Great Pairings of Young Adult Texts and Classic Texts



As part of our blogiversary, Kellee and I decided to revisit some of our favorite posts and update/add to them. Our original post, on September 3, 2013, shared Our Favorite Pairings of YA Books and Classics. Many of these pairings are still favorites; I have read so many more books since then, so it was only fitting to share more ideas. 

I could pair YA books all day long, and I find it oddly fun. If you have a classic text you are teaching, and you would like a YA pairing, please leave a comment. I am happy to help!


catcher in the rye dr bird's advice for sad poets

Classic Novel: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Great YA Pairing: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

I always enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye and could teach it for many years to come. There is much to discuss, and Holden’s perspective is relatable to many adolescents. When I read Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, I was stunned by the rawness of the text. It captures depression and anxiety in a way that is both authentic and heart-wrenching. This book employs humor without detracting from the very realness of James’ struggles with loneliness and isolation. Teens (and adults) will find themselves in James because he is depicted in a sympathetic way that is very human. This novel is brilliant.

This text would be excellently used in literature circles concerned with mental health topics. Students might read this book alongside Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I imagine that reading these titles would foster incredibly rich discussions about depression, anxiety, and suicide. In my opinion, we must have these conversations with our students.


to kill a mockingbird how it went down

Classic Novel: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Great YA Pairing: How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

I am crazy about Kekla Magoon. She tackles the tough issues. This text discusses present day civil rights issues that can be tied to the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. When Tariq is gunned down, the community is in uproar, and all eyewitness accounts differ. The point-of-view of this text shifts every 2-3 pages, which was very thought-provoking. Readers will begin to question the truth from the very first pages. This book has grit. There is nothing comfortable about discussions regarding inequities, race, privilege, and justice in society. This is not a feel-good, fairy tale book; the conflict within the text will make readers think. And thinking…is a very good thing. Students who read these books together will be able to discuss past and present issues of civil rights.


The Great Gatsby we were liars

Classic Novel: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Great YA Pairing: We Were Liars by e. lockhart

Simply put, We Were Liars begs to be paired with The Great Gatsby. I cannot tell much about this book without giving away plot details, but this beautifully messed up family with too much money for their own good is remniscent of Jay Gatsby. The psychological elements of Gatsby would also align beautifully with this text. I recommend this pairing because it would offer an enriching conversation for students.


anne frank hidden like anne frank

Classic Text: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Great YA Pairing: Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis

This collection showed me the misconceptions I had about those who hid during the Holocaust. These fourteen brave, young people showed me the diversity of experiences that existed among the hidden. The Diary of a Young Girl (often called The Diary of Anne Frank) is a text that is taught in many middle schools, and while it teaches students about the Holocaust, it also shows the strength and resolve of a young girl. By adding some or all of the other 14 true stories to the classroom experience, students would understand a more complete view of the time period and the strength of the young people who were hidden during this time.


Not quite a YA pairing, but a classic text, indeed:

BFG circus mirandus

Classic Novel: The BFG by Roald Dahl

Great Recent Pairing: Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

I don’t know if Roald Dahl is still taught in schools, but I needed an excuse to feature this incredible book (that does, in fact, pair excellently with most all Roald Dahl texts). You will fall in love with Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. I imagine it as a read-aloud in a bright classroom, and the students clapping their hands with delight. Or—it could serve as a read-aloud in a dimly lit room of a child resting in bed and about to embark into dreamland. These are the kinds of books that make readers. It left me spellbound.


Please leave suggestions for pairings in the comments for others to see! Or if you’d like us to help you with a pairing, just ask! 



Leave a Comment