Teen & Young Adult The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe - Mad Men

Published on May 9th, 2014 | by Bright Kids Books


Classic Young Adult fiction with strong female characters

This list of classic YA novels – some of which you may not be familiar with –  has stood the test of time. Better still, the book characters provide wonderful – and all too real – role models for young adults. This is our list of the classic Young Adult fiction with strong female characters.


Marjorie Morningstar
by Herman Wouk

A starry-eyed young beauty, Marjorie Morgenstern is nineteen years old when she leaves New York to accept the job of her dreams-working in a summer-stock company for Noel Airman, its talented and intensely charismatic director. Released from the social constraints of her traditional Jewish family, and thrown into the glorious, colorful world of theater, Marjorie finds herself entangled in a powerful affair with the man destined to become the greatest-and the most destructive-love of her life.

Rich with humor and poignancy, Marjorie Morningstar is a classic love story, one that spans two continents and two decades in the life of its heroine.


The Best of Everything
by Rona Jaffe

When Rona Jaffe’s superb page-turner was first published in 1958, it changed contemporary fiction forever. Some readers were shocked, but millions more were electrified when they saw themselves reflected in its story of five young employees of a New York publishing company. Today, The Best of Everything remains touchingly — and sometimes hilariously—true to the personal and professional struggles women face in the city. There’s Ivy League Caroline, who dreams of graduating from the typing pool to an editor’s office; naïve country girl April, who within months of hitting town reinvents herself as the woman every man wants on his arm; and Gregg, the free-spirited actress with a secret yearning for domesticity.

Jaffe follows their adventures with intelligence, sympathy, and prose as sharp as a paper cut. The Best of Everything is also one of the books featured on the TV show ‘Mad Men’.


Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

Ok, so technically not a classic… yet! But Code Name Verity is an absolutely cracking read for girls and boys alike: edge-of-your-seat, stay-up-till-2am stuff. A British spy plane, whose pilot and passenger are best friends, crashes in a field in Nazi-occupied France. The spy is captured by the Gestapo and, under torture, writes her confession and account of how she came to be there. It is tightly plotted, and the characters’ voices are so distinctive and fresh they will live on with you long after you shut the book. The final chapters of this book were heart-stopping and heart-breaking, with twists that left me literally breathless.

Touching on themes of friendship, courage, betrayal and truth, Code Name Verity is a tour-de-force in Young Adult fiction with strong female characters.


Valley of the Dolls
by Jacqueline Susann

Dolls: red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight — for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry — only to find that there is no place left to go but down — into the Valley of the Dolls.


To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

The bad news is that Harper Lee only wrote one novel. The good news is that To Kill a Mockingbird is a genuine literary classic – both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Set in the deep South during the Depression, Jean-Louise Finch – better known as Scout – narrates the story with the keen eye of an adult looking back on a childhood rich with incidents that shaped who she has become. Scout might be described as a tomboy, but that would be doing her a disservice. Her adventures with her older brother Jem, and their diminutive friend Dill evoke the timeless place of childhood. Then one Fall, everything changes… Scout and Jem’s father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer in their town of Maycomb, Alabama, is appointed to the defense of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. By turns funny, wise, and heartbreaking, To Kill a Mockingbird is one classic that continues to speak to new generations.


I Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith

Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmations, wrote this novel in 1948. And though the story is set in the 1930s, it still feels fresh, and deserving of its reputation as a modern classic. I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny, yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle” – and the heart of the reader – in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.


The Group
by Mary McCarthy

Mary McCarthy’s most celebrated novel follows the lives of eight Vassar graduates, known simply to their classmates as “the group.” An eclectic mix of personalities and upbringings, they meet a week after graduation to watch Kay Strong get married. After the ceremony, the women begin their adult lives—traveling to Europe, tackling the worlds of nursing and publishing, and finding love and heartbreak in the streets of New York City. Through the years, some of the friends grow apart and some become entangled in each other’s affairs, but all vow not to become like their mothers and fathers.

Written with a trenchant, sardonic edge, The Group is a dazzlingly outspoken novel and a captivating look at the social history of America between two world wars. A worthy addition to your collection of classic Young Adult fiction with strong female characters.

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