Omnivoracious, Amazon’s book blog, has an excellent post on the most influential YA of the decade. It is a very good list, indeed. I agree to a certain extent with almost all the entries, but—you knew there was a but, didn’t you?—I don’t think Paolini belongs on the list, and I feel strongly that Holly Black and Ellen Hopkins do.
Now before I get going, let me set out what I understand this list to be. It is not about the quality of the books involved, but about their influence on the publishing field of Young Adult fiction. I believe that there is no question that Stephenie Meyer was the most influential writer of the decade. She created gazillions of readers and there is vastly more paranormal romance and urban fantasy published in YA than ever before directly because of Meyer’s success. As someone who primarily writes YA fantasy in contemporary settings, Meyer has single-handledly increased my chances of continuing to be published. I am extremely grateful. I have even learned to take with grace people telling me I am ripping Meyer off. It helps that I know they’re wrong. 🙂
Paolini, on the other hand? Sure, he sells strongly, but what is his lasting influence on the field? Where is the explosion in YA high fantasy? Nor has there been a huge wave of successful teen YA writers in Paolini’s wake. I call one-off and no big influence.
On the other hand, the success of Holly Black’s Faerie Tale books, especially the first one, Tithe (2002), paved the way for many, many writers such as Stephenie Meyer, Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Melissa Marr, Malinda Lo, me, and too many others to name. I was shocked that Holly’s name was not on the list.
Then there’s Ellen Hopkins who showed that novels in verse are more than viable in YA, they can be bestsellers. That’s certainly not true in adult fiction and Hopkin’s phenomenal success is a huge part of it. Another shocking omission.
I am also saddened by how white the list is. Is it an accurate reflection of the whiteness of the field? I would like to think Christopher Paul Curtis, Angela Johnson, Walter Dean Myers and Jacqueline Woodson have had a big influence across YA (and middle grade). Christopher Paul Curtis had a huge part in shaping my idea of what I can write. (I didn’t read the other three until more recently.) Certainly all four of these very different writers have had far more influence on YA than I have. Yet I am mentioned on the supplementary list and Christopher Paul Curtis, Angela Johnson and Jacqueline Woodson are not. Very weird. For the record: I have no place anywhere on that list.1
I also wonder about so-called street lit, a decent chunk of which is definitely YA, which grew up way outside mainstream publishing. How do you measure that influence? I’ve come across many teens who found their way to reading via books they bought on the subway.
I also ponder David Levithan’s influence in terms of the last decade of GLBT YA books. It is a quieter influence, yes, but it’s definitely there.
What say all of you?
STERN WARNING: Please remember that we’re not talking about quality! I will delete the comments of anyone who starts bashing any of the writers discussed. We’re not discussing which books we love, we’re discussing which books and writers have made the YA genre what it is today. Nor do I want to hear about whether that influence is good or bad. You have been warned.
- Maybe next decade. Fingers crossed. [↩]