Books that made my teenage years

Welcome to the second installment of my mini-series about books that have made my life so far. Onto my next chapter (pun intended), my moody teenage years. Let me know what you think!

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

(2008, Black Swan)

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I could have chosen any Sophie Kinsella book to be here. For years now, she is about the only author who’s each and every book I’ve gone out and bought or had on a Christmas list. She’s my chick-flick Queen. So how come I’ve chosen one of her lesser known titles as my number one teenage book? Why not a Shopaholic book?

Well, it’s because, as much as I adore the Shopaholic books, I never fully believed in the romance. I was always cynical about the Becky-Luke story. In Remember Me? Lexi and Jon’s connection is so raw: “It’s like I’m thirteen again and he’s my crush. All I’m aware of in this room full of people is him. Where he is, what’s he doing, who he’s talking to”. It’s just gorgeous. Falling for someone is the greatest feeling in the world, and I’m totally in love with the way Sophie took those feelings, those powerful gut feelings you get when you fall in love, and turned the entire thing on its head. When I first read this book, I’d just started seeing my first “proper” boyfriend, after years of being a romance sceptic. This book stands out as being a catalyst for change in me, and I stopped being so against the whole idea of couples, lovey-dovey happiness, and all the soppy stuff that comes with it.

Above all of this, however, this book examines mental health like no chick-flick novel I’ve read before or since. I often think what I would do if I was in Lexi’s shoes, and woke up one day four years into the future, stuck in the body of my 28 year old self, with no idea how I got there. Maybe that’s another blog post for another day!

The Princess Diaries: To the Nines by Meg Cabot

(2007, HarperCollins)

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This book, to me, was the series game-changer in the Princess Diaries books. Unlike most books I read, I read this series after the films came out, and by the time Mia’s story got to the 9th book, there were no relics of the movie story lines, which I liked.

In book 9, Mia has the mental breakdown that was only touched upon back in the first book (and the film – remember the scene where she runs away and cries in her broken down mustang?). Finally, these glorious stories had some grit behind them. As teenagers, we all thought everything was the hardest thing ever, which is the attitude Mia seems to have in books 1 through to 8, but it’s in 9 when she finally starts to mature.

I actually stopped reading this series after book 9, because the end of this book was the end of Mia’s story, I felt. Upon realising this book had to be in this list, I thought I’d have a bit of a google to see what else Meg Cabot and Mia have been up to. Apparently there’s an 11th book, set 8 years after 9/10: the Royal Wedding. I may have to buy the last two books and complete Mia’s journey as Meg Cabot intended.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

(2005, Little, Brown)

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Right – before I begin, hear me out! Stop with the judging eyes!

The reason why Twilight is on my list is because it was the first time I’d read a book that was just so…bad. Such a fluffy story with such bad, bad writing. I couldn’t wrap my little head around why it was such a phenomenon! I’d read (tried to read) books that were difficult to get into before – for example, try as I have, I have never been able to get into The Hobbit. Just couldn’t do it. But that wasn’t the issue I had in Twilight. It wasn’t hard to read because it was heavy going, it was hard to read because it was crap.

Look, my best friend and roommate at school had all the books. Curiosity got the better of me. I read the lot in about a month, if that. They didn’t improve! But credit where credit is due; reading these books did allow me to develop as a ready – now I could critique writing!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

(2003, Bloomsbury)

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What, did you really think a Harry Potter book wasn’t going to be on this list?

It was so difficult to choose between this one and the Deathly Hallows. I chose Order of the Phoenix because the Deathly Hallows, to me, symbolised the end of my childhood. Indeed, the end of my teenage years. I went to see the last film just after I turned 18, and sobbed at the opening scene because it all came crashing to reality that this was my time to grow up. Anyway! Back to the Order!

Despite it being the longest book, I kept returning to it over and over. It’s the book where, I feel, Harry becomes a proper teenager; emotions flying everywhere and allsorts. I believe this book saw the change in Harry – that he had so much more to fight for than good versus bad. The story began to deepen. Yet, at the same time, it’s not just doom and gloom, which I felt like it was for the most of the last two books. Harry gets to deal with a load of teenage crap as well as having to fight the Dark Lord, etc. I loved it!

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

(2001, Charles Scribner’s Sons)

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This book opened my eyes to a whole new genre that I simply hadn’t bothered to try and get into. As you can tell from this list, I read a lot of chick flicks and fantasy stories. This was yet another book on my roommate’s shelf that I helped myself to.

I adore the romaticisation (is that a real word? It should be) of such a famous historical story. History is so brilliant because of the “what ifs” and this book fictionalises and plays on so many “what ifs” in this story. George and Mary’s stories are explored instead of the focus of this tale being Anne Boleyn. It was great.

I really enjoyed the film version of this book, but it wound me up, because it went back to Anne’s story more. Selfish, I know, but her story wasn’t the best one in the book! Rather than trying to make a more realistic version of events, they should’ve played on the “what ifs”. It’s subjunctive history. Cue one of my favourite quotes – “you know, the subjunctive? The mood used when something may or may not have happened” (from The History Boys, of course).

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