"Young Adult." It's one of those terms that evokes all kinds of passionate responses — depending on the social circle in which its uttered. In college writing workshops, fellow aspiring-authors would leave notes on the margins of my stories that read: "This is great! But does it need to be young adult?" Once, after I announced my first book deal, a friend told me, "Congratulations — now when are you going to write a real book?"
For some in the high-brow literary crowd, young adult is a dirty word and will always be a dirty word. In 2014, a Slate contributor wrote a seething article called "Against YA" in which they argued that "YA endings are uniformly satisfying." But those of us who get YA also get the satisfaction of seeing characters earn their Ever Afters — be they happy or otherwise. Studies say 70% of people buying Young Adult books are over the age of 18. Think of all the readers that YA is bringing to the table. Clearly, this isn't just a trend. Young adult is tackling important topics with nuance and grace and honesty, and readers of all ages are buying it to experience that.
Why? Because life is a series of coming-of-ages. You come-of-age during puberty, but also when you move out of your parents house, when your parents divorce, when you get married, when you get your heart broken (and broken again), when you have your own children, when you decide children aren't for you, when you come out in your 40s, when life is inexplicably unlivable. One of the constants of existence is that we are never done growing up.
Here is a list of YA books everyone needs to read at least once in their lifetime. This list could be 1000 books long, but it's a start, with a little something for everyone: