A brief YA history

Aus YA first emerged in the 1970s, but it wasn’t formally recognised until the ’80s. In 1982, the Children’s Book Council of Australia introduced the first award for ‘Book of the Year: Older Readers’, which still exists today. Prior to this, there was no distinction between children’s fiction and teen fiction.

In the ’80s and ’90s, the rising popularity of John Marsden (the Tomorrow series, Ellie Chronicles), Isobelle Carmody (the Obernewtwyn ChroniclesThe Gathering) and Melina Marchetta (Looking for AlibrandiSaving Francesca) brought Aus YA into the spotlight. 

In the Western world, YA probably first emerged in the mid-1800s in the USA (think Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn). In the 1950s, novels such as J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies became classic tales of dysfunctional youth (not much has changed!).

YA became more ‘official’ in the 1960s and ’70s. One of the first American YA novels to be published was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967), which contained themes of poverty, class divide, tribalism and mateship.

Sarah Rose