In her “Fine Lines” column on the website Jezebel, Lizzie Skurnick re-read many of the novels she loved as a young girl, looking at them through the eyes of an adult. Now many of these (somewhat altered) essays are in book form in Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. Ms. Skurnick is no stranger to young adult books. Not only is she a reader but she’s also a writer of some of the Sweet Valley High books. She also brings along writers like Meg Cabot, Jennifer Weiner and Cecily von Ziegesar for the ride down memory lane.
Shelf Discovery does not cover the books we had to read for school, books by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eyre and Austen. No, this book covers the books that weren’t on any teacher-approved reading list. These are the books that kept us up long after our bed time or the books we hid behind our text books during social studies. These are the books we loaned to our friends only to get them back with tattered covers and dog-eared pages. Well, at least this happened to me when I loaned my copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by uber-goddess Judy Blume to all my friends in Miss Wilson’s fifth grade class.
Not surprisingly, Judy Blume’s books are reviewed in Shelf Discovery as are the Little House books. Skurnick also takes a look back at books like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, The Cat Ate My Gym Suit by Paula Danziger and I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier. Shelf Discovery covers books that were considered too old for us but we read them anyway like Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear and VC Andrew’s My Sweet Audrina. And books that I thought only I had read like To All My Fans With Love, From Sylvie by Ellen Conford and To Take a Dare by Paul Zindel and Crescent Dragonwagon are also covered.
These essays are thoughtful, reflective and funny, and brought back a lot of memories. Not only of reading these books, but also how they made me feel and how they inspired talk among my gaggle of girlfriends. I loved reading the Little House books, feeling some cheesehead pride because Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Wisconsin. And I was quite comforted to know I wasn’t only the one who found Laura’s sister Mary an insufferable prissy-pants though I never went as far as to call her a “fucking bitch” like Skurnick does.
And where would we be without Judy Blume? Sure, some people want to ban her books, but to most of us, we loved Judy Blume because she introduced us to characters we could actually relate to. These were characters who experienced divorce or the death of a parent. They dealt with sexism, favored siblings and peer pressue. They questioned religion. They also dealt with the difficulties of growing up, physically, mentally and emotionally. Blume did not hesitate to make her main characters somewhat unlikable such as the protagonist in Blubber, Jill, who bullies Linda for being fat. And then there was Tony from Then Again, Maybe I Won’t who spied on his friend’s hot sister with his binoculars. What a perv!!!
Long before Gossip Girl, the books covered in Shelf Discovery introduced us to the world of S.E.X! Forever proved a girl could have sex and not get pregnant the first time or become a raving lunatic. It also kept generations of women from naming their male offspring Ralph. Wifey totally had a dirty mind. Flowers in the Attic introduced us the idea of brother/sister sex long before the Jerry Springer Show. And Katy Perry may have thought she was so lesbian chic when she sang, “I Kissed a Girl” but Jaret and Peggy were getting it on thirty years earlier in Sandra Scoppetone’s Happy Endings Are All Alike.
I’m not familiar with all of the books featured in Shelf-Discovery, but many of you might be. And I’m also not a fan of some of the books I did read. I wanted to fling Go Ask Alice across my teen-age bedroom. Even back then I knew it was a load of shite, and Go Ask Alice, which was allegedly based on the real diary of a teen girl messed up on drugs, was debunked several years ago.
I was also amazed to find out that many of the books we enjoyed as kids are now being enjoyed by today’s kids. Sure, kids have their Harry Potter and their Twilight books, but Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret also resonates with them. While visiting Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, Meg Cabot sheepishly tells the girls she is re-reading the Judy Blume classic. She expected blank stares from the students, but instead she got thunderous applause and cheers. Even though these girls live half a world away from suburban New Jersey, they totally adore Margaret. I still adore Margaret.
Reading Shelf Discovery reminded me why books always meant so much to me growing up (and still do). How fun was Sally J Freedman? And was I the only one who though Rosemary from Sister of the Bride was way too young to get married? But at least my mom and dad never sent me off to boarding school to die like the awful parents in The Grounding of Group 6. If you’re looking for a literary walk down memory lane and more than “seven minutes in heaven” you can’t go wrong with Shelf Discovery.
As many of you know, it’s Banned Books Week. But according to Miss CJ from the conservative “think” tank that is Chicks on the Right Banned Books Week is like, totally stupid and stuff.
Did you know these things about author/artist/poet Shel Silverstein? Now you do!
Film director John Waters’ commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design will be offered in a book called Make Trouble. Hmm, if anyone knows about making trouble it’s the delightfully odd Mr. Waters.
Here is the list of 2015 MacArthur Genius Grant winners.
Print is not dead! Blackstone audio to launch print imprint.
21 lies writers should refrain from telling themselves. Number one is very important. Underwear is not pants! That cannot be emphasized enough.
Mom has issues with Good Night, Moon. And I, too, am perplexed by the size of the kid’s bedroom. My entire apartment could fit into that thing.
Thinking sexism no longer exists? Read this woman’s story of submitting her manuscript under her own name and then under a male pseudonym. Notice the difference. Yes. Sexism still exists. Ugh. I could write a huge rant on the sexism that goes on the world of writing.
Barber gives free haircuts to children who read to him. What a great idea!
Author, publisher and journalist, Adria J. Cimino shares her thoughts on dealing with good and bad reviews (other than putting on your big kid underpants and dealing with it).
#TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter. Seriously, do not say these things if you value your life.
New book explores bias against redheads. Hmm, I’ll have to read this book.
This is truly horrifying. The amount of people who think we should ban books is increasing.
Congratulations to all of the Pulitzer Prize winners!
Here is a list of the most challenged books so far of the 21st century. In other words, these are some books you might want to read if you haven’t already.
Did you know that we are in the middle of National Library Week? Well, now you know! And did you love your school library as much as I did growing up? This is why school libraries are so vital to our children’s education. And if you think libraries aren’t important (shame on you if you do), here are five good reasons why you should take your kids to the library.
Are you asking yourself why the douchebags from “Duck Dynasty” have several books out and truly talented writers get ignored? Legitimate author Nic Tatano claims it’s because of the “Valley of the Stupid.”
Hey, ladies. Are books that tell you to “lean-in,” learn the “confidence code” and how to “thrive” rubbing you the wrong way for some reason? Well, there maybe be a reason for that. Thanks Amanda Hess, for putting what I’ve been thinking in such an eloquent post.