1. Dystopian Fiction
Examples: The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Flies, The Maze Runner, The Giver
Everyone lives in some far-distant future where bad things, like not being able to see colors or being forced to fight to the death against 23 other children, are normal. These books taught valuable lessons about the dangers of groupthink and conformity. No matter that the only kids who bothered to read them were the ones who were weirdo losers who couldn’t conform if they tried.
2. The Death and Illness Sagas
Examples: The Fault in Our Stars, A Walk to Remember, Anything by Lurlene McDaniel
These all followed a fairly straightforward plotline: Boy meets girl, girl gets cancer and dies, everyone cries but learns important lessons about human resilience. They stood out on the bookshelves with their cursive titles and photos of attractive, embracing, doomed teenagers. The title was always a morbid expression along the lines of “A Walk to Remember” or “Too Young to Die.”
3. Cautionary Tales of Addiction and Teenage Problems
Examples: Wintergirls, Speak, Go Ask Alice
Much like the illness tales, these always (spoiler alert!) ended in death. By dealing “courageously” with issues like drugs, rape, and eating disorders, they allowed teens to indulge in one of their worst addictions: taking everything seriously.
4. Survival Stories
Examples: My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchet
Resourceful youth is stranded in the wilderness, has to improvise shelter/clothes/food, befriends an animal that dies, and eventually rejoins a human society of dubious morality. On occasion the animal was replaced by a person of a different race (c.f. The Cay.) Just like ‘80’s pump up music, these books were meant to help you through your pimply, adolescent workouts. If Brian Robeson can catch a bird with his bare hands, you can probably soulcycle off that baby fat.
5. Popularity Studies
Examples: Pretty Little Liars, Academy X, Gossip Girl
These books were a clever invention by math teachers who needed help teaching combinatorix. If you have seven teens, how many possible hook-up combinations can occur? Judging by the number of books in these kinds of series, Cecily von Ziegesar could have taught Euclid a thing or two.
6. Historical Fiction, told from the point of view of a teen
Examples: Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Number the Stars, the Dear America series
These were “coming of age during a time of….” stories. When written for girls, they took place either in Europe during the Holocaust, or in the South under Jim Crow. When aimed at boys, they took place at war. Historical diaries were a sub-genre, and seemed always to be written by teenagers with surprisingly easy access to pen and paper and writing for, say, a Shoshone Indian before the advent of the Europeans. But hey, that’s why they call it historical fiction.
7. Fantasy novels
Examples: LOTR, Game of Thrones, The Abhorsen Trilogy, The Song of the Lioness Quartet
These books always came in a series. While they theoretically took place in a far-off fantastical world of knights and ladies and magic, the first-page map of the mythical world always looked exactly like western Europe, and all the place-names were take-offs of some Celtic language. RULE BRITANNIA!!
8. Vampire Books
Examples: Vampire Academy, House of Night. The Twilight Saga
9. Science Fiction
Examples: Ender’s Game, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Last Starfighter
Young human male uses computer prowess to kill bug-like aliens, gets girl, is valorized by all humanity. A cowboy story to justify all the time you spent playing X-COM: UFO Defense. These books allowed you to dream that eventually some Starfighters would notice your prowess and pick you to fight the evil Ko-Dan. They were the hetero male equivalent of Jane Austen.
10. Cheerful Faux-Diary
Examples: Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, The Princess Diaries,
These books spoke in an adult’s “approx” of a teen’s vocabulary. SERUSLY?!? RIGT? HASH#TAG!!! They were essentially compilations of lists - hottest boys in school, most embarassing moments, bases (this last was a short list, since the publishers only ever let them get to second.) They did, however, capture the absolute, utter, awkwardness (and humor) of burgeoning teen sexuality.
11. Sex-Ed Books
Examples: What’s Happening To My Body? Book for Boys, Our Bodies: Our Selves
A whole genre devoted to convincing you how normal and unexceptional you are. And what a vulval vestibule is. Of course these weren’t technically novels, but you wouldn’t know them from fiction for another five years anyhow.