Hi friends! Happy Tuesday and happy almost-Thanksgiving! I’m writing a little today about the YA books that helped inspire me to write YA and love YA and write the kind of YA that I do. It’s a little more verbose than my usual Tuesday posts. I think it’s because I’m in that gratitude zone you (sometimes) reach around the holidays. So here are the YA books I’m most thankful for!
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares: I read mostly classics and what was known then as “chick lit” as a teenager, but I loved this series. It was one of my first experiences with YA and multi-perspective storytelling. And I really liked that at different times I identified with Lena, Carmen, Tibby, and (even) Bridget. My junior year of high school, I remember my mom telling me that she thought I’d write a book like this someday (how are mom’s always right?). Sometimes, I get jealous of my friends who read tons of young adult books when they were teenagers. But I feel lucky that I at least managed to find this one while I was still in high school.
Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty: This was the other big YA series I read in high school. I found it totally inspiring. Marcus Flutie is still one of my top book boyfriends. I still have all the poems he wrote to Jess Darling memorized. And I love how it never felt like this book was condescending to me as a teen – which is something I hope I can accomplish in my books. At the time, I really liked how Jess went through this big transformation. She changed from being into track to writing and went through many friend transformations. I think this really made me feel more comfortable with the idea of exploring different interests and possible futures.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer: People give this book a lot of shit (some of it justified) but I will always love it. It is the book that really got me interested in YA and the first series I was “obsessed with” after Harry Potter. And like Harry Potter, I think it made me feel really connected to other fans of the book. I was listening to Stephanie Meyer on Oprah gave me the idea for my first novel (which I worked on for like 4 years and 8 drafts, before putting in a drawer). And as a teacher, I saw middle schooler’s who could barely read at a first grade reading level, excited to try this book. So people can hate on this book as much as they want, I’ll still always be thankful for it.
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I started reading these after my first teaching job working in a middle school. If Twilight was my gateway to YA, this series solidified my love of the category. I stayed up three nights in a row reading devouring these books and crying. Then I reread them many times. In particular, I think this story gave me a really good foundation for thinking about plot in my own writing. I remember reading them through a second time and thinking okay how did the author make me feel like I *had* to find out what happened next. I think this book was also part of a wave that made reading cool, which as a writer, teacher, and book lover is something that I always get excited about.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I’m never exactly sure if I should categorize this book as young adult, but for this list I’m going to say yes. It is a special book for me, because it was the first book I reviewed for this blog (like a zillion years ago). I had no idea I’d still be blogging here almost six years later. I’ve read hundreds of YA novels since then, but this started a project that deepened my knowledge of the genre and introduced me to a wonderful community. This book has setting descriptions I can only dream of writing, and was written by a Smith College alum which made me feel like publishing a novel was something that real people could achieve.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: Funny story, it wasn’t love at first site for me when I read this book the first time. I loved Lola, but something about Anna didn’t connect my first reading. This is hilarious to me now, because I’ve easily read it over ten times. More than any other author, I’ve been inspired by the writing of Stephanie Perkins. I love that her heroines have passions, the humor in her stories, and the hopeful messages of love. Also once I met her and burst into tears and she was incredibly nice about it. I don’t think I’d be writing contemporary, if it wasn’t for being totally inspired by her.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: I read this a little after Stephanie Perkins, but I had a similar reaction of just being totally engrossed in this story and this writing. I was also living in Big Sur and really starting to imagine myself becoming a writer. Cath’s progression as a writer and as an increasingly independent young adult riveted me. The romance anxiety was incredibly relatable. And I love love love sisters stories. Also all the details in this book! And Levi = a million, trillion heart eye emojis.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: I read this book at the same time as Fangirl. I’ve reread both books so many times. I think the trio of Perkins, Rowell, and Han really made me fall in love with contemporary and want to write it myself. Lara Jean is one of my favorite characters, because she is a shy, quiet girl who doesn’t have to “overcome” these qualities in order to have interesting things happen to her in the story. The sister relationships will also always be very close to my hear. Seeing Jenny Han read is also where I first heard about the New School’s MFA in children’s writing, where I ended up going years later. In some ways, I don’t think I’d be living in New York City without Jenny Han.
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart: I started this book after seeing a recommendation from John Green’s twitter the month before I moved to New York City and started my MFA program. I think the openness about anxiety, therapy, and mental health in the book really appealed to me. And Ruby Oliver was a delightful character! I seriously laughed my way through every quirky turn of phrase and embarrassing social situation. Little did I know, that I’d write my master’s thesis examining how social class, romantic connections, and popularity intersect in Lockhart’s novels and spend a semester working my way through all of her books.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli: There have been more books featuring fat heroines and body positivity in the last few years, but this one is my favorite. I just came out this spring, and I’ve already read it three times. I’ve written this before, but Molly Peskin-Suso is the YA heroine of my dreams. I really hope to write a book that tackles body image and provides positive representation the way this book was. Seeing a fat teenager really be okay with her size and fall in love was … it was really special for me to read.
Thank you to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this weekly book meme!