After extensive polling and suggestions by readers on its website, NPR’s made a list of 235 young adult fiction titles that it wants you to vote on. Because it’s a list, and it’s on the internet, all sorts of opinions are flying around: titles suggestions that missed the boat, indignations, you name it. Young adult fiction is notoriously tricky to pin down. Conservative estimates put its readership at 12-20 year-olds, but anyone who’s seen their grandmother hide a Harry Potter in her copy of Arthritis Today knows that estimate’s really, really conservative. 

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For instance, what do Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451 and To Kill a Mockingbird have in common? They’re books you could list among your favorite “adult books” without judgment, and they’re all on this list. Yes, Catcher and Mockingbird have younger narrators, though with adult perceptions, but what else they have in common is that all three are found on High School English curriculums throughout the land. They’re books you encounter when you’re that magical range of ages ending in -teen. They awaken debate and rearrange your values when you’re most receptive to those kinds of discoveries. Who hasn’t looked up to realize everyone around you is “a phony” (to your superior intellect, anyway), or shook with rage at the outcome of Tom Robinson’s trial?

Then there’s the books missing from this list and you wonder, are they for a younger crowd? Oops. It took me until I was 20 to read Harriet the Spy. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to post on Facebook. As someone who wanted to read Catcher in the Rye when I was 12 (the junior high library couldn’t order it for me: something about a prostitute), I can safely say lists don’t dictate the reading age of the public. And that’s not the point of NPR’s list. They’re looking for the books that will rearrange your brain no matter how old you are.

For one of my votes, I’m going to go with a series that I first read when I was 8, and still rules my imagination in terms of what I like to read and write. There’s a strong female heroine, tons of accidental, outrageously hilarious situations, deep, enduring friendships, complicated romance, literary allusions, and a vocabulary that would send many adults to the dictionary. It’s intellectual, 1900s chick lit. It’s Anne of Green Gables. ~Liz


Other office favorites: John Green, Harry Potter, The Giver, Stargirl, A Separate Peace.