Pulling together the 50 best books of any one genre is a near-impossible en- deavor. Now imagine having to consider all genres at once. It’s the kind of task that almost makes you wish it had landed on someone else’s desk. Almost—but
not quite. There is something thrilling about staring at a list of thousands of books and
psyching yourself up to believe, if even for a short while, that you have what it takes
to make such judgment calls.
You don’t, of course. None of us does. But together, you do your best, accepting
that your list unquestionably will be imprinted by the personalities behind it—in this
case, Booklist staff and contributors. So how did we come up with our list? First, we
decided the books had to be published originally as YA and no earlier than the publishing of S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, in 1967.
Beyond that, our criteria were broad, even ungainly. “Best YA Books,” though a useful shorthand phrase, quickly proved a flawed one, too. We wanted to pay homage to
august classics but also bring to light astounding works of literature that, for innumerable reasons, might have been outshined by bigger names and higher sales. This held
true even among titles by a single author (the starkest example: our choice of Robert Cormier’s Tenderness over The Chocolate War). Literary quality was our highest
qualifier—but we also made room for books of significant influence.
The result is a list that, indeed, is highly idiosyncratic and sure to send devotees of YA
lit into despair—and, we hope, elation as well. Even we ended up surprised by it. How in
the world do you end up with a best-of list without Ron Koertge? Shaun Tan? Sarah Dessen? Aidan Chambers? Nancy Farmer? Ellen Wittlinger? Libba Bray? Marcus Zusak? Meg
Medina? David Levithan? Yeah, we don’t know either. Strange things happen with only 50
spots to fill. Nonetheless, we’re proud of what we came up with and hope it inspires you
to go back and read some old favorites as well as discover some new ones. And, of course,
share them all with teens. They, as always, will be the jury that matters. —Daniel Kraus