Sunday, April 28, 2019

What Books Did You Need?

Last week I came across this awesome tweet (and a bunch of very cool responses):

The first book that leapt to my mind is The Upside of Unrequited because I've never read a character whose approach to romance is so much like mine was. My daughter had friends over for her birthday, and they were all giggling and teasing about who likes whom, and it STRESSED ME OUT. I hated those conversations as a teen, and never admitted to liking anyone (besides, like, movie stars). I figured either my friends would say, 'Ewww, you like him?" or "HAHAHAHAHA like you'd ever get a chance!  Hey, ------ Wendy likes you!" which would make the person in question go, "Ewww."

Reading this book as a middle aged married lady made me feel SEEN in a way I'd never been seen in a book, and I know as a teen I would have found Molly's story so relatable and heartening. 

Bonus: I'm sure 15 year old Wendy, way back in 1984, would have been startled by all the non-straight characters, but that would have been good for her too. That's a year after one of my dearest friend's mom moved in with another single mom, and swear to God, I thought they were just saving money by sharing a house. I was freakin' 21 when she finally had to spell out for me that her mom is gay. We were so clueless, y'all. I thought the man I worked with my senior year in high school was the first gay person I'd ever met. Like, sure, Wendy, you go to high school with 2,000 people and they are all straight. So Albertalli's gay moms and bi sisters and everything else would have been EYE OPENING.

The Upside of Unrequited

My other answers took a little more thought, but what I came up with next was Between Shades of Grey. I actually love Salt to the Sea even more, but knowing that I was already interested in my Baltic background, I think I would have been fascinated by the story of the Lithuanian teen deported to Siberia in the 1940s. I ended up learning a lot about that part of history when I lived in Latvia in my twenties, but it would have been cool to know more about it earlier. It might have influenced my thesis in college, which was about the first Lithuanian independence movement.

Between Shades of Gray

I know there are a lot of books I love now and would have enjoyed then too, but I was trying to think about books that might have made an impact in some way. I started thinking about what was going on around me then, and realized that apartheid was just starting to seep into my consciousness. My parents had a photojournalism book about it in our downstairs bookshelves, and when my freshman Global Studies teacher taught us about apartheid, I was so shocked to realize it was still going on--I'd assumed it was some sort of history book I'd seen. And although we read Cry, the Beloved Country that year, and later I read lots of  Nadine Gordimer short stories, I was reading about South Africa from a white perspective. So I'd like to hand myself Born a Crime (I don't think I would have needed the young reader's edition), or better yet, the author-narrated audiobook. 

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

So, 2/3 of the books I chose are really social studies assignments for the future history major, which is pretty on brand, but probably not what the question really intended. Still, thinking about what I needed to know at 15, I can't think of many books that would have delivered. "You'll stop hating yourself in another year," would have been good. "Be a little more grateful to your parents," seems like sound advice now, but would I have taken it? 

After more thought, I did come up with another topic that 15 year old me didn't need, but 18 year old me would, and if I'd started thinking about it at 15, I may have been better equipped. I don't want to overshare, but I read Wrecked with a pit in my stomach, and even said in my brief Goodreads review that I wish I could have handed it to younger me. 


So what about you? What books that are out now(ish) would you send back in time to teen you?


  1. This is a good question! I’d probably send myself an LGBT+ nonfiction book because my best friend came out when we were 17, and I was confused and terrified by the backlash. And I’d send myself After Zero by Christina Collins. That book would have been way too relatable for me.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. A book that really articulated things I went through when I was younger was Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy. I could have used some of those "bad love" type books, toxic friendship books, and some of those books with depressed characters, because that was a dirty secret when I was younger.

  3. What a fun prompt. You should propose it for Top Ten Tuesday.

    I would have sent the book I discovered at eighteen, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I was a fifteen-year-old who was driven to achieve academically and who took life way too seriously. ZAMM sent me off on a quest to enjoy life more.

  4. Your thoughts on The Upside made me laugh because I can relate. So many things were just less in the open then, or maybe we were too sheltered to know haha. But yes so many books like this would be SO eye opening for us as 15 year old, I think!

  5. This is a fantastic question! There are SO many books I wish I would have read as a teenager (and I wish I could get my kids to read them now---that's a whole other story). Like you say, though, some of the messages I now think I needed probably wouldn't have been well-received at the time. LOL!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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