When you Google “Best YA Fantasy,” the first thing that pops up is a .pdf of a 2001 list of the “25 Best Young Adult Fantasy Novels of All Time—So Far” compiled by Patty Campbell, a woman with many YA and youth literary accolades to her name. It’s a pretty good list… but the fact is that it was compiled long before the YA Fantasy explosion—four years before Twilight, even (not that I’m saying that should or should not be on the list)—so it does feel a little dated.
The list is as follows:
- The Once and Future King by T.H. White
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein
- The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
- House of Stairs by William Sleator
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien
- Harper Hall Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey
- The Sword of Shannara (and sequels) by Terry Brooks
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- Interstellar Pig by William Sleator
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Jackaroo (and sequels) by Cynthia Voigt
- Redwall (and sequels) by Brian Jacques
- The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause
- The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
- His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
- Daughter of the Clayr Series by Garth Nix
- Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
- Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
- Skellig by David Almond
Can you see why this list makes me kind of turn my head a little bit? I admit, I can claim to have read very little of this list. In fact, all I’ve read off of it is The Once and Future King, and of course, Harry Potter*. The truth is, I haven’t even heard of many of these books. Many of these just aren’t young adult novels, though. Several are classic fantasy—appropriate for young adults, sure, but not YA themselves. Some of them are children’s fantasy. And some of them… frankly some of them are just odd. Someday I’m going to have to read that House of Stairs, because the description is one of the oddest things I’ve ever read. We’re talking Flatland weird—okay, not really, but somewhere close. And do you like how Harry Potter is tagged on at the very end there, as if it were no big deal? Even the outdatedness of this list can’t excuse that—Goblet of Fire was out in 2001, andtook the Hugo Award for Best Novel that same year.
No disrespect to Patty Campbell. Anyone who spends as much of their time and efforts—as much of their life, really, bringing literature to young adults (or anyone!) has my highest regard. All I’m saying is… I think it’s about time we had a new list. Don’t you?
*Yes, I realize that it’s somewhat disgraceful that I haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or The Lord of the Rings. I’m working on it.