Hey everyone! Ok, so this week’s theme is “Books For My Younger Self” and it’s a little vague as to what can fit in that theme. And (as usual), I don’t get warm fuzzies from that them. Or, well, it’s not so much “warm fuzzies” as it is “inspiration.” Same idea, though.
So I started thinking how I could twist it. There have been so many books I’ve read in my 20s that I wish I existed when I was in my teens to show me a different side of the world, in some way or another. I was an introverted kid who learned about life through books and I think YA back in the 2000s (the decade…God…) weren’t always the best at explaining real life (vampires, y’all). Not that there aren’t fantastic books from that time (there ARE), but I’ve been heavily influenced by so many books since that I wish I’d had as a teen.
Let’s get to it!
Top Ten Books I Wish Existed When I Was Younger
1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
By and far, this is the book 16-17 year old me needed. Cath and I were the same person. I wrote (kind of bad) fanfiction and kept to myself a lot. I kind of wish that teenage me could read this and just know that being quiet and doing her own thing was a perfectly acceptable way to spend her time instead of worrying about being liked by people who couldn’t even both to remember my name.
2. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
On a similar note, this book is about losing your voice, both figuratively and literally. I love the nuance of that. But teenage me, who frequently felt like no one was listening to her, would have benefited from seeing how the characters overcame their adversity.
3. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
This one has no deeper meaning here. Teenage me was obsessed with mysteries and trying to figure out the endings before they happened and she would have loved this series.
4. Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab
Ok, now we’re back to the seriousness. I like this book for my teenage self for two reasons: one is just admiring the dedication that people have for the things that they love. I didn’t know too many people who committed themselves that much to something and maybe it would have helped me in some way. The other reason is that the book shows how people can be flawed yet lovable. Both of our leads have serious issues (including mental illness) that they deal with and yet we still care for them deeply. I wish past me could see that and understand that no one is perfect. Heck, present me still needs to learn that.
5. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Besides this being an utterly astounding book, I think past me would learn from its social commentary. I was pretty in-tune to those things as a teen. I was an observer, just absorbing everything I saw around me. I would have immediately been able to apply what I was seeing in the book to the real world. And I would have loved it.
6. Some Boys by Patty Blount
This is a super serious book about rape and surviving it. I never went through anything like that, but I would have related to Grace in other ways. And watching her survive…it would have reminded me of the strength we all have inside.
7. Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
Speaking of inner strength, I so wish I’d had the chance to read McGinnis as a teen. This could be any of her books, but I settled on the one I read most recently, about a female hiker lost in the woods. Being set in the same mountains my family has hiked many times would have been really cool for me to read about. I would have liked that.
8. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
This A Christmas Carol retelling would have been catnip to me as a teen. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and it’s always so hard to find quality stories set during the winter season. Mix that with such a classic story (and a character who shares my first name) and I would have flipped out. It’s already become my tradition to reread this every December.
9. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
This book changed my life when I first read it in…college, I think? Elise is the kind of heroine that I always feel connected to. She doesn’t believe in herself, but she knows she’s highly intelligent and clever and loyal. She just feels like a pawn. But she has strength she only begins to understand when she’s tested. I more or less just described myself at 17. Factor in that Elise has a complicated relationship with religion and we could nearly be twins. Seeing a fantasy heroine like that, it would have completely shifted my world view.
10. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Speaking of shifting my world view, I wish this book was around when I was younger. First of all, the writing is pure poetry and I would immediately have tried to emulate it. I know I would have. But Juliette is a character you don’t soon forget, no matter how long it’s been since you last read the book. I mean, she can’t touch anyone without killing them. She’s fierce and I would have loved that.
In summation, I would have recommended a heck of a lot of books with strong unlikely heroines for Teenage Me. The funny thing is, as I was writing all of these out, I really started questioning what I remember of my teenage years…that maybe I was more like these heroines than I thought.
Yes, I was quiet and reserved and most people couldn’t have picked me out of a lineup as being in their class. I frequently felt forgotten by everyone except the teachers, who constantly used me for an example because I was That Kid, and my best friends.
But I was no pushover. I was quick-witted and clever. I never backed down from an ideological argument. I had a strong sense of justice and would never have done anything that intentionally hurt another person. I always wanted to help others, if that meant being a tutor/mentor or aiding a teacher on their prep period. …I just never saw myself as strong or a leader until someone else took it as granted that that’s exactly what I was.
Wow, this turned maudlin. But truthfully, Teenage Me turned out alright, if I do say so myself.