Tell me about contemporary young-adult fiction

In another thread, the subject contemporary young-adult fiction came up. It was suggested that I am probably not that familiar with the genre. This is correct. I looked at the entry on Wikipedia. I am familiar with most of the titles published up through the 1960’s, but my memory of most of them is really hazy.

When it comes to the titles published in the last 20 years, I basically know nothing. The other day I had the chance to read Sleeping Freshman Never Lie. (You can read parts of it on the Amazon “Search Inside” link below). For those familiar with the contemporary YA genre, would you say this book is representative of the genre as a whole? Is this considered good or bad contemporary YA fiction?

I thought the book as awful. The writing was clunky and overdone. It was full of stupid puns and Tom Swifties, and it was generally unfocused. It read like the writings of an adult trying to create the unedited ramblings of a 14 year-old. The picture the book creates of a young man is completely false. This especially apparent in the narrator’s oh-so-sweet attraction to a girl in his class. The book denies the dark, twisted nature of a 14 year-old boy’s sexual psyche. I think we all remember works of fiction or television that pander to teenagers. This book is about as true a picture of being a teenager as you will find on 7th Heaven.

Now, maybe this book is just bad. Maybe a lot of the contemporary YA fiction is great. For those familiar with the genre, can you recommend some of the best titles?

I’m not familiar with YA general fiction, but I’ve read and enjoyed some YA fantasy fiction. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud is particularly good – witty and dark. The Abhorsen Trllogy by Garth Nix is good too (it’s about death). Dust by Arthur Slade is a fantasy-mystery that reminded me of Ray Bradbury, without the flowery language. None of these writers “write down” for a YA audience. If I were a kid, I’d appreciate not being talked down to.

I wasn’t quite as happy with the Magic books by Justine Larbalastier (sp?) – nice concept – magical power runs in families – use it and die early or don’t use it and go crazy. But she kept repeating stuff, as if young adults won’t remember from one page to the next.

I like the lack of explicit sex and violence in YA fantasy fiction, so that’s where I go when I want something “clean”.

I’ve always been a fan of Robert Cormier who’s works cover 40 years (1960-2001) but I’d consider his themes to be at least “modern.” He’s best known for The Chocolate War but I read most of his other titles and they’re just as good.

I also enjoyed Gary Paulsen’s Winterkill, Hatchet, Dancing Carl and The Winter Room.

I read all of this stuff in the early 90’s when I was a teen. When I was in college in the late 90’s, I wasn’t too impressed with anything we read in the “Literature For Young Adults” class I took, other than The Bell Jar.

Just giving this a bump. I would still like to know if Sleeping Freshman Never Lie is a good representation of the genre.

I enjoy Norma Fox Mazer, and you cannot go wrong with Lemony Snicket

I doubt that one book is a good representation of any genre.