What is the best YA novel of all time? Round one
Welcome to EW.com’s YA novel bracket game. We’re pitting 64 young adult books against each other in a March-Madness style game to determine which you think is the best of all time. Round one begins below.
Check out the full bracket and vote!Little WomenThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnAsk any young reader to name her literary role model, and chances are she’ll point to Jo March a headstrong, hot-headed heroine modeled after Alcott herself. But there’s more to Little Women than Jo alone; Alcott’s domestic tale is truly absorbing, complete with one of American literature’s most devastating deaths. –Hillary BusisA recurring theme in young adult novels is the idea that adults are the real children. That’s the central joke in Twain’s American classic, a satire-laced adventure. Rascal Huck and long-suffering Jim occasionally seem like the only sane people on earth. — Darren FranichAnne of Green GablesThe HobbitRedheaded orphan Anne Shirley grows from a feisty, imaginative 11-year-old to a contemplative grandmother in this landmark series. The first book is a children’s classic; later volumes, which deal with increasingly grown-up themes, deal poignantly with Anne’s coming-of-age. — Hillary BusisThe landmark fantasy novel that launched a million quests, dragons and dwarves optional. Not as bleak as grown-up successor-epic Lord of the Rings, the tale of Bilbo Baggins thrills and chill kids of all ages. — Darren FranichThe Betsy-Tacy seriesA Tree Grows in BrooklynJudy Blume counts herself as a huge fan of this classic series set in Minnesota at the turn of the 19th century about two friends facing childhood milestones like going to school for the first time and deaths in the family. — Stephan LeeThis stirring coming-of-age novel follows the indomitable Francie Nolan as she tries to overcome the poverty and alcoholism weighing down her family. — Stephan LeeI Capture the CastleThe Catcher in the RyeSeventeen-year-old Cassandra and her impoverished family live in a crumbling yet picturesque castle. Unable to go to school, Cassandra recounts the day-to-day adventures of her family, and, in the process, becomes an adult herself. The novel, written by the woman who would go on to write The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, was turned into a movie in 2003. — Erin StreckerThis high-school reading list mainstay that is widely considered one of the best novels of the 20th century is probably most referenced for its relatable teenage narrator, Holden Caulfield. The go-to hero for alienated, rebellious teens, the novel is among the most-challenged books in the world for its references to homosexuality and copious profanity. — Erin StreckerA Separate PeaceTo Kill a MockingbirdThis meditation on friendship and memory tells the story of Gene Forrester, a smart outsider at a swanky boarding school who both admires and envies his gregarious roommate, the effortless Phineas. — Hillary BusisA shortlist of great American novels would be incomplete without Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coming-of-age tale, which revolves around scrappy tomboy Scout Finch. The novel’s setpiece is a racially-charged trial that Scout is almost too young to understand‹though her retrospective recollections of it are anything but childish. — Hillary BusisA Wrinkle in Time seriesDuneA trippy combination of cerebral science-fiction, dark fantasy, planet-hopping adventure and spirituality, L’Engle’s original Wrinkle in Time also introduced Meg Murry, a cool-nerd female protagonist in a dude-heavy genre. Time constructed an elaborate cosmos, which L’Engle explored throughout the farflung later books. — Darren FranichIt’s possible to look at Paul Atreides as the protypical YA protagonist: The teenager with a glorious destiny, rising to prominence in a mysterious new landscape. But the book wrestles with a whole host of resonant topics, mixing political intrigue and religious inquiry with an environmentalist underpinning. For generations of readers, Dune has been the sci-fi literature gateway drug. — Darren FranichFlowers for AlgernonThe OutsidersJunior high students around the country have dog-eared and highlighted the more titillating passages of the story about a mentally impaired man undergoes a procedure that turns him into a genius — but only temporarily — for years. — Stephan LeeImmortalized in the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film adaptation, this dramatic coming-of-age tale about gang rivalry is still challenged today for its violence. Even so, the novel’s been a mainstay on middle and high schools’ required reading lists since hitting shelves nearly half a century ago. — Shirley LiThe ChosenThe Earthsea QuartetReuven Malter and Daniel Saunders become friends despite their very different religious upbringings.— Stephan LeeThe six-part series, starting with A Wizard of Earthsea, immerses readers in Le Guin’s complex world of power and knowledge. Fans of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings should give this a try. — Stephan LeeThe PigmanGo Ask AliceTroublemakers John Conlan and Lorraine Jensen find unexpected friendship with an old widower, Mr. Pignati, whose nickname ‘Pigman’ comes from his collection of ceramic pigs. Mr. Pignati’s (spoiler alert!) death inspired the grieving teens to write their story down and inspired your English teacher to assign this as required reading. — Breia BrisseyOriginally promoted as nonfiction, Go Ask Alice is the diary of an unnamed 15-year-old girl detailing her struggles with drug addiction. After its publication, psychologist Beatrice Sparks claimed to have authored the book based on the real diary of one of her patients. Fact or fiction, the book went on to become a made-for-TV movie in 1973 with William Shatner. — Breia BrisseyWatership DownThe Princess BrideIt may be about talking bunnies, but this high school reading staple about a warren of rabbits searching for safe haven is more an epic tale of survival than a warm and fuzzy rabbit-filled romp. — Shirley LiHello. This is a Renaissance era-inspired fairy tale of true love and adventure. You will fear the Dread Pirate Roberts and cheer for Buttercup and Westley. Prepare to read. — Shirley LiTuck EverlastingForever …Winnie Foster befriends a family that lives forever by drinking from a special spring. Soon she must choose whether she wants to become immortal like the Tucks or live a normal life that will inevitably end. It spawned two film adaptations, one in 1981 starring Margaret Chamberlain and in 2002 starring Alexis Bledel. — Jennifer ArellanoKatherine is a senior in high school who becomes serious with a boy named Michael. When they have sex for the first time, she grapples with her initial ideas of what makes love last ‘forever.’ Blume’s exploration of teenage sexuality made this a regular player on many banned books lists. — Jennifer ArellanoThe Chocolate WarSummer of FearThe Chocolate War follows Jerry Renault, a young teen who’s just lost his mother and now finds himself in the middle of a high school war with a secret society. The controversial novel found its way onto multiple lists of banned/challenged books and was made into a movie in 1988. — Samantha HighfillWhen Rachel’s family decides to take in her orphaned cousin, Julia, strange things start to happen. Julia charms everyone around her, leaving only Rachel to prove she’s not who she says she is. — Samantha HighfillHomecomingThe House on Mango StreetHomecoming is the first of seven novels in the Tillerman Cycle series. The book follows four siblings who are abandoned by their mother outside a Connecticut shopping mall. Once they realize she’s not coming back, the kids set out on foot hoping to find her. Anne Bancroft starred in the 1996 TV-movie adaptation. — Breia BrisseyTold through a series of vignettes, Mango Street follows Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl looking to escape the hardships of her Latino neighborhood. Cisneros won the American Book Award for the novel in 1985. — Breia BrisseyEnder’s GameHatchetCard is better known now for his controversial/hysterical opinions, and the Ender’s franchise has been sequel/prequelized into irrelevance. But that doesn’t lessen the impact of Card’s original book, a tense and thrilling novel of ideas. — Darren FranichA survivalist nightmare which doubles as a wish-fulfillment adventure of Boy-Versus-Nature, Hatchet follows a young boy trying to survive in the wild after a plane crash. Key Lesson: When traveling in remote locations, consider bringing a hatchet. — Darren FranichThe Giver QuartetHis Dark MaterialsEven if you read this Newberry-winner in middle school, this story of a utopian world and the 12-year-old boy chosen to learn the truth about it has probably never left your mind. — Stephan LeeDaemons! Dust! Bursting with originality, this universe-hopping trilogy may center on young protagonists, but its controversial religious themes have riled up adults more than children. — Stephan LeeHarry Potter seriesHolesAn orphaned wizard attends a magical boarding school, makes friends, casts some spells and learns he is the one who must defeat bad guy Voldemort. Alongside a bunch of unforgettable characters — Snape! Hagrid! Sirius! Dumbledore! Harry goes from an 11-year-old child to a 17-year-old man and, along the way, teaches us a bunch of lessons about love, kindness and bravery. The pop culture phenomenon spanned seven books and eight blockbuster films. — Erin StreckerThe 1999 U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and Newbery Medal winner centers around the young Stanley Yelnats, who’s sent to juvenile detention center Camp Green Lake, where he must dig holes in the desert every day. He’s not sure what they’re looking for, but concurrently readers are told via flashbacks the mystery surrounding the people who used to live there and how Stanley’s family is connected to it all. The beloved novel was turned into a 2003 movie starring Shia LaBeouf. — Erin StreckerSpeakThe Perks of Being a WallflowerAfter Melinda Sordino is raped at a party, she’s unable to verbalize what happened. After she nearly stops speaking altogether, she finds new ways to express herself and get her voice back. Speak was made into a movie with Kristen Stewart in 2004. — Samantha HighfillPerks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie through his high school experience via letters he writes to an anonymous stranger. The heartfelt tale was made into a movie starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in 2012. — Samantha HighfillStargirlThe Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants seriesHigh schooler Leo Borlock meets a new student named Susan “Stargirl” Caraway. Her free spirited personality and wonderfully eccentric habits end up changing him and their Arizona high school forever. The New York Times bestseller won the ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults award. — Jennifer ArellanoThe five-book series follows the lives of friends Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen, who stay in touch throughout high school and college by sharing a single pair of jeans. Brashares’ book was adapted into a movie in 2005 and a sequel in 2008 starring Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively, Amber Tamblyn, and America Ferrera. — Jennifer ArellanoThe House of the ScorpionThe Bloody Jack seriesAbout a young clone named Matt who seeks his own fate and humanity, this sci-fi epic not only won a bevy of awards, including the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, but also created a menacing and unforgettable dystopian world. — Shirley LiThis curious historical fiction series beginning with Bloody Jack, about a young girl who dons boys’ clothing to become a sailor tackles mature themes without losing its youthful sense of adventure. — Shirley LiThe Inheritance CycleThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeAn epic fantasy series about teen boy, Eragon, and his dragon, Saphira, as they attempt to overthrow an evil King in the fictional land of Alagaësia. In 2006, a film version featuring Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich of the first novel was released, and the four-book story concluded in 2011. — Erin StreckerThis novel begins as a mystery regarding the death of a dog, Wellington. Fifteen-year-old Christopher becomes an amateur detective, but the crime quickly gives way to bigger issues. Dealing with Asperger’s syndrome, the novel drew praise for its portrayal of outsider status and won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, among other honors. — Erin StreckerBorn ConfusedBlanketsAt its surface, this coming-of-age story centers on a teenager trying to fit in. But Dimple isn’t just an outcast as an Indian-American, she feels like a stranger in both countries, and this cultural undercurrent elevates the novel beyond typical YA fare. — Shirley LiThis autobiographical graphic novel details Thompson’s first love and his struggles with his family’s Evangelical Christian beliefs. In 2004, Blankets nabbed three Harvey awards and two Eisner awards, both given out for achievements in comic books. — Breia BrisseyThe Crank TrilogyPrepHopkins’ series tracks high school junior Kristina Snow’s gradual transformation from honor student to methamphetamine-addicted teenage mother. Her vivid imagery and free-verse narrative are visceral, disturbing, and ultimately unforgettable‹especially after learning that Kristina is based on the author’s own daughter. — Hillary BusisSmart, naïve Lee Fiora has no idea what she’s gotten herself into when she leaves South Bend, Indiana behind for a prestigious east coast boarding school. Though that premise may sound clichéd on its surface, Sittenfeld is deft enough to avoid caricature; instead, her outsider’s tale is funny, sharply observed, and refreshingly unsentimental. — Hillary BusisThe Uglies seriesThe Twilight SagaTally Youngblood lives in a post-apocalyptic world where your looks determine your social class. The four-book series begins with Tally eager for her sweet sixteen, as it’s the age at which all citizens must go through extreme plastic surgery to become part of the ‘Pretty’ class. — Jennifer ArellanoTeenager Bella Swan moves to a new town and falls in love with vampire Edward Cullen, fighting rival vampire covens and navigating a love triangle with werewolf Jacob Black along the way. Meyer’s four book series became a box-office shattering franchise. — Jennifer ArellanoNick & Norah’s Infinite PlaylistThe ArrivalWhen Norah asks Nick to pretend to be her boyfriend, the pair of them set off on a journey to try and find their favorite band’s secret show, along with Norah’s best friend. The romantic novel was made into a film with Michael Cera and Kat Dennings in 2008. — Samantha HighfillThis graphic novel uses images to follow one man as he leaves behind his wife and children to travel across the ocean in hopes of better prospects in a new country. Along the way, he meets a handful of people who complete his journey. — Samantha HighfillAmerican Born ChineseThe Book ThiefThis graphic novel about identities and racial stereotypes features three overlapping tales about characters who work to solve their problems. Chinese won the Michael L. Printz award in 2007. — Breia BrisseySet in Nazi Germany and narrated by Death, Thief details a young girl’s relationship with her foster parents and the events that follow after they take in a Jewish refugee. A movie adaptation starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and newcomer Sophie Nélisse hits theaters Nov. 8. — Breia BrisseyThe Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time IndianThirteen Reasons WhyAlexie’s tragicomic coming-of-age story features one of the most distinctive protagonists in all YA literature: Arnold Spirit Jr., a poverty-stricken and physically disabled wannabe-cartoonist who narrates his tale with wit and poignance. — Darren FranichIt begins with suicide and only gets darker, but Asher’s bestseller is more than just a teen-drama wallow. Exploring the tale of Hannah Baker through a series of recordings she sent to her friend Clay, Thirteen Reasons Why forms a humane portrait of a tormented teenager. The kind of book that might actually save lives. — Darren FranichThe Mortal InstrumentsThe Invention of Hugo CabretThe sixth and final book won’t hit shelves until May 2014, but the fantastical series about Clary Fray and her race of demon hunters (a.k.a. Shadowhunters) has already inspired an equally popular prequel series (The Infernal Devices) and a movie starring Lily Collins. — Breia BrisseySure, Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film adaptation drew 11 Academy Award nominations and five statuettes‹but Selznick’s original work (not quite a novel, not quite a graphic novel) is a vast achievement in its own right. His 533-page epic employs both words and pictures to illustrate the story of Hugo Cabret, a young orphan living in a Paris train station. — Hillary BusisThe Hunger Games seriesGoing BovineThere’s a reason that Collins’ dystopian tale inspired a seemingly infinite army of post-apocalyptic imitators: It’s just that good. Brave, poverty-hardened Katniss Everdeen becomes an unlikely revolutionary when she volunteers to compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games; the rest is blockbuster franchise history.
— Hillary BusisSixteen-year-old Cameron comes from a dysfunctional family and contracts ‘mad cow’ disease. Wait, what? Thought provoking and absurd at the same time, this dark comedy won the Michael L. Printz Award and was named Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Book of the Year. — Shirley LiMaze Runner seriesBeautyThe first novel is a page-turner, with its unsettling plot about teenagers trapped in an unsolvable maze, and whose every move is monitored. The series only gets more intense throughout the trilogy, which has also led to a prequel and a film adaptation in the works. — Shirley LiA reimagining of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Beauty follows the story of Honour, who despite her nickname Beauty, is not as fair and charming as her sisters, as she learns to love the beast in the forest despite his monstrous appearance and terrifying countenance. Beauty was the 1998 Phoenix Award Honor Book. — Jennifer ArellanoThe Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogyTruly, Madly, DeeplyGrace often loves to watch the wolves in the woods. One day she meets a boy named Sam who seems awfully like the wolf who saved her when she was a little girl. Shiver was named one of ALA Best Books for Young Adults and Amazon Top Ten Books for Teens. — Jennifer ArellanoTruly, Madly, Deeply is a complicated story of high school love. When popular guy Rahul falls for the shy Seema, loses her, and then searches desperately for a way to win her back. — Samantha HighfillBetween Shades of GrayDivergent trilogyWho knew a novel about the genocide of Baltic people could be so uplifting? This award-winning story of a young girl’s incredible fortitude is not just taught in schools, but being read by people of all ages. — Stephan LeeCurrently being made into a feature film, Divergent takes place in a future dystopian Chicago, where all citizens fall into one of five categories. But when Tris discovers that she cannot be categorized and is considered ‘divergent,’ she chooses to be initiated into the brave faction of society, a process that might be more difficult than she first imagined. Luckily, she has Four, her hot, older love interest to help her along. — Samantha HighfillThe Fault in Our StarsCode Name VerityIn this heartbreaker, teens Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters meet in a cancer support group and fall in love. Prepare for tears and a trip to Amsterdam to meet Hazel’s favorite author, the reclusive Peter van Houten. A film version, starring Shailene Woodley, hits theaters next summer. — Erin StreckerThis World War II-set novel tells the same story from two points of view: A British pilot and a spy. To say much more would give away the many twists in this tightly-paced novel, suffice to say, things aren’t as they seem. Code Name Verity won the 2013 Michael L. Printz Honor Book and the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel. — Erin Strecker