I just realized it’s been TEN YEARS since I graduated high school. I could say it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but that would be a lie. Because It feels like a lifetime ago. Which is a good thing, because I wasn’t the greatest person in the world back then. Everyone has issues in high school. But mine resulted in an explosion of awkward bitchiness that still makes me cringe. I wouldn’t go back if you paid me.
One thing I don’t hate about that period of my life is what I read. High school was when I discovered young adult and adult literature. (I read a lot of books I probably shouldn’t have been reading at fourteen, but whatever.) So, today, I thought it would be fun to take a look back on the books I was reading in high school (outside of assigned reading).
Since I didn’t read quite as much as I do today – though I was still a voracious reader – many of the books I read really defined my high school experience. Here are some of the books that immediately come to mind
The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory. I probably shouldn’t have been reading this as a freshman. But I distinctly remember being
kind of very obsessed with Philippa Gregory books my freshman and sophomore years in high school. This one sticks in my brain, because it’s about Elizabeth I’s (alleged) affair with Robert Dudley, and I had a friend in high school named Robert Dudley who looked remarkably like the portrait of Sir Dudley in the back of this book. It’s been a very long time, so I can’t really say much else about this book, but I’m pretty sure it was my favorite of Gregory’s novels at the time. (I do really want to reread her books and see what I think of them as an adult.)
Every Boy’s Got One by Meg Cabot. This is my favorite of Cabot’s Boy series, and I’m still obsessed. This series – and this book in particular – is my ultimate guilty pleasure. I’ve reread them more times than I can count (maybe even more than Harry Potter) and I still think they’re oh so fun. I remember passing my copy around at the lunch tables, but only managed to find one friend who appreciated it as much as I did.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. This was my first real experience reading a book because everyone else was reading it. It might have been my first encounter with magical realism, which is now one of my favorite genres. I remember the story really making an impact on me – I was a bit obsessed with this book for a while (which probably isn’t the most healthy thing for a sixteen-year-old). Still, when I think about how reading affected me growing up, this book is a part of that story.
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. My parents don’t read (at all), so they basically let me read whatever I want. This book was my first real experience with censorship. I was allowed to buy the book, so my copy was passed around like contraband until it was confiscated by a friend’s mother. I honestly probably wouldn’t have read this in high school if so many of my peers weren’t clamoring for a copy, but I’m so glad I did, because it led to my love of Augusten Burroughs.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Thanks to this book, I still cannot see or hear the word ‘officious’ without immediately thinking ‘seeing eye bitch’. As I’m writing this, I have an insane urge to pick this book up again because I know it’ll make me smile. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close may be more impactful, but this book was a huge part of who I was in high school, and, in a lot of ways, taught me the value of reading outside the box.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. This was the first Stephen King novel I read after my ill-advised reading of It in eighth grade. And it’s still one of my favorites. I actually reread it a couple of years ago, and just really love the psychological aspect of this book. For me, this is the book I think of when I think Stephen King. And I am totally okay with that.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld. I distinctly remember picking this up in a used bookstore on a family trip to Solvang (if you ever find yourself in central California, make the trip out to the adorable little Danish town) because there were books on the cover. This was my first experience with gothic literature, and while I don’t remember all that much about the story, I remember loving this book. It’s definitely one of the books I want to revisit, because my reading tastes have changed, and I want to see how I feel about this book now.
Looking back, and writing this post, has made me feel so nostalgic. Reading was such a big part of my life, it was something I felt defined me, and I am so glad I came back to it as an adult. Now excuse me while I go reread all of these books.
Are there any books that became a huge part of your life as a teenager? Share them in the comments!