What I Think Happens In Popular Young Adult Novels (That I Didn’t Read)

When we were “young adults” I feel like Harry Potter was the only acceptable book series to tout being a fan of. As of late, there’s been a trend of reading YA novels to be “cool”, and the authors are considered superstars. Like John Green and his entire bibliography or The Hunger Games and Katniss braids left and right. Reading teen lit isn’t something to be ashamed of anymore, and as an adult, I feel a weird opposite reaction to this, in that I sort of feel ashamed I HAVEN’T read the most popular series in YA.

For our first day of TEENS BE READING Week, our companion to YALSA’s Teen Read Week, we’re giving our best guess as to what these books are all about – even if we have no clue where to start.

Sweet Valley High

Blonde twins, Ashley and Jessica, live in Sweet Valley, California and the series chronicles their their normal teenage life. They attend the titular Sweet Valley High, and encounter drama with friends, drama with boys and drama with each other. They probably fight over the same boy at one point, and do the good ol’ switcheroo to get make sure one of them passes a driver’s test or something. They also have a mortal enemy in the most popular girl in school, Lizzie, who has hated them ever since they were in second grade when they (accidentally) embarrassed her in gym class. Also the twins’ parents are divorced, and they split time in between houses, which also causes drama within the family.

The Maze Runner

The setting: dystopian future, specifically the U.S. The government puts all kids starting at the age of 14 through a rigorous test to be in the military (defense from the Canadians). If they don’t pass, they get three more tries, and if they fail, they go to live in what is now the South on labor fields. The final portion of the test is a huge maze (in New Jersey), which includes multiple traps, logic puzzles and endurance tests. Dylan O’Brien, on his third and final test, decides both options, whether win or lose, are horrible, and attempts to fight the power. Hence, The Maze Runner. The subsequent books are about the repercussions of him running through the maze. I’m also assuming there’s some kind of romance going on at some point because, young adult.

Twilight

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison have a showmance and it ends with a public scandal of her cheating on another vampire who is married. Taylor Lautner is literally so hot he has to have his shirt off at all times and Anna Kendrick is better than this entire franchise.

Lord of the Flies

A group of kids are stranded on an island in Micronesia and have to fend for themselves. They start a new civilization, led by a kid named Mowgli who’s always drinking coconut milk and attracts a lot of flies.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

After the death of her mother at age 12, Margaret is sad, confused, and doesn’t know where to turn. Her and her family would go to church occasionally throughout the year, but not religious by any means. As she enters a new chapter in her life without her mother, she finds herself asking a lot of questions, and feels like the only person (or entity) that can help her is one she can’t even see.

Go Ask Alice

This is written in the style of a found diary or autobiography, and is unattributed in a Blair Witch-y way where it’s supposed to be real but it isn’t. Alice is a normal girl until something bad-ish happens (parents’ divorce, maybe?). Then she gets peer pressured into trying “dope” (I’m never 100% clear on which drug “dope” is supposed to be so I just use it as the generic word for the kinds of drugs you learned about in the D.A.R.E. program). Things spiral and long story short she ends up homeless and faces a whole slew of Cautionary Tale problems, like cutting, eating disorders, and premarital sex. Shouldn’t have tried that dope, Alice.

A  Wrinkle In Time

Meg, a bookish girl from a garbage family, discovers a magical object/place/ability/person, which allows her to travel through time. But she doesn’t travel through normal time, she travels through Game Of Thrones, Lord Of The Rings-y time where everyone’s a dragon or whatever. She meets a cute boy who is sensitive but also a little gruff. There’s some sort of monster/ event / astrological phenomenon that threatens Meg and the cute boy, which they have to outsmart and outrun to make it back to the normal world. They do, but they never forget that wrinkle. The wrinkle… in time.

The Outsiders

Let’s say you’re a teen and nobody really “understands” you. You’ve read The Catcher In The Rye and have decided that everyone’s a “phony.” Your nice parents are totally obsessed with society and so are the kids at school whose parents have bought them cars.  You just know when you grow up you’re not going to have a 9-5 job and live in the suburbs, you’re going to support yourself somehow without working and live on the beach and not file your taxes ever. So you read this book, about a bunch of misfit, wrong side of the tracks 1950s kids who are all James Dean or something. It’s a bunch of boys who aren’t into acting like everyone else, and they live somewhere in the Midwest perhaps. There’s one girl in the group, like Anybody’s in West Side Story. Actually, the whole thing is kind of like West Side Story if it was about only the Jets. If your favorite book was The Outsiders in High School, you’re going to have a Bob Dylan poster in your dorm in college.

The Hobbit

Hobbits are basically these really quirky small people. They live in Tiny Houses and are obsessed with food and make up weird meals, like Fourth Meal, which the Hobbits are as excited about as modern humans are about Brunch. They live in Middle Earth, which looks exactly like New Zealand it turns out. And they dress in a lot of natural fabrics with tunics and low-slung belts. They’re mostly like hipsters. And kind of like the peasants in the Feudal system, where their whole year is punctuated by meaningless festivals and holidays to mark time and keep them joyful. And they’re sort of a little like rabbits, in that they like burrows and hanging out in little spaces and eating produce. Bilbo Baggins is one such Hobbit, and he has to go someplace or find something. The Hobbits are good guys and the bad guys are always kind of like evil wizards or bad trolls, things like that.

Hatchet

A boy, from modern times when the book was written but now clearly the 1970s or 1980s, gets stranded in the woods. It’s basically just him and this hatchet that he has. Thank God for that hatchet. He uses it to cut down trees and build a fort, to forage for food, and to survive in the cold, harsh world. The boy befriends a forest animal, who looks out for him. At one point he loses or breaks the hatchet and you’re like “nooooo!” But then he signals for help and you’re like “YES.” It’s a lot like My Side Of The Mountain, which I was obsessed with so I’m not sure why I didn’t read Hatchet.

Advertisements

Top Baby Names Of 2013, And Why Your Kid Will Hate Them In 2026

It’s that time of year again – the Social Security Administration has separated the Adelyns from the Addalynns and the Jaidens from the Jaydens, and delivered its list of the top baby names of 2013. And let me tell you, this year the top 10 names are …. really normal. That’s why they’re top 10 names, you know?

The thing is, whether you named your kid Brooklyn or Greenpoint, she’ll probably hate her name in about 13 years. It’s just a phase kids go through, and no name – however normal – is safe. Here are my predictions for how the ten most popular baby names of 2013 will lead to the ten most angsty “I didn’t ask to be born!” arguments of 2026:


Girls

1. Sophia

When young Sophias finally reach the age where they can watch late-night syndicated sitcoms – truly a magical time in a young woman’s life, if my memories of The Facts of Life and Mary Tyler Moore serve – eventually they’re going to run across The Golden Girls. And at that time, your Sophia will discover that she’s really more of a Blanche.

Blanche, by the way, is a top baby name of 2026.

2. Emma

Okay, maybe your kid is a little less into TV and a little more into books. Don’t get too proud of yourself there, mom: reading is just nerd television. I should know. You’ve always told her that you named her after a Jane Austen heroine, the title character of Emma. When she gets old enough to read it, she discovers that Emma Woodhouse’s head is so far up her own ass that her face is damaged by stomach acid.

That’s when you have to tell her that you never actually read Emma. You heard that the movie Clueless was loosely based on it, and you’ve seen that easily 15 times, though. You sort of figured it was the same thing.

You should have gone with your gut and named her after Cher Horowitz.

3. Olivia

Your love for your child is something that will last a lifetime. Something else that will last a lifetime: your cached internet activity. That’s why your little Olivia will love her name … until she discovers your Olivia Pope fan tumblr and extensive postings on Olitz message boards. Then you’ll both feel a little bit weird about things.

4. Isabella

By the early ’20s, the Twilight franchise has become a camp classic. Teens gather in theaters reciting lines from the movie, dressing up as characters, and mocking the earnest Mormon sparkle of the adolescent vampires. They squeal shrilly (because what is more shrill than the mocking laughter of a junior high girl? It cuts like a knife, could a knife be made out of the things you secretly hate about yourself), asking their parents whether people really LIKED this stuff ever. And parents of tween Isabellas are left explaining that no, that wasn’t why they chose the name. But their daughters hate them anyway. Sorry.

5. Ava

When Heathers is remade in the late 20-teens – and it is a flop, I’m so sure – the filmmakers decide to update it to the modern era. All of those Heathers get renamed: the new movie is called Avas. Much like Heather in the ’80s,  everybody seems to know that one bitchy Ava who ruins the whole name. It’s like the female version of Jason, that way.

Anyway. Everyone agrees that Avas really wasn’t Michael Bay’s best work. Nor, honestly, his worst.


Boys

1. Noah

By the late 2020s, Noah is really more of a girl’s name. How did this solid biblical classic, with thousands of years as a man’s name, cross the gender line so quickly? Why, thanks to the meteoric rise of the political career of Senator Noah Cyrus (R-TN), of course. Some say she may even be the second female president someday. You, parents of 2013, just know her as Miley Cyrus’s weirdly named, poorly supervised kid sister.

Sorry. It is 2026, and Noah has now joined the ranks of Ashley, Madison, Beverly and Evelyn. They all seemed so manly once.

2. Liam

It’s not so much Liam that’s the problem. It’s a few years from now, when the creative spellings take over. Before you know it, every year elementary school teachers have to roll call Liam K. Liyam-with-a-y K., Liam C., Leeum V., and Leighham Q.  Poor Liams have to join forces with the Michaelas and Jasmines of the world, arguing that their name is spelled the right way.

3. Jacob

You really couldn’t have predicted this. The Goth movement makes a comeback, and your precious little Jacob wishes his name reflected how unique he is. Good luck cleaning all that Manic Panic out of your bathroom drains, and sorry that you have to listen to Best of Korn on cassette tape emanating from Jacob’s room. [Side note: tape is the new popular throwback music medium in 2026, like vinyl is now.]

You aren’t even that disappointed that Jacob hates his name — more that he’s kind of a late 90s Hot Topic-y goth instead of at least a cool 80s punk one. You can’t choose your children. Your children choose you. And, eventually, they may also choose nu metal.

4. Mason

Let’s just… I mean… nothing associated with the Kardashians is going to age well a decade hence. Just calling a spade a spade. They are our generation’s answer to Zsa Zsa and Eva. I hope we’re happy with what we’ve created.

5. William

When Queen Elizabeth steadfastly – but politely – refuses to die, Prince William evaluates his chances at ever actually ascending the throne. Realizing that it probably won’t happen until his mid-70s, he says “screw it” and joins the cast of series 25 of TOWIE. A few pub fights later, the nickname Bloody Billy (or, alternately, Bloody Willy) has taken hold.

It is not a fun time on the playground for little Williams. Or whatever the 2026 version of the playground is. It probably involves tablets.