Whither the YA of my Youth?

Jeffe and I were speculating the other day as to whether or not the YA genre actually existed when we were growing up (a nebulous period in the 70’s and 80’s, to be specific.) We took it to Twitter and the general consensus was that it didn’t.

I started reading at a pretty early age. I know some of my favorites in 3rd and 4th grade were things like Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Little Princess and The Secret Garden…but after that things get a bit hazy.

At some point I was handed Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, because I got mono in 4th grade and I distinctly remember not being allowed to participate in recess in the months that followed (which meant a lot of reading.) I remember reading Ogre, Ogre in May of that year, which was the 8th book in that series.

Did I get all of his puns? Looking back now, I can say I didn’t, but I definitely enjoyed the main gist of the stories.

By 6th grade I was firmly entrenched in David Eddings (the whole Pawn of Prophecy thing, which I probably reread like 10 times. Remember Silk mentioning how the king was a Thull and there’s nothing between their ears but sand? I do! Weird, random passage, but there it is.)

After that? Probably more Piers Anthony  – his Immortal and Phaze series (and yeah, 6th grade was the year mom accidentally got me Anthonology, which was full of his older works, including the stuff that got pubbed in Playboy or Hustler or something. Scarred me for life.)

I think most my friends were reading stuff like Sweet Valley High, but the books had just seemed so inane to me at the time that I couldn’t actually imagine reading one for fun. 7th grade Reading class had us doing reports on things like The Outsiders and Bridge to Terabithia. And, um. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Which I’d read like four years ago. And so thin! At the time, I just didn’t get why we’d be covering it in middle school, especially when I was reading meatier stuff like Watership Down and Clan of the Cave Bear.

Of course, I reread IotBD now and I get a much different view than I did when I was in 3rd grade. There’s a big difference between making a tent in your room and imaging how much fun it is to pretend you’re camping out alone versus realizing that in real life, this girl spent 18 *years* on the island by herself. And then no one could understand her when she was rescued and her entire tribe was dead. Awesome!

At any rate, that’s the last of what I remember of YA. I’m sure there were more out there, but if so, I skipped them and went straight into as much hard core fantasy and sci-fi as I could find. My mom bought me the entire works of Mark Twain and made me read them one summer so that I would be enriched by the “classics,” but frankly, I found most of them boring and couldn’t relate at all.

Maybe if I’d had Harry Potter or Twilight to peruse, it wouldn’t have been so bad.  I actually feel a bit jealous that I didn’t get to read them at the age they were intended for, because even though I do enjoy some of the YA books now, there are times when I feel a tad too jaded for me to believe them. That’s not a knock on the writing, just that I’ve got a bit of a disconnect.

Anyone out there got any favorites from back in the day? ๐Ÿ™‚

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6 Responses to Whither the YA of my Youth?

  1. Anonymous says:

    omg YES. Piers Anthony. I LOVED the Xanth series and the Incarnations of Immortality series. Also, Ender's Game. Every book in the series was awesome. (Well, I think a couple have come out since that time that I haven't read, but still.)

  2. Sara says:

    PS that was me, just didn't log me in for some reason ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. mynfel says:

    No worries. Piers Anthony was definitely a staple for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Heather Howland says:

    Island of the Blue Dolphins was my absolute fav!! And yes, we read it in 4th grade. I still have my copy on the shelf and talk about it all the time.ย 

    I was one of the ones who read a lot of Babysitter's Club books, mainly because I wasn't shopping for myself, but by the time I was in 6th or 7th grade, it was Anne Rice for me, baby. I devoured her vamps and witches and Taltos all the way through high school!

  5. mynfel says:

    And now that I think on it – I guess things like Judy Blume could have been considered YA, right? That whole Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, etc? ย or even Madeline L'engle too.ย 

  6. Jeffe says:

    I recall doing a book report on Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong in 5th grade, which could have fit into modern YA, I suspect. After that, yes it was all the sci fi/fantasy greats. And I got really into stuff like Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. I remember asking what you call the genre that's just about real-life people. Funny now.

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