The Surprising, Short History of Young Adult Fiction

Does Ponyboy still have a special place in your heart? Here's how he, Nancy, and Margaret paved the way for Harry, Bella, and Katniss.

1

1930

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Photo by Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

The American Library Association (ALA) creates the Young People's Reading Roundtable, along with an annual list suggesting children's and adult novels. (Believe it or not, the Nancy Drew girl-detective series is deemed too popular and doesn't make the list.) "This is the first time that literature is marketed directly to teens," says David Levithan, an author and the editorial director of Scholastic.

2

1950s

Psychologists Robert James Havighurst and Erik Erikson each write a trailblazing book defining adolescence as a developmental stage when identity independence takes hold. The ALA follows suit by creating a Young Adult Services Division in libraries. "The term "young adult" doesn't come into general use until 1958, but you can credit the librarians for it," says Elizabeth Bird, the collection development manager of the Evanston Public Library, in Evanston, Illinois.

3

1967

S. E. Hinton's The Outsidersa plot involving gangs, a robbery, and a killing— kicks off the first golden age of YA lit. "It sparked authors to write novels that were more than just, as Hinton put it, 'a horse and the girl who loved it' story lines," says Bird.



4

1970s

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Photo by Chris So/Getty Images

The "me" decade continues to keep it real by tackling tough teen issues: Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War (bullying) and Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (a girl's first period) and Forever ("going all the way").

5

1980s

The first major YA franchise is born, and its merchandising potential is milked: Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High series about "perfect size 6" twins spawns a TV show, a board game, and nine book spin-offs, including Sweet Valley Twins and The Unicorn Club.

6

1998

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Photo by Courtesy of Scholastic Inc.

The second golden age of YA dawns with J. K. Rowling's boy wizard in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. A year later, legions of fans camp outside bookstores for up to nine hours to get their hands on the next book in the series. The fantasy genre explodes.



7

2005

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Photo by amazon.com

Readers sink their teeth into Bella and Edward's world in Stephenie Meyer's vampire romance, Twilight. The novel is so successful, says Bird, that its fan fiction (stories inspired by the original) becomes popular in its own right (ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey).

8

2015

Kids are finding the Next Big Thing on their own, says Diane Roback, a children's book editor at Publishers Weekly. The newest standout is teen YouTube star Paige McKenzie. Her channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, lands her a major book deal.