ally resonant, the Tillermans’ journey is an
endlessly compelling exploration of family,
love, and perseverance.
Annie on My Mind, by Nancy Garden
Garden’s novel, centered on Annie
and Liza’s romance, revealed gradually
through Liza’s memories, has all the iconic markers of teen romance, but it was
truly groundbreaking: this teenage lesbian love story was the first of its kind to
have a happy ending.
Sweet Valley High series, by Francine
Pascal (Random, 1983–2003).
Who knows how many ghostwriters
worked under Pascal to bring to life the
adventures of good-twin, bad-twin Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, but the final
book tally is 181 (more than 600 counting
all spin-offs). And the influence? Incalculable. Pascal’s fast, frothy—and surprisingly
dark—mix of romance, class struggle, and
mystery set the pace for innumerable future series.
Singularity, by William Sleator (Puffin/
Sleator might be best known for House
of Stairs (1974), but this is his masterwork,
a taut, troubling sci-fi psychodrama about
twins Harry and Barry, who open a black
hole to another universe. The real suspense, though, is in the boys’ abnormal,
bad-marriage relationship—and the upsetting twist it takes.
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne
Jones (Harper, 1986).
Jones’ rollicking novel, full of whimsical magic, complex world building, and
snappy repartee between feisty Sophie
and Wizard Howl, is the perfect blend
of comedy, fantasy, and romance. It’s her
stereotype-defying characters, however—
particularly clever, brave Sophie—that
make this so exceptional.
Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
Myers is a stalwart champion of YA, but
this novel, about a 17-year-old’s harrowing
tour of duty in Vietnam, stands out from
the pack, thanks to its bracing, unadorned
prose; gut-twisting depiction of the horrors of war; smoothly integrated historical
context; and vividly rendered, multifaceted characters.
Dangerous Angels series, by Francesca
Lia Block (HarperCollins/Charlotte
Block’s magnum opus began with her
debut, Weetzie Bat. The punk-infused fever dream of a narrative follows Weetzie
and her best friend, Dirk, as they come of
age in a hazy version of 1980s L.A. Spun
through with magic realism and navigating hefty social issues, this remains a teen
The Silver Kiss, by Annette Curtis Klause
Long before Edward Cullen entered the
teen sphere of influence, Klause penned
a romantic horror story born from the
vampire legend. As Zoë watches her
mother die slowly of cancer, she encounters silver-haired Simon, who possesses a
unique relationship with death. Gore and
romance blend in a novel well ahead of the
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris
Crutcher (Greenwillow, 1993).
Eric’s weight and Sarah’s scars brought
them together as kids. Swimming has
slimmed Eric, but Sarah’s spiral has landed
“You’ve no right to walk into people’s castles and take their guitars.”
—Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle.