A brief history of young adult literature

Story highlights

  • The first "golden age" of young adult fiction in the '70s featured drama and realism
  • The second peak in the genre happened about 2000 and coincided with "Harry Potter"
  • From "Sweet Valley" to "Hunger Games," teens drawn to emotion and shared experience

This story was originally published in 2013.

(CNN)Back in 1998, just as Harry, Bella and Katniss were on the verge of owning the front shelves of bookstores everywhere, the Young Adult Library Services Association launched Teen Read Week in an effort to mold adolescent bookworms.

Thursday is Celebrate Teen Literature Day, part of National Library Week. But with young adult literature regularly burning up the bestseller lists, it's clear many young adults don't need an excuse to seek out the written word: Sixteen- to 29-year-olds are the largest group checking out books from their local libraries, according to a Pew survey.
    Wizards, vampires and dystopian future worlds didn't always dominate the genre, which hit its last peak of popularity in the 1970s with the success of controversial novels by the likes of Judy Blume. In the years between, young adult has managed to capture the singular passions of the teen audience over a spectrum of subgenres.
    Now, as the book industry enjoys a second "golden age of young adult fiction," according to expert Michael Cart, it bears asking why young adult fiction has become so successful. The proof just may be in the timeline.