Beyond 'Flowers': How many of these young adult classics have you read?

Jan. 17, 2014 at 9:17 AM ET

Flowers in the Attic
Pocket Books

All the buzz about the new Lifetime movie “Flowers in the Attic” has been making us nostalgic for books that we simply couldn’t put down in our younger years. They may not have won any Pulitzers, but some of those classic young adult novels still hold up really well today.

How many of these classics have you read?

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume (Yearling, 1970).
Judy Blume made millions of adolescents feel less alone about the changes happening to their bodies and their emotions as a sixth-grader named Margaret confronts religious questions, the onset of her first period, the purchase of her first bra and feelings for boys.

Are you there, God? Judy Blume's book covers are changing!

“The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton (Viking Press, Dell Publishing, 1967).
Written by a 16-year-old girl in her junior year of high school, this classic was controversial for its inclusion of gang violence, strong language and underage smoking and drinking. Today, though, it’s part of the curriculum at many middle and high schools. “The Outsiders” explored the worlds of the greasers (outsiders) and socs (short for “socials,” or people with money and privilege) in an unforgettable way.

The Giver
Random House Children's Books

“The Giver” by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin, 1993).
“Sameness” — that’s one way to avoid pain. Or is it? This children’s novel examines the underpinnings of human society through a boy named Jonah, who must decide between a safe, consistent life within his community or an unknown — and potentially perilous — life involving knowledge and free will.

“Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908).
In “Anne of Green Gables” we meet Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan with red hair and a vivacious personality. She mistakenly gets sent to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, who intended to adopt a boy to help them out on their farm. An ahead-of-its-time girl power classic!  

“Go Ask Alice” by Anonymous (Prentice Hall, 1971).
“Alice COULD BE ANYONE. Alice COULD BE SOMEONE YOU KNOW. Alice USES DRUGS.” Served up as the diary of an anonymous 15-year-old girl who gets hooked on drugs, “Go Ask Alice” is as gripping a read today as it was in the ‘70s. The title comes from the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit.” 

The “Sweet Valley High” series created by Francine Pascal (Random House, 1983).
Here are books so popular that they led to a main series as well as several spin-off series with more than 150 titles. The “Sweet Valley High” novels follow two identical twins in California, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield — and like any good soap opera, they got people hooked.

“A Wrinkle in Time” series by Madeleine L'Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1962).
What’s a “tesseract”? It’s a “wrinkle in time,” of course! In the opening novel in L’Engle’s groundbreaking science fiction series, a young girl named Meg Murry searches for her scientist dad, who has gone missing while working for the government. 

Harry Potter
Scholastic Press

The “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling (Bloomsbury Publishing and Scholastic Press, 1997-2007).
The seven fantasy novels in the “Harry Potter” series captivated generations of readers for a reason. It’s impossible to put the books down. The books (and their counterpart blockbuster films) chronicle the saga of Harry and his friends at Hogwarts School as they struggle to overcome the machinations of the Dark Lord Voldemort.

“The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press, 2008).
Collins’ books spawned such a reading frenzy, followed by Hollywood blockbusters, that they have joined the pantheon of classics. In these novels, we follow Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl in a post-apocalyptic world who must compete with other 12- to 18-year-olds in a televised battle to the death.

Which book is your favorite? What other books like these do you love and miss? Let us know in the comments!

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