Sunday, June 26, 2011

Five Books That Rocked My World. When I Was Ten.

I was digging through a box of books in the attic, looking for something that Katie might like to read. There, under the Nancy Drews and Oz books, was tucked a very well worn, very much loved, copy of Judy Blume's classic, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I gasped and ran down to the stairs and shoved it in Katie's hands.

You MUST read this.
Oh, okay.
No, really. Start now. Just read the first page.
I'll read it when I get back from camp, I have one to read now. 
OK, but just read the first page. READ IT!

She looked at me like I had two heads, but obliged, then sat it on the counter to wait a week for her to return. I am so anxious for her to read it, because I remember so clearly being 10, and on the edge of puberty, and reading that book and feeling like Judy Blume could see into my very soul. Because for the first time, I was reading a book about a girl my age that wasn't a little kid book. It was a frank and honest and open look at exactly what my friends and I were going through every day. It made me realize that books could not only be an escape, they could be this totally relevant, totally topical way of dealing with my own, very real, life.

Stumbling across Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret made me think of all the books I read in my preteen years that had such a tremendous impact. So here's a list of my Formative Five - the 5 novels (including the Judy Blume) that blew my 10-12 year old mind.

5. Pet Semetary: OK. No 10 year old has any business reading Stephen King's horrifying novel of an Indian burial ground that brings pets - and people - back to life. Not only is King the master of scary, he is a really, really excellent writer. The last line of the book - "Darrrrrling." gave me nightmares for weeks, and sticks with me more than 25 years later. Anyone that can have that effect with a single word is a pretty amazing.

4. Princess Daisy (Judith Krantz): One of the downsides to keeping all your books on a communal shelf is that your 10 year old has access to the kind of soft porn that made Krantz so popular with suburban housewives in the early '80s. It is a filthy book and, coupled with Sidney Sheldon's A Stranger in the Mirror, it taught me more about sex than 5th grade health class, "the talk" with my parents and Porky's, combined.

3. The Choirboys (Joseph Wambaugh): Another one off of my parents' bookshelves. Is it any wonder I am so cracked? Wambaugh's fictional look at the off duty lives of the boys in blue showed me that everyone is human, everyone is stupid, and sometimes, even the good guys are bad boys.

2. Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson): Occasionally, I even read age appropriate books! While I was not an unpopular kid, I always had a sense of being different. This book celebrated those differences, and put such a tremendous value in creativity, and friendship, and loyalty. It is a beautiful story, and probably the first one that elicited a powerful emotional response from me.

1. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret: On behalf of two generations of prepubescent girls, and our boobs - thank you, Judy Blume.

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