TTT: Classic YA from before I was born/ before it was really a thing


This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme is 'books written before I was born'. I feel like a lot of the stuff I read (and most of my favourites) are classics, or just old, so I went a bit more specific. YA fiction - as a genre and a way of marketing books -  is a relatively new concept, so I tried to think of a few books and series that would or might have been classed as YA if they'd been written in the last few years. 


Fantasy:

Tamora Pierce: The Song of the Lioness Quartet (published 1983-1988)


Credited as an inspiration by YA authors like Leigh Bardugo, Tamora Pierce's girl heroes were groundbreaking back in the eighties and nineties and still set a standard for strong female characters. Her books aren't perfect and have dated in some places - they also read more like junior fiction/middle grade than YA in some ways.  But for feminism, adventure, friendships, magic and sex-positivity, these books aren't to be missed. I'm reading The Immortals Quartet for the first time and loving Daine (almost) as much as Alanna and Kel. Looking forward to meeting Beka and Aly sometime soon! 


Robin McKinley: e.g Beauty (1978) The Hero and the Crown (1984) The Blue Sword (1982)


I've read some of Robin McKinley's fairy-tale re-tellings (Beauty, Spindle's End and The Outlaws of Sherwood) and really enjoyed them, both as an adult and a teen. Her writing is very descriptive and the stories can be kind of slow and dreamlike - but her characters are well-drawn, especially the girls, she does female friendship really well and I like the way she creates the magic. The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are two of her best known books, both set in an original fantasy world with female heroes (one is a prequel of the other) and I'm definitely going to get to them at some point.


Ursula K. le Guin: The Wizard of Earthsea (1968) 


I read the first Earthsea book as a teenager and - although I can't remember anything about it - I know I liked it? My sister read the first quartet recently and it's making me want to go back and read more. The stories are based around a fantasy world made up of islands, a sort of Iron Age inspired society with dark-skinned characters (which makes a change from Medieval style white people) and there's wizards and dragons and stuff. 


Diana Wynne Jones: Fire and Hemlock (1984) Howl's Moving Castle (1986) The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988)


I love Diana Wynne-Jones. I discovered her at the library as a kid, trying to fill the gap between Harry Potter releases (a year felt like a long time back then) and the Chrestomanci books were a perfect fit. They're technically children's books, but the characters are mostly teen-aged and they feel sort of older. They can be very dark (in a later Harry Potters sort of way) and the characters can be very grey and complex. Plus the magic is really exciting and there are lots of good twists. Chrestomanici is a great character too. 



Historical:

Rosemary Sutcliffe: The Eagle of the Ninth (1954) The Lantern Bearers (1959) Warrior Scarlet (1958) Song for a Dark Queen (1978)


Rosemary Sutcliffe's books were written for children from the fifties - and nowadays they seem a bit hard-going to give to a ten year old. But you still could! They're descriptive, but the stories are great. I've only read the Eagle of the Ninth, as well as The Lantern Bearers and Sword in Sunset (that last one was written for adults) which are the follow ups. She writes historical fiction, mostly male protagonists but often disabled main characters (mental health too) and her descriptions of the period - the ones I read were Roman Britain and the Dark ages - feel so real. 


Eva Ibbotson: A Company of Swans (1985) The Magic Flute (1982)


You might connect Eva Ibbotson with children's fantasy (The Star of Kazan, The Secret of Platform 13  - which are good too) but she also wrote some lovely old fashioned historical teen romances. I've only read The Secret Countess but I liked that a lot. Are they a bit dated and problematic in places? I'd imagine so, going off a couple of strange attitudes in the one I read. But I could be wrong. I know they make for nice, girly comfort reading anyway.


Romance/Coming of age: 

Dodie Smith: I Capture the Castle (1948)


This is one of those books that I came to late, but wish I'd read as a teenager. It's written in the first person, set in 1930's England and tells the story of seventeen year old Cassandra Mortmain's eccentric, dysfunctional family and what happens to it when two young American men show up. From the famous first line 'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink' it was an easy, enjoyable read. Old fashioned but still a proper teenage book. A bit like Jane Austen meets Anne of Green Gables, or something like that. There's a decent film adaptation too, starring a young Romola Garai, Rose Byrne and Henry Cavill. 


Judy Blume: Are you there God? It's me, Margaret (1970) Forever (1975)


So I've not read any Judy Blume except Freckle Juice, which we read as a class book in primary school and just confused me. But I feel like Judy Blume is for generation X what Jacqueline Wilson is to British Millennials? Are you there God? It's me, Margaret is her most famous, Forever is the one 'with the sex in'. I'm guessing she's still probably very readable, but also pretty dated now. 


J.D Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye (1951) 


Another one I've never read, but I feel like this is one of those classics you're supposed to read when you're a teenager. There's a teenage protagonist, first person again and lots of angst, apparently. It's never been one I've gravitated towards (too male?) but everyone always tells me it's worth reading so I suppose I'll get to it at some point. 


S.E Hinton: The Outsiders (1967)



The author wrote this story of rival teenage gangs in the sixties, when she was in high school, and is apparently credited with introducing the YA genre. I'd never really heard of it before, but it sounds fun, and there's a film too which looked vaguely familiar. It was a controversial book back in the day for it's portrayal of gang violence and drugs, but nowadays it's often on the curriculum in the US. Might have to look it out. 



Read any of these? What classic YA would you recommend?



Comments

  1. The Outsiders made my list also! I hope you can stop by:

    https://collettaskitchensink.blogspot.com/2021/02/top-ten-books-written-before-1978-222021.html

    Colletta

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  2. What a great idea! McKinley's books look good and I know I've seen positive things on them before. The Outsiders I haven't read but I have seen the move and liked it. what a who's who of stars in their first or very early screen appearances!

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    1. Just had a look at the imdb, so many familiar faces! I really want to read some more Robin McKinley

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  3. Great list here, bringing back many memories! I am a little sad to say I have never read Ursula K Le Guin... even though I do love fantasy! I did put a little twist on the topic this week: rather than disappearing into the classics (where there are so many that I love but rarely blog about) I went for books published in the year I was born!

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    1. I'm the same I wish I'd read more of hers as a kid!

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  4. I haven't thought about I Capture the Castle in ages.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.

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    1. I always forget how much I like it, wish I'd read it as a teenager though

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  5. There's a Tamora Pierce readalong hosted by several booktubers starting in February fyi. I read I Capture the Castle in January and adored it! :D Happy reading! :D My TTT https://readwithstefani.com/books-written-before-i-was-born-the-classics-edition/

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    1. Ooh might have to join in that when they get onto the series I've still to read! Thanks for the heads up :) I Capture the Castle is so good!

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  6. Someday I should read the Earthsea books.

    My post.

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    1. Same, I don't know why I didn't go on to read the sequels!

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  7. YA is definitely a newer concept for books. It wasn't a thing when I was a teen, unfortunately. I did read lots of Judy Blume and THE OUTSIDERS was one I read for a class in high school. I enjoyed I CAPTURE THE CASTLE when I read it, but it's been so long I can't even remember what it's about! I hope you enjoy all these when you get to them :)

    Happy TTT!

    Susan
    www.blogginboutbooks.com

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    1. I get more intrigued about The Outsiders the more I see, I'd never heard of it before! Thanks :)

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  8. I've not read any of these! I was quite lucky that I when I was a teenager, it was around the same time books like The Hunger Games were coming out and the options for YA were expanding, so I've not really read many of the more classic YA books.
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/top-ten-tuesday-301/

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    1. I loved the Hunger Games but haven't read much YA since - just getting into Leigh Bardugo though! But the old stuff is good too :)

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  9. Great list! So many of these authors are on my TBR--Tamora Pierce; Robin McKinley; Ursula Le Guin--and I've really enjoyed some of the others. A Company of Swans is one of the books that first made me fall in love with historical fiction!

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    1. Thanks! I really want to read some more of those Eva Ibbotson ones - might start with Company of Swans!

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  10. Oh I LOVE the Song of the Lioness! I didn't realise they were so old, I could have added them to my list (just). I think Daine and Aly were my favourites from Tortall though.

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    1. I hadn't realised either, I think because she's still bringing out new series. I just finished the Daine ones, she's great!

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  11. I read the Outsiders a few years back, I want to see the movie (Rob Lowe! And tons of other stars), but the extended version which is supposed to be much closer to the book. I'd never heard of the Outsiders until I was an adult, but I feel like my dad said he had to read it in school or something. Compared to modern stuff on drugs and violence it seems mild-ish, like no huge bloodbath or explicit drug descriptions that I remember (no hard drugs maybe?) . . . I don't want to spoil it.

    I looooove, Sutcliff, her style is so unique as is the subject and tone. They feel so real.

    I loved Beauty, I need to read more of Robin McKinley.

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    1. I definitely need to read more Rosemary Sutcliff books, I feel like they're they're heavy going to get into, but the ones I've read I've loved once I was in. Think my favourite Robin Mckinley is Spindle's End, but need to read more too!

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  12. These all definitely existed in the teen/YP section of the public library when I was growing up. With the possible exception of I Capture The Castle -- I feel like that one was kept with the adult books, because it seems like something I would have known about and latched onto earlier if it had been in my section -- and the definite exception of Catcher in the Rye. Although the school library must have stocked both, since we had to read the latter for class. Good picks.

    Besides Catcher and Tamora Pierce, I've only read A Song For Summer, but I adored it (I...do not love these monochromatic edition covers, though. Glad if it means they're back in print, but it come across as so harsh and in-your-face I can barely concentrate on the photo).

    My favorite Judy Blume book is definitely Tiger Eyes; I recommend that one as a good place to start wither books for older readers, and I think it has a more timeless feel than the two above. I was actually surprised to see how old it was after I read it a few years ago, even though I knew it was hardly a new book.
    --RS

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    1. Yeah the new covers are funny, I think they're trying to make them look more grown up, but I quite liked the old princess-y covers. Will look out for Tiger Eyes, I know she wrote some adult books too so, think I need to read at least one!

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