Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books Every Teen Should Read

Top Ten Tuesday is created by and hosted at The Broke and the Bookish
Go there to check out more Top 10 lists and add your own to the mix!

This week's topic is:
Top 10 Books Every Teen Should Read
Is it awful of me to change the meme slightly? I've read quite a few lists from others recently, and while I agree with many of the books they've included, I've also seen many people comment on how it's impossible to compose a list of books that every teen should read because every teen is different. So, I thought I'd give you a look into my life instead.

Top 10 Books My Teen Self Loved 
(or would have loved had I read them as a teen)

Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson
It's the namesake of my blog because it's the one I always go back to when I think about why I love stories so much. I actually first read it in high school - I was browsing my local bookstore and found myself in the picture book section. I randomly picked up Harold and started reading. I had no idea it would be one of the books that changed my life. I didn't feel any different afterward. But then I read it again. And again. And Harold's imagination inspired me. Still does!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I wore this book out in high school, and it's coming to a theater near you in 2012. The subject material in Perks is quite raw, and perhaps that's why I loved it so. It was so different from my ordinary life as a teen, but the emotions were still all too familiar. I like this line from the blurb - "The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite." Oh, and if I ever start using the word "incidentally," you'll know I've recently re-read this book. :)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I fear the day when this book will no longer be relevant. I don't think it's here yet. But it's awfully close. How can you connect to this book if you already do not see the value in the printed word? I'm afraid many teens do not. But for those who do, like my teen self did (and of course I still do), Fahrenheit 451 will strike a chord. It will reveal a reality that cares not for knowledge or wisdom but is happy for ignorance and complacency. There will always be knowledge seekers regardless of the format, so this one's for them. 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
It's already on many required reading lists, but I read it as a senior in high school when it first came out. I remember being completely ripped apart by it. Before then, I had never had so much emotion spew forth all because of a book. I cried and cried and felt too much for Melinda. And I had never experienced anything like it nor known anyone else that had. It's a new classic, for sure. 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This was not required reading in high school - I actually picked it up on my own. It's not one that I would even think to recommend, but I remember it vividly from high school. It was the summer after my junior year, and I was attempting to devour the classics. I had read too much Victorian lit and was looking for something with a little more edge, and The Bell Jar certainly fits that description. I like to say that I was Emo before Emo even existed, and this book brought out all sorts of crazy emotions. It was a trend for me - to read the books that evoked strong emotions. Yep, it still is. 

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
You either love it or you hate it, I think. And I happen to love it. Holden Caulfield is a voice you will not be able to get out of your head for weeks after reading Catcher, and it just may stay with you forever. Not that it's a particularly inspiring or heroic voice. He's basically a pain in the rear. But that's why I love him. 

Man, my junior year of high school was such an influential reading year. So many of my favorites come from then!

That concludes the "books I read in high school" portion of the list. I read the following books in college and beyond, and they are listed chronologically by when I read them. They're books that I would have loved in high school had they been published back then.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
This was one of my first forays into science fiction, a genre I did not think I would enjoy, and oh, how I loved it! Tally Youngblood, you quietly rebellious little thing, I couldn't help but want to be you. More than the characters though, I was impressed that I could be so into the description of Westerfeld's dystopian society. And the language! Just make it all up, why don't you? Such creativity, how could I not love it?

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
I remember reading this book in college while lounging with a friend and stopping after every paragraph to discuss something Frankie just wrote or said. It must have been supremely annoying, but I couldn't help it. I would squeal and giggle and just be so happy that Frankie was such a strong girl, so attuned to the injustice happening at her school and unwilling to take her place as a docile woman in a male-dominated society. You go, girl. 

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
My high school self would have LOVED this book. And it was so perfectly channeled while I read it last year - I acutely remembered what it was to be 16 again. There are just certain books that click with you, like kindred spirits, and this was one for me. And shocker - the main characters are both male! Nonetheless, the setting and situations were entirely relatable and believable in a too real way, and I just glowed while reading it. :) I wish that every teen could share that experience! 

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
I wish I had this book in college when my grandmother passed away. Not that I'm sold on bibliotherapy, but for me, it would have done a world of good. It still did, as grief seems to be never ending, and I'm quite thankful for it. But I don't think you need to have experienced the loss of a loved one to connect to this story. Maybe to understand some of the choices that Lennie makes that seem completely inappropriate. What I love most about it is that it wasn't a sobfest - there was an equal amount of love and laughter. Thank goodness! 

So, those are my Top 10 this week! I'm off to go read some others!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Stolen by Lucy Christopher
published May 2010 by Chicken House
304 pages (hardcover)
Kindle edition published February 2011

On route to a summer holiday in Vietnam with her parents, sixteen year-old Gemma is kidnapped from the Bangkok Airport over a simple cup of coffee. One minute she's staring into a handsome face with beautiful blue eyes, and the next she's lying in a bed wearing unfamiliar clothes and feeling the aftereffects of some nasty drugs. Terrified and confused, Gemma slowly realizes that there is little hope for escape in this Australian never-ending desert, and that Ty, her captor, actually means her no harm. Told as a letter written to Ty, this story is unlike other kidnapping tales in that he's not actually a bad guy. Really.

For the record, I've never been kidnapped. So, I don't personally know how it feels. But if I ever do, I sure hope it's by someone like Ty. The guy has good intentions, mind you. He wants to save Gemma from her life of plastic parents and ugly concrete London. He's been watching her, and he can sense that she's different like him, that she just might want to run away to the desert and live in isolation on the land. Maybe that sounds crazy. But he's convinced, and he had me convinced too. And Gemma? She's a trooper. She must have aged ten years in the short time they spent together, with all the emotions she went through. She responded quite appropriately to finding out she had been kidnapped - hurt captor, run away. She repeated these actions until they proved useless. Until she grew weary of the fight and realized Ty wasn't fighting back. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that Gemma and Ty had a complicated relationship. You're supposed to root for Gemma, to want her to escape and find her way home. That's a normal response. But goodness, how could you not feel for Ty? He was severely misguided, yes, but he has such a good heart.

I never understood it when people finished reading a book and then immediately went back to re-read it. Yeah, I get it now. Maybe not tonight, but I will revisit it soon because I loved it that much. Not just loved it either. I love a lot of books. I can't help it that I love stories so. But because it moved me (I know that's corny, but how else to say it?). It made me feel and think things I didn't think I could, and that is a rare gift. Maybe it's not a feel-good story, but it's a feel-something story, and I do appreciate it.

Thank you to Chelsea from Coffee and Cliffhangers for blogging about this book last week and unintentionally giving me exactly the recommendation I didn't know I was looking for. :)

Do I even have to say it? Five purple crayons for reminding me what it means to be human.

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