I despise genre snobbery. When someone tells me that they don’t care for young adult literature, and that when they were my age, they were reading classics, rather than Harry Potter, all I can say to them is, “Congratulations, I suppose.” It’s not a great achievement to me for someone to read the classics, what I admire is someone who can take something out of each book that they read, good or bad. I’ve met people who are able to get graduate-level arguments out of themes in The Hunger Games, and people who’ve read Wuthering Heights but couldn’t offer one compelling, salient argument to support why Heathcliff was, as they claimed, the perfect man. As Carlos Ruiz Safon once said, “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
With that official disclaimer aside, my favourite Young Adult book is one from childhood, Catherine, Called Birdy. When I was a teenager, I loved history, and I loved historical fiction written in a diary format, so Catherine, Called Birdy and the Royal Diaries were my bread and butter. Catherine, Called Birdy, was quite similar to the Royal Diaries, but in many ways stood out from them, because Birdy and her family were the closest thing to middle class you could get in Medieval England, rather than royalty, and because she wasn’t an historical character, there’s greater creative freedom for the author in what Birdy does and says, with much more shenanigans going on. I chuckled with glee each time Birdy hatched a clever scheme to get rid of a doofy suitor or outsmart her beastly father.
I learned a good portion of my somewhat unusual vocabulary from it, such as “God’s Thumbs!” and “Corpus Bones!” from Catherine, and her diary gave my budding feminist sensibilities great nourishment, allowing them to flourish into what you know today, and learned quite a bit of amateur hagiography from Catherine’s dating system.
There are other YA books which are more epic, more famous, more romantic, and more heroic, but nothing can supplant Catherine, Called Birdy, from the number one spot in my heart.