As I started my career as an elementary school librarian, I had access to almost any middle grade book I could wish to read, as well as a good reason to prioritize middle grade literature. And y’all, I’m so glad I did. I’ve fallen in love with MG books all over again, and I like them SO MUCH MORE than I ever liked YA. Which is saying something, because I read and enjoy plenty of YA.
I can’t begin to express to you how poorly this list represents some of the AMAZING MG books I’ve read this year. Narrowing it down to ten was easy in June, when I started this list, but as I went through the year and watched book after book get knocked off, I fully appreciated just how wonderful the MG literature being written right now really is.
So for those of you with kids or who want to dive back in to MG literature, here are my Top 10 of 2020.
Please note that this is books I personally read in 2020, NOT books published in 2020.
1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
The writing is so lovely, the characters fully realized, and the story so full of hope. Maybe my favorite MG book ever.
This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What is a contemporary book you think might become a classic? Or should become a classic? This is a difficult question for me because I don’t read a lot of literary fiction which is, in my experience, what is most likely to be taken seriously. Even within genre fiction I’m not super likely to read the critically acclaimed literature as much as I am to read the fun literature.
But perhaps I have a bit firmer of a grasp on what is going to be remembered in children’s literature and YA. While kids lit has a firm set of books that are by and large considerd “classics”, YA is so new that other than The Outsiders it doesn’t. But since there is so much content written for teens now, I think it’s inevitable that these lists start coming out.
When thinking about what would be included in a list of YA classics, it’s impossible to believe that the list would not include something by John Green. He has been consistently producing work that has received critical acclaim for long enough to be, well, influential. The only question would be, which book? Looking for Alaska is the most widely used in schools, while The Fault in Our Stars is easily the most popular of his books. In my opinion Paper Towns has the most to say about what it means to be human. I think ultimately Looking for Alaska’s consistent use by teachers and frequent bannings (which keep it on the librarians’ radar) will land this book in the YA cannon as that begins to develop.