Sunday, October 14, 2012

YA Books I Read as a Young Adult That Changed My Life

I’m not including the books that I categorize as children’s books (not in a derogatory sense– the books I read as a kid probably influenced me even more than the books I read as a teen). I think I’ll probably do a separate list for that. But as someone who could be described as a Cross-under, aka a kid who read above her age group and/or and adult that reads below, I started thinking about the YA books I read when I actually was a YA. It wasn’t that long ago, but in reader years it feels like ages.

When you’re young– heck, when you’re old, too, or in between– books have a way of living inside you and affecting who you are. You hold onto words, or characters, or lessons. They shape the information in your head. I was a voracious reader as a kid. That was a lot of shaping. Here are the books that stick out for me that I read as a kid (a VERY small sample. And these are just the ones off the top of my head now. I could probably do fifteen follow up posts). And, of course, there are the excellent YA books I read when I was a kid, and the ones I read as an adult. I'm focusing here on the ones I read in my teens.

I also managed to track down all the covers that were on the versions I read. I hate when they change covers.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
This book taught me that my curvy booty is great, that I can be a great writer, and it is very dangerous to hero-worship your siblings. Also, even if your parents are jerks, you don’t have to be.

The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
Alanna was my hero for a time. I gobbled up this series, and have reread them so many times I swear I know passages by heart. Alanna is the ultimate feminist hero, strong and feisty, and she can cut you up. Literally.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
I was Mia. Well, a short, slightly less self-loathing, non-royal version. But I felt very much in sync with her, and it was great to lose myself in her funny royal life when things got hard.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
This book, probably more than any other, truly affected me as teen. Melinda’s pain is raw and real, her voice truthful, wise, and funny all at the same time. This book pulled me out of myself, and also spoke to me on a personal level. It’s just so powerful.

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
There’s not much I can say about this power of this book that hasn’t already been said. But as a budding little writer girl, just starting to understand the horrible things that can happen in the world, I learned a whole lot from Anne.

Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
These books actually changed the way I speak. No, really. I went all British. My friends and I obsessed over every sentence of every book. I absolutely adored Georgia. I wanted to be her best friend. I adopted her lingo. I dreamed about being the girlfriend of a Sex God and an Italian Stallion and… sigh… Dave the Laugh. Oh, be still my heart.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
I didn’t love this book unequivocally, but boy, did it make me cry. And make me think about how much you need your friends.

Hear me out. Am I saying it's the best book I've ever read? Not by a long shot. Did it start to change the way I read and interact with other readers? Heck, yes. I'll admit I read the first book in one day. The summer I read it, I went on a high school summer program with a bunch of strangers, and obsessing talking about Twilight was a great way to bond. This was the first purely young adult, purely female-driven cult YA obsession, and for that I'll always be thankful for Twilight

Forever by Judy Blume
This book showed me that eighteen is very young, and love and forever mean a million different things.

I Capture the Castle
THIS BOOK. I can’t say enough about this book. It’s a classic, and Cassandra Mortmain is the utter best. She’s an observant writer who tries to see everything and ends up seeing nothing. Her eccentric British family lives in a crumbling castle. My mom recommended this book to me, since it was her favorite growing up, and reading it myself felt like a special connection with her. But Cassandra herself was like a special part of me. If you haven’t read this book, you must do so. Immediately.

What YA books did you read as a young adult that helped shape who you are? Or, at least, that you really, really enjoyed?


  1. I will definitely have to give I Capture the Castle a read! For me it was Jane Austen... not technically a young adult book but definitely the most influential... and Lord of the Rings!

    1. Yes, do read I Capture the Castle! You won't regret it, especially if you're an Anglophile like me. And I could write hundreds of pages on how important Jane Austen is and was to me. But that's another day.

  2. I LOVED THE EARTH MY BUTT AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS. Virginia Shreves as like my spirit animal.

    1. Virginia is awesome. She and I were definitely kindred spirits, what with the whole comfort-eating thing.

  3. Unapologetic Twilight LoverOctober 16, 2012 at 12:44 AM

    I don't think you have to defend liking Twilight. I know it's not a fine work of literature but I really do love it. It makes me sad that some people think people who love Twilight aren't as worthy or intelligent as everybody else.

    1. Hear hear! I'm sorry I came off a little defensive. People should never have to apologize or defend the books they like.


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