I’ve been reading the Bronte sisters lately, rereading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and tackling Villette, perhaps followed by the The Tenanant of Wildfell Hall. That means not a lot of time for other reading, but luckily I generally find the classics worthwhile, and I sincerely enjoy these particular classics. It’s got me thinking about staying power, school, and the future of our current YA favorites.I’ve been thinking about which contemporary YA novels will still be read and appreciated 200 years from now. It’s fascinating to be reading something that’s lasted so long. I’m reading books that were written by people who couldn’t have imagined the world we live in, and yet their work is still enjoyed and studied. I’ve also been wondering which titles will simply fade into the obscurity of thousands and thousands of reams of printed matter, not to mention the avalanche of instant text available in our internet-soaked world. What’s going to last, and is what lasts really what’s best?
I think the studied aspect has a big something to do with what makes the long-term cut. I don’t know when universities (and high schools) started studying the Brontes in earnest, but I know they are frequently studied, and that certainly has added to their endurance. Shannon Hale has a great piece on her site about balancing the teaching of classics with more contemporary novels, and I agree with much of what she has to say. We should invite the best of current YA lit into classrooms alongside Gatsby, Huck Finn, and Austen’s heroines. But which titles? That’s a big decision, one made by teachers, but also by vocal parents and school boards that are often the gatekeepers for what is deemed worthy for classroom study.
Beyond that, what we bring into the classroom is frequently not the same as what sparks the imaginations of young readers. What captures the imaginations of young readers is often lost to the ages, partially because it doesn’t make it to the classroom. (I might be really wrong about that. Jane Eyre was a best-seller when it was published. If you know the truth about this one way or another, let me know. Go ahead, I can take it if I’m full of deluded notions. I’m getting used to it.)
I am honestly curious about this. I wish I had a little crystal ball and could foresee the literary future of today’s YA authors, LDS or otherwise. Which is why I pose this question to you: What current YA novels do you believe will stand the test of time? Among the talented LDS (or not, if you wish) authors publishing now, who are the Poes, the Brontes, the Dickens, the Harper Lees and the Hemingways? And perhaps even more interesting, which titles and authors deserve to be read 200 years from now, but will likely slip into obscurity?