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The YA Originals

Last month I was contacted to review a few titles from a new collection put together by Penguin called the YA Originals.

The collection is a selection of books which could now be considered YA which were published before YA was a thing and paved the way for those YA titles we now love and adore. I was immediately drawn to them because of the gorgeous new covers and was intrigued to try some older titles I've heard about over the years but not made time to pick up.

The Originals are a celebration of the first and the best in the Young Adult genre, with writing that still feels as fresh, illuminating and sometimes even shocking as it did when it was first published. The collection shows off the breadth of the best of YA publishing, from Dodie Smith’s coming-of-age romance, I Capture the Castle, to the gritty gang violence of The Outsiders, written by S.E. Hinton when she was just 17. The list of 17 books spans seven decades, with the earliest novel from 1937 (John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony) and the most recent from 1999 (Aidan Chambers’ Postcards from No Man’s Land).

The books tackle everything from first love, teenage pregnancy and political awakening to addiction, loss and death. Robert Swindells’ Stone Cold tells the story of teens living homeless in London, while Beverley Naidoo’s No Turning Back explores the experiences of street children growing up in South Africa. The two titles from Joan Lingard’s ‘Kevin and Sadie’ collection are set against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, while Morton Rhue’s The Wave examines the consequences of an experiment to teach pupils at a Californian school how the Nazis rose to power.

The Originals Editor Alex Antscherl said: “Many of the books we’ve chosen were written before the term ‘Young Adult’ was coined, or even conceived of as a separate genre, which goes to show what genuine trailblazers these authors were and continue to be. Without I Capture The Castle we might not have had How I Live Now or Geek Girl. Without The Outsiders we might not have had Junk or Noughts and Crosses.”

I was lucky enough to be sent copies of the Joan Lingard series which I devoured and enjoyed. I'm currently working my way through I capture the castle and have the outsiders waiting to try soon. While I do think these titles are a product of their time in some cases, for example the pacing being slower, you can see elements in these books which are timeless in their appeal for a YA audience. I can certainly see me treating myself to a few more titles from the collection to dip into over the coming months which the adding collectability appeal with the new covers.