When We Say YA: Books We Loved as Teens

Welcome to When We Say YA! Every month, the OneFour YA authors get together to talk about everything related to young adult lit. February is all about love, so this month’s question is:

What were your most loved books from your own teen years?

Harry Potter, for sure. I fall into that beautiful age category where I discovered the first book at nine or ten, and so basically grew up along with the series.
Corinne Duyvis, OTHERBOUND

As a teen, I was crazy about old poetry. Wallace Stevens, e.e. cummings, Gerard Manly Hopkins, John Donne, Langston Hughes. All the dead (mostly white) guys.
I didn’t necessarily understand their poems in the normal way of “understanding” something, but I don’t think the normal way of understanding is what poetry is about. It’s definitely not what love is about–and I was out-of-my-gourd in love.
I still have my dad’s old paperback copy of Wallace Steven’s The Palm at the End of the Mind. The spine is busted and it’s held together with a rubber band, but that book is one of my absolute favorite things. There are little pencil-mark stars beside the poems I kept going back to. And they’re the poems I return to, even now.
Mary Crockett, DREAM BOY

High School Jess went through a bit of a Jane Austen phase after the release of Clueless and the Sense and Sensibility movie starring Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson. I must have read Emma and Sense and Sensibility a zillion times.
I was also desperately in love with The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I don’t think I fully understood it, but it still spoke to me in a way no other book had managed to.
Jessica Love, PUSH GIRL

I was a big Christopher Pike fan. I loved how messy his characters were. None of them were 100% angelic, nor two-dimensionally evil. I think I read almost every single one. I still have a stained, yellowing paperback of Remember Me on my shelf. But I also read a ton of scifi and fantasy. Andre Norton, Ray Bradbury, David Eddings, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, Anne McCaffrey. In fact, the first series of books that launched me into my obsession of reading was The Secret of the Unicorn Queen series. I freaking loved those books.
Mary Elizabeth Summer, TRUST ME, I’M LYING

Harry Potter all the way. Also His Dark Materials and the Farsala trilogy by Hilari Bell.
Stephanie Diaz, EXTRACTION

Soooo much Sweet Valley – High, Senior Year, University…all of it. Of all the books I had to read for school, I’d say SONG OF SOLOMON by Toni Morrison was my favorite. So good.
Dahlia Adler, BEHIND THE SCENES

I’m with you, Dahlia. I devoured every Sweet Valley High book I could get my hands on. I also really enjoyed my older sister’s Nancy Drew books.
Michelle Krys, HEXED

I don’t remember reading much that was specifically YA, though there was this one called AS THE WALTZ WAS ENDING about a girl living through Nazi Germany as a member of the German Ballet. I read a lot of thrillers, especially by David Morrell and Dean Koontz. And then when I took AP English, I was in love with THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, anything by Toni Morrison, and CATCH-22.
Lisa Maxwell, SWEET UNREST

I was really into Isabel Allende and John Steinbeck in high school and into college -not sure what the connection is there. Going back a little further I loved Narnia, The Alanna series by Tamora Pierce and The Bridge to Terabithia!
Sashi Kaufman, THE OTHER WAY AROUND

The book that stands out for me as my true love during high school was Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. I remember being amazed at finding a character that was allowed to be with her pain and anger, even when she didn’t fully understand it. It spoke to me in a powerful way. I also loved Forever… we all knew the page of the sex scene by heart.
Kinda jealous of those of you young enough to have enjoyed Harry Potter as kids. I actually avoided it until book 7 was about to be released (I avoid “the pack”). Finally, my high school English teacher (with whom is stayed friends), convinced me to give it a chance. Wow. Inhaled them all during a blissful two-week period. Fully immersed in that world. Heaven. Or, better. Hogwarts.
Maria Andreu, THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY

For me it was Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books and Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear. They were slightly racy, filled with animals, intrigue, and romance! I also loved the southern classics like Gone With the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird.
Jaye Robin Brown, NO PLACE TO FALL

I was on team Harry Potter as well. One of my favorite reading memories was diving into the first three books over the course of about four days in early November of my sophomore year. (Fall leaves, cloudy skies, cozy reading.) I was also really into Francesca Lia Block, Tamora Pierce, Cyrano de Bergerac, and stories from Seventeen Magazine.
Annie Cardi, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN

As a fantasy geek, I was deeply, obsessively in love with Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle, and I also grew up with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series–which only recently ended! (The latter was a very lengthy love affair.)
AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS

The Hobbit was a book that I still continue to draw inspiration from. Also The Giver, which was the beginning of my love for dystopian (or utopian, I suppose). The Dragonriders of Pern series was a beloved favorite as well, and I devoured every Fear Street book I could find from R.L. Stine.
–Lori M. Lee, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE

I read and reread the Belgariad, Mallorean, Elenium and Tamuli sagas by David and Leah Eddings constantly during my teens – it’s what started my love for the fantasy series. This was also around the time I discovered Shirley Jackson and Mervyn Peake (the Gormenghast series was nothing like I’d ever read before then).
Rin Chupeco, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

If Mercedes Lackey wrote it, I read it. I fancied myself one of her Heralds of Valdemar in another life. If Ursula K. Le Guin wrote it, I read it. I suppose I also fancied myself an explorer of worlds and societies. Neither of these has changed very much.
Natalie C. Parker, BEWARE THE WILD

CARRIE, FIRESTARTER, IT, THE STAND: Stephen King was my favorite author when I was a teen (and also a pre-teen, and also an adult). I also loved all the V.C. Andrews books (don’t judge). THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton was another favorite. Stay gold, Ponyboy.
Clara Kensie, RUN TO YOU

I’m going to second THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, especially the story THE SWEETHEART OF THE SONG TRA BONG which I re-read almost every year. I also remember reading THE BLUEST EYE by Toni Morrison in school and just being blown away by how gorgeous and raw it was.
Also, a lot of romance novels. So many romance novels.
Elissa Sussman, STRAY

As a Jersey girl, I loved, loved LOVED Judy Blume. (Although I know she has a much wider audience than New Jersey, I still like to claim her!) Her stories were so relatable to me and I definitely credit her books with inspiring me to write stories that readers connect to. I was forbidden to read FOREVER, so that only made it that much more appealing (sorry, Mom!). For me, that book was a safe place to live out the highs and lows of first love without experiencing collateral damage!
Robin Constantine, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING

The classics! Jane Eyre, all of the Jane Austen books, the Scarlet Pimpernel, C.S. Lewis and of course all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.
Christy Farley, GILDED

I loved J. D. Salinger, particularly Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey, and anything Hemingway. My parents passed the super sentimental poetry of Edgar Guest back and forth when my father was stationed overseas and that was my doorway into the love of poetry. W. H. Auden, e.e. cummings and Ogden Nash were a few of my early favorites but the list is long.
Linda Phillips, CRAZY

Roots by Alex Haley was a book I decided to read for my freshman English class because I had to prove to my friend that I could read a longer book than she could in the allocated three weeks. But that book stayed with me. Still does. It was a very personal journey into mistreatment and injustice; I could not get over the harsh living conditions the characters in the book had to endure.
Chris Struyk-Bonn, WHISPER

What books are/were your favorites as a teen? Share them in the comments!

Annie Cardi lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her time baking, creating alternate lyrics for tv show theme songs, and writing YA fiction. Her debut novel, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press on April 22 2014. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.
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2 thoughts on “When We Say YA: Books We Loved as Teens

  1. I think I read every Nancy Drew book our little town library had, but I guess that was more during my pre-teens… The Song of the Lioness series by Pierce was (is) a favorite. I basically consumed anything fairytale-related, as well as a decent amount of Shojo manga. Very girlie sounding, I know, but some of those fantasy heroines were tough stuff and their bravery (even though it was in another realm) meant a lot to me growing up.

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