This week, I wanted to focus on books I read as a kid and loved. So many of them were critical in forming my love of reading, as well as determining which books I’d try as an adult. These range between ages 9-13. Most of these I read between elementary school and middle school, with one or two being in the first years of high school. PS. Please don’t judge me for the books I read as a child. I didn’t know better.
10. Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
Yes, my dear friends, I absolutely loved this book. I was always searching for good supernatural fiction, so when I came across Twilight, my 12-year-old brain didn’t know what to do. I was a weird kid in middle school in the sense that I was the only kid who didn’t own any Abercrombie and Fitch, so I really identified with awkward Bella Swan. At this age I didn’t realize just how toxic and abusive the Bella/Edward relationship was. I just saw an awkward girl being showered with attention and thought it was the best love story ever written. (Until Breaking Dawn. I hated that one).
9. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
For some reason, I just really liked these books. Georgia Nicolson was funny, and her life was more interesting than mine. The first time I had ever heard of the “pencil test” (you stick a pencil under your boobs and, if it stays, you’re considered to have big breasts) was in these books, as was a few other moments of adolescence. I probably read these at 13 or 14, right when I was really learning the ins and outs of sex. I never finished the series, but it never got that intense in these books. A little heavy petting I think, but it definitely taught me a few things my school didn’t.
Specifically, the book above. I read this book at least twenty times. I loved it! The whole “choose-your-adventure” thing had me hooked. If I died, I could just flip back and nobody would know. It felt like I was cheating by not starting the book over, but nobody stopped me. I was invincible! These are the original roleplaying games. Of course, being Goosebumps, they had a hint of creepiness to them. One wrong chapter and you’d be turned into a vampire or fall down a laundry shaft and never seen again.
7. The Giver by Lois Lowry
I read The Giver in elementary school (5th grade, I think) and I loved it. It was completely different than anything else I had ever read. This was really the first dystopian novel I read. Some parts were confusing to me as a kid. When I realized Jonas could only see in black or white, or how animals didn’t exist in this world, I was so confused. What could happen in the world to make animals completely disappear? At some point, Jonas stops taking these pills they were forcing the children to take, and he then starts feeling the emotions once repressed by the pills. It took me a few years (and a re-reading) to realize at one point, Jonas probably has a boner. It’s a book one can read at a young age and re-read as an adult to fully appreciate.
6. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
In fourth grade, we started learning about the Holocaust. Depending on your reading level, you had specific books you could choose from. I really wanted to read Maus, a graphic novel based on the Holocaust but uses mice and cats instead of people. Unfortunately for me, my reading level was too high and I wasn’t allowed to choose from that pile of books. Instead, I read Anne Frank’s diary. I had never felt so much from a non-fiction book before. Anyone who has read it knows just how powerful it is. Anne Frank, at such a young age, was a powerful writer who could control words in ways adults rarely can. This was probably the first book that made me experience what we know as “the feels”. I don’t remember if I knew her fate when I began the book, but I had hoped with all my might that she made it through in the end. When I found out she didn’t, it took a lot to keep the tears in.
5. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
I‘ve talked about these books before, and I’ll probably talk about them again. Of all the books I ever checked out in my elementary school’s library, I checked these out the most often. I used to sit on my babysitter’s steps and read these out loud to the younger kids and try to scare them. They used to play along and scream when they were meant to, but I don’t think it ever really scared them. The stories weren’t the scary part; it was the pictures inside that were really terrifying. They still give me the creeps. I can’t wait to have children so I can share these horrifying books with them.
4. Most of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ books
So there are only two books shown above, but I read most of the Hawksong series. I stopped after Wyvern, I think. Atwater-Rhodes is the reason I started reading supernatural fiction. In a small town with a limited amount of YA books in our library, hers were the ones I kept going back to. I loved the stories, and I really loved the romance. Hawksong was such an insane idea to me at a young age; two creatures, enemies by nature, are forced to marry? How is the fabric of nature not ripped in two?! Then, of course, we have the vampire/demon/witch stories that follow. It’s a shame these books never received the attention Twilight did because I truly believe they’re better. (Though I haven’t read them in 10 years so I could be very wrong).
I am fairly certain this was the first series I actually read on my own. If I had been old enough to know what a fandom was, I would have been 100% committed to the Series of Unfortunate Events fandom. There was nothing I disliked about this series. It was the first book series I found where there was no happy ending. Ever. How could I expect there to be when the name is literally about unfortunate events? I was an optimistic child I guess. I just always expected the parents to be alive, that they were hiding somewhere, waiting to collect the Baudelaire children. I never finished the series, so it’s possible there was a happy ending after all.
2. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Of course HP was going to be in here. Harry Potter was the first series I read, but I read a lot of it with the kids I was babysat with. I remember when I borrowed Goblet of Fire from the library at school as a fourth grader, I thought, “There is no way I’m going to be able to finish this by the time it’s due!” I finished that book in a week. I was so impressed with myself. Remember how big that thing was?! And I, at age 9, finished it in a week. I had to push myself to finish OotP and HBP. I don’t really remember reading DH even though I know I did. I guess, as I grew up, they lost their magic to me. I tried re-reading them a few years ago and couldn’t finish GoF. I was halfway through the book and hadn’t made it to Hogwarts yet! It’s a series that was magical to read as a kid, but just didn’t hold up as an adult.
Alanna was the first heroine I fell in love with. She switched places with her twin brother to become the first woman warrior . During this time, she fights demons, immortals, king-killing cousins, falls in love with both a prince and a thief, and does all of this while being constantly sure and unsure of herself all the time. This was the first series I ever read that actually talked about Alanna hiding her identity realistically: she had to wear a binder for her breasts and had a mother-like woman help her whenever her period appeared. Once Alanna began having sex, the same woman would teach her a tonic that acted like a contraceptive. Pierce does a spectacular job at showcasing the difference between a toxic relationship (Alanna x Jonathan) and a healthy relationship (Alanna x George). If I could go back in time, I would have smacked my hands away from Twilight and put in more Tamora Pierce books.
There you have it folks! My top 10 childhood favorites. What are some of your favorites? Were you shocked at any of mine? Did any of yours make the list? Let me know in the comments!