Are These the Best Teen Novels of All Time?

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A couple of weeks ago NPR Books posted their summer poll of the year, seeking to identify the greatest teen  novels ever from thousands of nominations submitted by readers, winnowed down to 235 reads with the help of panelists from the New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, the A.V. Club, and YALSA. Voting to identify the top 100 books closed after 75,000 votes came in. "This level of participation is astonishing and unmatched by any of our previous Top-100 polls," NPR's Cara Philbin says. That's not all that surprising given the widespread, crossover attention to Y.A. that's sprung up with Harry PotterHunger Games, and Twilight. What is interesting, and bound to be fodder for more discussion, are the choices.

The 235 nominations that readers could pick from—each voter could choose 10 favorites—were controversial to begin with. Some books with passionate followings (say Pride and Prejudice and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) were disqualified from the list for being not really teen, or too adult in theme. Other books (A Wrinkle in Time, for example) were considered too young and left off as well. NPR associate editor Petra Mayer explained some of the hows and whys of which books were cut and which made it in a followup on NPR's pop culture blog; inevitably, people argued there as well.

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Now, via NPR, we've got the top 100 to contend with. The top 10 were as follows:

1. Harry Potter (the series), J.K. Rowling

2. The Hunger Games (the series), Suzanne Collins

3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

4. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green 

5. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

6. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

7. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

8. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

9. Looking for Alaska, John Green

10. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Mayer tells us, "It looks like we had a pretty wide range of ages in the voting, and while no one’s surprised that Harry Potter won, we seriously didn’t expect John Green to show up five times. I think, to a certain extent, we were expecting a lot of nostalgia voting—books that were popular in the '80s, that people in my generation remember, like The Cat Ate My Gymsuit (which, now that I’ve looked it up, would’ve gotten disqualified for being mid-grade!). And there was some of that—some Judy Blume, some Paul Zindel, but side by side with Richelle Mead and Maggie Stiefvater." The strongest points of contention so far, she says, are Twilight making the list (at number 27) and "no one has yet forgiven us for cutting Ender’s Game." 

Regardless of how you feel about the top 100 (please get in touch and let me know what you think!), Mayer makes the point that this list makes for some great reading suggestions, whether it's a title you've already read and are reminded to revisit or, maybe, something totally new. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.