Modern/Current Classic Teen Lit

I’m part of a group of people, mostly teen librarians, who get together and talk teen books.  I love it!  Our library system is made up of a bazillion branches so each branch only has one teen librarian (if it has one at all — in the smallest branches the manager seconds as the teen librarian).  This means that I am often starved for people to gush with over teen books.  I shouldn’t make it sound as though I am completely deprived because both the children’s librarian and manager where I work are fairly avid teen readers and so are a couple of my other coworkers but I still savor the opportunity to just talk teen lit for two hours with other people who are as passionate about it as I am.

This group meets quarterly and we always have a topic for our discussions.  We are meeting on Wednesday and the topic is modern or current classics.  I’m having trouble figuring out which books to take and talk about with this topic.  First, the topic itself.  When we discussed it at the last meeting, I wrote it down as modern classics but the webpage with the group info says current classics.  I think “modern” could be taken in a broader sense than “current”.  Current seems so much more immediate, so much more “right now” to me, which makes it hard for me to determine a date range for these current or moder classics.  Second of all, a classic to me has to have made it through some sort of test of time, which current classics wouldn’t really have had time to do, or ones I think are going to stand the test of time, and I’m pretty sure I’m not a very good judge of what is going to be around in 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

Here are some that I think might be contenders for modern/current teen classics:

  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (though I sense a drop in popularity since the last book came out — anyone else feel the same?)
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (shockingly, I’ve not read it yet — I know! — but I still believe it is an important work)
  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (one I would consider modern but not current)
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (because I love it)
  • Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss (a small, powerful book that I wish got a bit more action)
  • Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (ah-mazing fantasy, still popular though came out when I was in high school)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (maybe?)
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (because I absolutely want it to be and will fight to make it be true :) )

These are my gut decisions.  I’m not sure I’ll stand by all of them and I’m sure there are some I missed.  I will continue to think on it.

Now, I ask you: What is your idea of a modern or current classic?  Do you see a distinction between the two or am I just being picky? Which books would be on your list?


Now that I’ve attended my gathering, I thought I would share with you some of the ideas that we discussed.  First, we decided it is possible for an author to be considered classic and not just one piece of work from their collection — ie there are classic books and classic writers.  Also, no one really cleared up the question of what exactly a modern classic is or what the date range should be.  Pretty much anything from the last 10 or so years, with a few of my older ones, was accepted.  Someone also brought up the fact that we had no graphic novels on the list and we hurriedly tried to come up with some, though struggled.  The only one named was Bones.  Anyone else have any ideas for modern classic graphic novels for teens?  And here are some of the books and authors that were discussed:

  • Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (which I just looked up on Amazon and has an amazing 1,288 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars!)
  • Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (though some argued that he was a classic author or that some of his other works — namely the Midnighters series — deserved recognition as well)
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix (which I am not familiar with AT ALL but suppose I should be.  What do others think of this one?)
  • Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • all Harry Potters
  • Twilight simply because we believe it has staying power, which may not be the same thing as classic.  I compared it to Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews because it may not be the best written book but it remains popular as each generation seems to form an attachment to it.
  • Alexie Sherman
  • Ellen Hopkins
  • Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • M.T. Anderson
  • Sharon Draper
  • Older but still popular: Lurlene McDaniel, Lois Duncan, Ann Rinaldi, and Caroline B. Cooney

About Casey

I am a librarian who loves all things reading, especially teen literature.
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4 Responses to Modern/Current Classic Teen Lit

  1. That’s a good list. I don’t think you’re being picky: modern would, to me, encompass anything after, say 1960, where as current is the last five years or so.

    You don’t have any John Green on the list. I think at least one of his books will be considered a classic. Or M. T. Anderson.

    Specific books? Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The Goose Girl, Uglies… that’s all that I can think of off the top of my head.

    Have fun at your meeting!

  2. Pam says:

    I agree with Melissa about the 60’s but it also has to do a little bit with content. Hemingway was around the 60’s but he has a much more antiquated style. I tend to be bored by Victorian things but I love transcendentalism so for me, it’s really not a time period but rather a subject matter question, I think.

  3. Allegra says:

    I read Sabriel and enjoyed it. I can definitely see how it could be classified as a “modern classic”. It certainly has that staying power.

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