We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. We weren’t homeless and starving or anything, but I wore clothes three seasons out of style, a little frayed, and usually didn’t fit right. Most of them came from the Goodwill, which was fine. It never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with this. My poodle-perm was way more embarrassing than my hand-me-down pink California Raisin sweatshirt. It helped that I went to school with kids in the same socio-economic bracket. We were all shopping at the same places.
Anyway, every Thursday was the night I spent at my dad’s and so every Thursday after he picked me up from my mom’s we would stop at the 30th Street Thrift Store so I could shop for books. I had about $5 to spend, but since the books were around .5, .10, .25, it wasn’t unusual for me to walk out with armloads of paperbacks. Every Thursday was like Christmas Redux.
It was here that I fed my R.L. Stine and Babysitter’s Club obsession (which really shouldn’t be read together, FYI. It’ll just mess you up.) It is also where I picked up my first research books where I learned about bizarre medical procedures and the persecution of Jews in WWII. Once I hit the jackpot when someone dropped off at least a dozen YA romance titles that taught me that the only interesting things in the world happened to au pairs. THANKS YA WRITERS FOR THAT LITTLE DELUSION.
MRS. SEAGUL MUST DIE
I still have a notebook from high school with this scribbled on the cover.
Up until my sophomore year of high school I worshipped the ground English teachers walked on. As far as I was concerned, they could do no wrong and they knew everything there was to know about everything in the whole world in the history of the universe.
Everything changed with the witch who was my sophomore year English teacher. While alone I will never forgive her for handing back a paper I’d written and whispering in my ear while gripping my arm that I would never become a published author, she also managed to singlehandedly squash my idol-worship by insisting that loving Charles Dickens was a universal absolute and anyone who didn’t was not smart enough to read and understand good books anyway. She threw me out of class when I insisted I thought his books were crap and though I would read them for my grade no one would force me to like them against my will.
(We also argued over Hemingway. She insisted you could only enjoy The Old Man and the Sea by investigating its multi-layered symbolism. I insisted I could enjoy it regardless. That was the second time she threw me out of class.)
(And for the record, I still hate reading Charles Dickens.)
STEPHEN KING AND V.C. ANDREWS WARPED MY YOUNG MIND
V.C. Andrews taught me about sex. Not my friends. Not television or movies. V.C. Andrews. And to make matters worse, she taught me about creepy sex. I was in 7th grade when I read Flowers in the Attic, and that book is pretty tame compared to the others which I read like candy as I traded them with my other little 7th grade girlfriends because one of them had an older sister who was into V.C. Andrews and supplied our little book addled brains with what most certainly would be contraband if our parents took half a second to go from “OH THANK GOD OUR KIDS ARE SMART AND READING” to ask “WAIT DON’T THE BROTHER AND SISTER HAVE SEX IN THIS MOVIE????”
Stephen King taught me to be afraid of everything and everyone. I was in third grade when I read Misery. I picked it up in a gas station along with a juice box and cheap red rimmed plastic sunglasses. We stopped to fill up on the way to Okaboji, Iowa where my family had a summer cabin. In high school I read Rose Madder, Eye of the Dragon, Cujo, Carrie, IT, Pet Cemetery, and others.
He warped my mind and while I’d like to say I turned out just fine, I should point out that as an adult I write scary stories to mess with people’s minds and in any other profession my imagination would have me profiled as a potential serial killer.
WHERE I LEARNED THAT EVERY WEEKEND VACATION WITH A GROUP OF CLOSE FRIENDS WILL LEAD TO ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS TRYING TO KILL YOU OVER A PERCEIVED SLIGHT. CUE TEENAGE MURDER MYSTERY.
YA horror defined my entire high school experience. While I was reading Stephen King, I was also devouring every Fear Street book R.L. Stine put out. I stalked my mall’s Waldenbooks and B.Daltons for new releases. By the time I stopped collecting Fear Street books, I had something along the lines of 108 of them. I still have most of them in a box in my basement. I was also reading Christopher Pike, Lois Lowery, Caroline B. Cooney, and Richie Tankersley Cusick. My junior year I was introduced to The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith, who everyone has heard of now thanks to the television show which I have not seen. Of all L.J.’s series, the Vampire Diaries were my least favorite because I didn’t like the main character and I hated how I related more to her sidekick best friend who totally got screwed in pretty much everything and was treated pretty abysmally by all the cool-kid main characters. Still, it was the first time paranormal YA felt extraordinary and sexy. I was obsessed with The Secret Circle and Dark Powers, but my favorite of all of her series is still The Forbidden Game. Julian was one of the first villains I fell totally in love with and would have chosen over the heroes in a heartbeat.
This is also about the time in my history that I started writing YA, though I didn’t know it had an official classification at the time. I knew, somehow, that books for my age were more fun than books for other ages. They just felt like they had more limitless possibilities than my adult books.
*cue twilight zone music*
What were your defining book moments as a teenager? Got any good stories? Tell us about them for the SCHOOL’S OUT 4EVER Blogfest!