I am starting off The Fantastic YA Book Review with a top ten list because 1. I like lists. They’re very handy. And, 2. my best-ever list will let you know where I am coming from when you read my other reviews.
So without further ado, here are my Top Ten:
#1. The Earthsea Cycle, Ursula LeGuin
One of my favorite writers, LeGuin crafts an ingenious tale of a master-wizard who is pursued by the terrible mistake he made as a young man when he unleashed an evil shadow on the world.
#2. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The granddaddy of YA fantasy. Hobbits, wizards, orcs, elves, an evil ring, an impossible quest… Tolkien has it all. I’m not crazy about his convoluted writing style (thus, the #2 ranking), but omitting LOTR would be like leaving Shakespeare off a list of top playwrights.
#3. His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman
Parallel universes collide when a young girl attempts to rescue her abducted friend and uncovers a secret war over the nature of existence. Pullman’s multiple worlds feature polar bear kings, warring angels, miniature assassins, and a host of other unique beings. All that, and he takes on the existence of God. Yep, in a “children’s” book.
#4. The Dragonriders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey
If you love dragon stories, this is one of the best series around. It started in the late 60’s, and McCaffrey’s son Todd has kept the series going. I recommend starting at the beginning and following Lessa as she rises from a lowly servant to become the rider of a queen dragon.
#5. The Princess Bride, William Goldman
This made a fabulous movie, but the book is even better. The narrator constantly comments on the tale of Buttercup and her unconventional rescue by Wesley. It laughs at the traditional fairy tale, but gently, while still retaining all the charm of “Once upon a time.”
#6. Enchantment, Orson Scott Card
When Ivan finds a girl asleep in a forest, naturally, he tries to wake her up. But when he does, he opens a door into a fairy tale world, not only allowing him to pursue his princess but also letting evil pass from one world to the other. Card’s tale draws from the Russian version of Sleeping Beauty, but this is no Disney-fied birds and butterflies tale. Card includes a lot of the darkness of the original tale.
#7. Apprentice Adept series, Piers Anthony
Blending sci-fi and fantasy, Anthony develops a great hero named Stile who passes between a world based on magic and another based on science. Anthony is a plot-master. He puts Stile through so many varied magic trials and games, he will keep you reading for months.
#8. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
The plot is actual simple and common: neglected boy discovers he’s the “chosen one” to defeat the most evil wizard of all time. Still there’s a good reason this series riveted a generation. Rowling’s world is well-imagined, and she lets Harry grow through the series, approaching some interesting themes near the end.
#9. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
Four kids stumble into the magical, frozen world of Narnia, which they struggle to free from the evil rule of the white witch. I put The Chronicles on my list reluctantly because their heavy-handed Christian symbolism bugs me. But the stories can be a lot of fun if you ignore it… or if you don’t, it’s interesting to compare them to Pullman’s books (see #3).
#10. The Classic Fairy Tales, Maria Tartar (ed.)
My list didn’t feel complete without acknowledging the source of it all: Fairy Tales. Many of us first found our love of reading through these stories. This particular collection compares the fairy tales told in different cultures, offering new insights and intrigues.
So this where I’m coming from…
I tend to value books that are not only fun to read but contain a depth that moves beyond just entertainment.
I may come back to this list from time to time. I haven’t included more modern books that I loved because I need some time and perspective to make sure they’re at the “best ever” level.
What’s on your “best ever” list?
I definitely agree with your top two. The Farthest Shore is my favourite book ever, even as an adult.
It is really great, isn’t it? Are you a LeGuin fan? I also recommend The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Lathe of Heaven, if you haven’t already read them.
I would include The Gatekeepers series by Anthony Horowitz and The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I also like The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, though I’m not sure if it’s the best of all time.
Cool! I have to admit I have not read those, and I’ve read a lot of Stephen King. Can’t wait to check them out.
Very nice list! I’d probably have to add Ella Enchanted to my list, as well as The Neverending Story and A Series of Unfortunate Events (although I’m not sure if those would qualify as more of MG). Still, great books! I haven’t read some of the ones you mentioned, so I’ll definitely look into them. Enchantment, in particular, sounds very interesting.
I really liked those books too! Maybe I should make another list for the middle grade 8-12 crowd. I do like lists…
If you do, you might want to include Holes and The True Adventures of Charlotte Doyle on there, but those are just my picks 😉
I’ve read Holes, which I agree is fabulous, but not the True Adventures. Another one for my “to read” pile 🙂
“The Never Ending Story”!
I have to confess I’ve only seen the movie – which I did like. Is the book better? I’m thinking of doing a middle grade best-of list for ages 8-12 sounds like it could be a candidate.
The book is a billion times better. I read it for the first time when I was 10 and stayed up until midnight (such a late time at that age!) reading it in one go!
Then I will definitely read it, thanks!
One of my daughter’s all time favorites is The Giver by Lois Lowry.
Putting on my to read list now. I hear it’s a dystopian ya from before it was cool.
You should try Everlost by Neal Shusterman. He’s an extremely creative author, and I just couldn’t stop reading this book!!
Greeat! I love recommendations. I’ll check it out!
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Series rates up there with LOTR. However, it does have a little bit of adult content. Nonetheless, I read it in high school.
That’s a pretty high recommendation! I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!
Just one caveat–you have to get past the first thirty pages or so…it’s starts off kind of slow.
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