When I was the appropriate age for such things, Young Adult (YA) literature was not really a category. I certainly read stories that today would be classified YA. The Three Musketeers and Treasure Island would today probably be classified as YA. They were among my favorite stories I read over and over again.
In fact, the first real book I read, The Hobbit, could probably be defined as YA using Cheryl Klein’s model (as I wrote here). The Hobbit is a story centrally interested in the experience and growth of youthful protagonist(s) who drives a story narrated with relative immediacy. Bilbo is not teenaged, but hobbits age slower and live longer. And even though Bilbo is not a teenager, the story arc is largely concerned with his growth throughout the story. This was particularly brought home to me by the movie adaptations, which changed the story from an optimistic YA story into a tragedy, serving only as the grim introduction to the Lord of the Rings. But I remember one book that would undoubtedly be considered YA today: Another Fine Myth by Robert Lynn Asprin.
I remember my brother loaning me his copy of Another Fine Myth. I was initially a bit skeptical because it didn’t look like a regular book. It was in a trade paperback format and had weird artwork. I remember having to be persuaded to give it a try. But, wow! It totally blew my mind.
I remember thinking, “Can you even do that?” as I was reading the book. It mixed comedy and drama in ways I had never imagined were even possible. The endlessly corny puns tickled my funny bone. I’m sure I made everyone the household sick by reciting the terrible puns. I remember reading that book and its sequels over and over again.
I read several of the early MythAdventure sequels and enjoyed them too, although the series was a bit too much of a one-trick pony. Once the main character had grown a bit, the YA character of the stories was hard to maintain. And the endless puns did have an end after all, as they became increasingly cloying.
None of this takes away from the original magic the story had for me. It was a delight and forever changed what I thought was possible with literature. And I recognize now that this story probably got passed over by editor after editor in the traditional publishing world and, in the end, was published by a small press, StarBlaze Graphics. It makes me appreciate all the more that I’m getting to work with Paper Angel Press and Water Dragon Publishing which let me push boundaries and test limits.