5 Great Books Left Off NPR’s Top 100 Teen Novels List

Ship BreakerLast week NPR published the results of their poll for the 100 best young adult novels of all time. Yes, moi participated and voted. To say I’m a little perplexed by some of the books that weren’t included is an understatement. (Even more perplexing is some of the books left out of the original list voters could choose from.)

Yes, lists are always problematic and no one is ever completely happy with what is chosen. But here are five that strike me as glaring omissions from the list:

1. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, by Judy Blume: I mean, seriously? SERIOUSLY? Every girl of my generation read this book. It didn’t even make the first cut! O.K., so maybe the characters spend a bit too much time talking about having your first period, but Margaret is so relatable. Whether dealing with normal adolescent confusion or what she feels about religion (coming from a mixed marriage) she’s somebody you feel you know.

Need to be convinced some more that it belongs on the list? Hello, Sawyer was shown reading it on Lost!

sawyer are you there god, it's me margaret

2. Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi: in my opinion, this is one of the best of the YA post-apocalyptic novels of the past few years. I’m stunned it didn’t make the final list. It tells the story of “ship breaker” Nailer, a teen who works salvaging wrecks after climate change has destroyed the current coastlines. This is a tough book about a tough world, but it never fails to engage the reader.

3. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare: again, SERIOUSLY? I’ll be honest, I read more YA books now that I’m adult than I did as a teen, but this was hands-down my favorite YA book when I was young. The story of Kit, a young girl who grew up in Barbados and is forced to impose herself on her Puritan relatives in Colonial Connecticut when her grandfather dies, is a classic in every way. Speare had a remarkable talent for writing about young people in historical settings that still resonates with modern teens. This didn’t even make the first cut! Nor did any of Speare’s other fine books. Shame! Shame!

4. Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel: this is the first novel in Oppel’s superb Matt Cruse series and it was my introduction to alternate history/steampunk. Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on an airship called the Aurora. He meets an upper-class passenger named Kate who wants to prove there are amazing and strange creatures who live in upper regions of the atmosphere. The three books in the series (Skybreaker and Starclimber are the other two) are breathtaking adventure stories with fantastic characters.

5. Everlost, by Neal Shusterman: another one that didn’t even make the first cut. Shusterman does appear on the final list with his novel Unwind, which is fine, but this should have at least been a finalist. It tells the story of Nick and Allie, who don’t know each other but are killed in the same auto accident. When they fail to go into the light, they end up in Everlost, a place not in or out of this world. This is the first book in Shusterman’s Skinjacker series, and I can’t even begin to articulate how inventive, funny and poignant these books are. I’m going to cut the committee a bit of a break and assume they passed it over because it could conceivably be thought as more middle grade than YA, but then, so could many of the Harry Potter books.

What’s even more aggravating is that these books might have made the list if some books that are CLEARLY NOT YA books had not been included. Dune is not YA. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is not YA. I don’t care if young people read those books. I read Gone With The Wind and Jane Eyre when I was a teen, so did a lot of my friends, and I don’t see them on the list.

Are there books you think were unfairly left off the list? Let us know in the comments section!

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5 thoughts on “5 Great Books Left Off NPR’s Top 100 Teen Novels List

  1. The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a must-read for pre-teens and teens! Elizabeth George Speare is simply…wonderful!

  2. Totally agree on #1 – there cannot be a discussion of YA without AYTG. I’ve never read the Witch of Blackbird Pond – my older sister had a copy and the cover scared me to death when I was little.

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