night. Sybel only lacks the mysterious Liralen, which continues to elude her most powerful enchantments.

But when a soldier bearing an infant arrives, Sybel discovers that the world of man and magic is full of both love and deceit—and the possibility of more power than she can possibly imagine.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is one of the true classics of fantasy literature.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Summary from Goodreads:
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

East by Edith Pattou

Summary from Goodreads:
Rose has always been different.

Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose’s birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home…but she can’t suppress Rose’s true nature forever.

So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it—in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family—she readily agrees.
Rose travels on the bear’s broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart—and finds her purpose—and realizes her journey has only just begun.

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