The Original Rebels

Posted on 4th August 2016 by Sally Campbell
Whether you are a YA fiction aficionado or unsure where to begin in the Young Adult section, The Originals series is going to catch your eye; and sometimes you just have to judge a book by its cover. This show-stopping series takes the very best in young adult fiction from the last seventy years - the perennial classics, the true originals - and gives them a brave new look of which Saul Bass would have approved. Waterstones Online's Sally Campbell argues you will struggle not to fall in love with the book jackets alone... 

After The First Death - Robert Cormier

Robert Cormier is renowned for writing dark, intricate and often controversial stories for young adults. His novel After the First Death explores the hi-jacking of a school-bus from three teenagers’ points of view, taking a nuanced approach to morality while showing the irreversible damage to all involved.

'A psychological thriller written in crackling prose. If any author in the field can challenge J.D. Salinger or William Golding, it is Robert Cormier.' (Newsweek)


The Outsiders - S. E. Hinton

When Susan Eloise Hinton’s debut novel The Outsiders was released, it caused uproar both because of its candid representation of teenagers drinking, smoking and ‘rumbling’ and because the author herself was only seventeen at the time. Now regarded as a classic rebel text, it tells the story of Pony and Soda, brothers from the wrong side of the tracks whose world is split into two rival gangs: the Socs and the Greasers. The novel is credited with redefining the young adult genre. 

‘Hinton’s novel changed the way teenagers read… empowering a generation to demand stories that reflected their realities.’ (The New York Times)


No Turning Back - Beverley Naidoo

At the time Naidoo was writing No Turning Back, South Africa’s social and political map was in the midst of being completely redrawn. The novel depicts this transition period from the point of view of a poor street child, Sipho. After he runs away from home and ends up living rough, Sipho struggles to negotiate the ever-changing, violent world around him. 

'Written with valuable insight, gritty but optimistic, this is a totally believable, absorbing read.' (The Guardian)


The Twelfth Day of July - Joan Lingard

The Twelfth of July is the first in a series of novels by Joan Lingard to feature young Irish couple Kevin and Sadie. A reimagined Romeo and Juliet set in 1970’s Belfast, the novel depicts the love of the two teens, one of whom is Catholic, one Protestant. It presents the very human, intimate side of The Troubles and shows the difficulty the two teens have reconciling both their religious beliefs and family ties with the feelings they have for each other.

'[Lingard] is particularly sound on youthful vulnerability and on the human need, irrespective of range, to find acceptance, friendship and love.' (The Irish Times)


Across the Barriers - Joan Lingard

This is the second novel in Lingard's series (see above) exploring the Troubles from the point of view of two teenagers. As you may expect, things do not go smoothly for star-crossed lovers Sadie and Kevin in 1970's Belfast; their love is not only socially unacceptable, it is very dangerous. The barriers they must overcome are of course both physical and psychological. 

'Twilight with Terrorists.' (


The Wave - Morton Rhue

Based on real events that took place at a school in Palo Alto in 1969, The Wave depicts the point where group-mentality descends to insidious depths. What begins as a light-hearted experiment in a history class ends with a group of teenagers morphing into neo-fascists. The international bestseller was turned into an equally successful film of the same name.

'Strasser [Morton Rhue is Todd Strasser's pen-name], a prolific writer for children and teenagers, writes with purpose and economy.' (The New York Times Book Review)


Dear Nobody - Berlie Doherty

Arguably a precursor to the highly successful film Juno, Berlie Doherty's Dear Nobody tells the story of an unplanned teenage pregnancy. The story oscillates between the point of view of young mother-to-be, Helen, and that of young father-to-be, Chris. The fact that the eponymous 'Nobody' is Helen's unborn child, to whom she writes letters, is a heart-breaking detail. Like the Joy Division song, this book demonstrates the sentiment that love can tear us apart.

'I have never read a book that evokes so vividly how it feels to be a teenager in love' (The Daily Telegraph)


The Red Pony - John Steinbeck

A dark, slim, slip of a novel The Red Pony is a coming-of-age tale told by one of the most famous authors of the twentieth century. Occupying the hardscrabble world typical of all Steinbeck's works, the book depicts young Jody Tifflin growing up poor on a ranch in the California valleys. During the course of this short novel comprising four vignettes, Jody learns of love and disappointment and how the two often intertwine.

'A novelist who is also a true poet.' (The Sunday Times)


Buddy - Nigel Hinton

With a strong musical under-pinning, this is the story of a son, Buddy, who is at odds with his aging-rocker father. The two must forge a closer relationship when Buddy's mother suddenly walks out. A complex tale that explores the concepts of belonging, loyalty and morality, Nigel Hinton's Buddy shows a teenage boy growing up through the prism of his relationship with his father.

'Hinton is clever at mixing spookiness with gentle satire.' (The Independent on Sunday)


The Pearl - John Steinbeck

Based on a Mexican folk tale and reminiscnet of Hemingway's The Old Man and the SeaThe Pearl tells the tragic story of a pearl-diver's greatest quarry. In need of funds to help pay for the treatment of his ailing son, pearl-diver Kino thinks himself lucky to discover an enormous, highly-valuable pearl; as he soon realises however, avarice makes mankind extremely dangerous.

'[Steinbeck has] long trained his prose style for such a task as this: that supple unstrained, muscular power, responsive to the slightest pull of the reins.' (Chicago Sunday Times)

Z for Zachariah - Robert C. O'Brien

Z for Zachariah is arguably the original dystopian teen novel, written by Newbery Award-winning author Robert C. O'Brien. Sixteen year old Ann Burden has been surviving alone in a sinister, post-nuclear-apocalypse world. When she sees a plume of smoke in the distance, her loneliness is over; and a new kind of terror begins. Ann is a remarkable and fierce young female protagonist who is sure to impress readers of The Hunger Games.

'In this era of ecological catastrophe, of nuclear reinvigoration and worldwide inequality, [Z for Zachariah's] lessons, its discussions, are more urgent than ever.' (Sarah Hall for the Guardian)

Stone Cold - Robert Swinton

This suspenseful thriller alternates between the point of view of seventeen-year-old Link who lives on the streets and that of a serial killer who targets homeless teens. Winner of the 1994 Carnegie Medal, Stone Cold is much more than a cautionary tale to all young, would-be runaways; it is an empathetic exploration of why children end up sleeping rough in the first place. It is also a pitch-black crime novel complete with a chilling murderer.

'Robert Swindells writes the kind of books that are so scary you're afraid to turn the page' (Young Telegraph)



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