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NPR taking votes for best young adult novels ever

July 24, 2012|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • "Nation" by Terry Pratchett and "Forever ..." by Judy Blume are two of the books in the running for NPR's best teen novel ever poll.
"Nation" by Terry Pratchett and "Forever ..." by…

Holden Caufield is battling it out with Weetzie Bat. John Green is going up against Madeleine L'Engle. A Salman Rushdie fable faces off against Anne McCaffrey's dragons. It's a race to determine the 100 best young adult novels ever, in a poll online now at NPR.

After soliciting nominations from listeners, NPR selected a whopping 235 reads for the first round of polling. That's "reads," not "books," because the list includes several series, such as Harry Potter, "The Princess Diaries" and "Uglies." There is a healthy mix of classics in with the contemporary books, so gray-haired readers should feel as comfortable voting as teenagers will.

Last summer, when NPR asked listeners to help come up with a list of 100 best science fiction books, the top spot was taken by J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Lord of the Rings." That's also on this YA list, as are other top finishers, including No. 2, "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" by Douglas Adams, and No. 7, "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury. 

Wait, "Fahrenheit 451" is a novel for young adults?

In making their decisions, the judges defined "young adult" as readers ages 12 to 18, which meant that many coming-of-age novels (such as "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume) skewed too young. They decided some books could be classified as young adult in the poll based on themes, reading level, age of characters and whether the book is one that teens voluntarily read.

The four judges are Diane Roback, children's book editor at Publishers Weekly; Pamela Paul, children's book editor at the New York Times Book Review; Tasha Robinson, book editor of the Onion's A.V. Club; and Ted Shelvan, a teacher librarian in Washington state who chairs the committee choosing the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Assn.) list of best young adult fiction.

Readers who want to vote online for their favorites aren't limited to just one. Each reader gets 10 votes. The results will be posted in a few weeks.

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