Move away please……nothing to see here!
I came across this article in the Guardian written by author Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer etc) in which he talks about books that are meant for adults but seem to hold so much more appeal for teenagers (especially as adults don’t appear to like teens reading them!).
Some of the books he includes in his list are The Catcher in the Rye, The Stand, Dracula and The Virgin Suicides (the latter I would most definitely had tried to get my mitts on aged 13 had it been around then – oh the allure of that title and the curiosity!). This then got me thinking about books I read as a teenager and what books had me blushing into my soda stream.
Back in the day, pre-Edward Cullen, pre-Katniss Everdene and not a fallen angel in sight, what on earth did we used to read to help us navigate our way round those strange and confusing teenage years when there wasn’t such a thing as YA books (remember those days?):
Exhibit #1 – falling in love
Yes, were I a teen today my boyfriend longing may look very different: for a start the object of my desires would probably either have fangs, wings or change into a big hairy dog during a full moon. Back in the day though, I wanted me a nice boy!
At about the age of 14 I became a massive fan of Maeve Binchy (I haven’t read any of her books since I was a teen so I am curious about what I might think today). The one I really loved was Echoes about a girl from a large family with not much money who lives on the coast of Ireland. Clare was the only girl in this family and she studied hard, to the bemusement of her family, as she wanted to make something of herself. Up the road, in a large house, lived David, a few years older than Clare and the only son of a well-to-do family. David fell in love with Clare and…..oh, how I wished I was her! This was SO romantic and I longed for it to be me (or at least for a nice boy to fall in love with from a distance and then declare his undying love for me……swoon!)
Exhibit #2 – sex
My best friend Claire found a copy of If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon and promptly navigated me straight to the “dirty bits”. Boy did this book give me a rude awakening in the world of sex – and not the sort that Maeve Binchy would have written, but proper adult sex! I can vividly remember being shocked but also laughing my head off (in embarassment? in fear? in longing? who knows…) I’m sure whatever was written in that book is pretty tame and I’m sure it would be a massive let down where I to read it again today, but back then it was practically pornographic!
Exhibit #3 – pregnancy out of wedlock
Perhaps I lead a sheltered younger life, more probably I was very lucky to come from a family where both parents were together and my friends all came from the same backgrounds too. Put it this way, I didn’t come across many people who a) were single parents or b) had a baby out of wedlock or c) both. So when Claire (are you seeing a trend here?) introduced me to The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Read Banks….well!
When I read this book aged about 15, for me it was all about the shock of someone moving into their own little flat and having a baby on their own (without being married). I don’t remember much else about the book, just being ulta-curious about the (then) taboo of being pregnant and alone at a time when my teenage head was trying to work out how my future might look. It was a real eye-opener, was this book.
I actually have a copy of this book again, 24 years later, and plan to read it again soon to see what my take on it would be now.
Exhibit #4 – honourable mentions
I can’t end this post without mentioning some of the other “grown-up” books that crossed my teenage path:
The Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews – did anyone NOT read this as a teenager? I read this book several times back then and swiftly followed it with Petals on the Wind and If There be Thorns.
Firestarter by Stephen King – I can remember being more obsessed with the fact that while in the experiment room, people pissed themselves. This was my first foray into the nature of human psychology and the lenghts people will go to (and take). It frightened me, but I couldn’t put it down.
So, that was a fun old blast from the past for me. Did you read any of these either as a teenager or later on? What books can you remember hiding under your covers when you were 13?