Discussion: “Classic” Young Adult Books

For those that don’t know: I work in a library. At my branch, I’m the youth “expert”. When people come in looking for recommendations for youth materials, I’m the go-to woman.

One of our regulars came in needing recommendations for her tween/teen son. He’s been a huge reader for years. He’s aged up enough that they’re looking into the YA books. Starting out, she wanted some recommendations of “classic” Young Adult books. She already had The Hate U Give and Hatchet in hand.

She only had a few minutes but I was able to think of some books off the top of my head:

  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

I think this is a fabulous discussion and went down the virtual rabbit hole after she left. I found some good suggestions online and I found some interesting recommendations online.

Now I’m asking you readers: what book(s) would you say is a classic Young Adult book?

For the purposes of this discussion:

  • This can be an actual classic book or it can be a modern classic or even something newer that has a lot of potential.
  • Age ranges can be a bit funky in literature but the book really needs to be “appropriate” for a teen reader.
    • Don’t forget that children as readers tend to read up (a 10-year old reads about a character who is 12; a 12-year-old reads about a character who is 15; etc.).
  • We’re going to define ‘classic’ as something that has either stood the test of time or will likely stand the test of time.
    • There are a lot of fun books out there but won’t be something that will be continued to enjoyed 10, 20, 30+ years down the road.

Leave your suggestions in the comments. Feel free to have discussions with others!

I’ll be working on (eventually) posting my own list of YA classics. If it’s okay with you, I’ll add your recommendations to the list as well!

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13 thoughts on “Discussion: “Classic” Young Adult Books

  1. I’d definitely agree there are different categories of YA classics, one being things like The Hunger Games that have lasted a decade or more and still sell well and one being things like The Giver that are older and people tend to read in school.


  2. The Two classics that usually spring to my mind for young adults are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and To Kill a Mockingbird, which I just consider a classic everyone should read regardless of age, but it’s particularly poignant for young readers who might identify with Scout’s quest to come to terms with a world that’s difficult to understand.


  3. I agree with all of these (I actually studied Hunger Games in school alongside 1984) and would add The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Catcher in the Rye. I also think I’ll Give You the Sun by Nelson deserves classic status because it is absolutely stunning.


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