Without further ado, my first Thursday Thirteen are My Favorite and/or Most Influential Young Adult Novels. These are not in any particular order except that the first ones are the ones that have made the greatest impact and thus reside in the upper levels of my memory.
Also, you'll see that only a handful (or a couple) are even remotely close to "classics". Most of them are 100% teen angst teen romance. I'm cool with it. I think I turned out okay. They are my first comfort reads, the ones I read over and over again until the covers were soft and the pages worn. I have most of them still. I may or may not let my daughter read them. I know she'll roll her eyes a lot if she does.
I'll list the title and author, then the blurb from the back of the book. See if some of these don't just sound like page turners!
1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Ponyboy can count on his brothers. And on his friends. But not so much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up "greasers" like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect - until the night someone takes things too far.
I would say that this is perhaps my favorite book of all time. I can remember exactly how old I was when I read it, where I was when I finished it - and I mean exactly where I was - and how I felt when it was all done. Ponyboy's story moved me on so many levels. It opened up a world I'd never imagined existed, one without parents and rules, where friends made up your family. Not to mention the awe I felt in learning that S.E. Hinton was only sixteen when she penned it. I reread this book at least once a year. My copy is so worn I'm afraid it's going to fall apart. This is a classic, in every sense of the word.
2. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The little settlement that weathered the long, hard winter of 1880-81 is now a growing town. Laura is growing up, and she goes to her first evening social. Mary is at last able to go to a college for the blind. Best of all, Almanzo Wilder asks permission to walk home from church with Laura. And Laura, now fifteen years old, receives her certificate to teach school.
I'm a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but LTOTP is my favorite of all of her books. It might possibly be the first romance I ever read, albeit a very gentle, sweet, subtle romance which doesn't see it's HEA until the next volume, These Happy Golden Years. I loved seeing Laura grow up, and it was in this book that she stepped away from childhood into the adult world. Another classic.
3. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Margaret was a bit confused about religion. When she moved from the city to her new home, she didn't know whether to join the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What made matters worse was that, going on twelve, she had plenty to talk over with God. She had a bra but needed to grow a bit to put something in it. Nancy and Gretchen had already had their period. What was taking her so long? Sometimes she got so frustrated she ignored Him - until the next time she really needed someone to listen.
I don't think any girl of my generation passed through her puberty years without reading AYTG?IMM. It was the right of passage read in the years before we graduated to Forever. And of course it was read back in those halcyon years before any of us were "mature" enough to understand what a pain in the ass being "mature" would end up being!
4. I Was a 98 lb. Duckling by Jean Van Leeuwen
Being thirteen can be something of a disaster. Your hair, which you never noticed before, turns out to be "problem hair," according to all the beauty magazines. You discover that you are taller than anyone you know except your father, and weighing exactly ninety-eight pounds doesn't allow for much of a figure. In fact, you feel that you resemble nothing so much as a concentration camp victim. It's even worse when your best friend comes to visit you at the lake. She has perfect skin and a date within three days, while you seem doomed to remain dateless forever.
After creating this list, I can see I had a penchant for Ugly Duckling stories. Those ones about the plain girl who was awkward and goofy, who never thought she'd grab the attention of the boys. Reading the back of this book and remembering that the main character, Kathy, was only thirteen, I have to wonder why her high level of angst. Was I this much of a basket case that young?
5. Tex by S.E. Hinton
Easygoing, thoughtless, and direct, Tex at fifteen likes everyone and everything, especially his rambling rodeo-riding father; his horse, Negrito; and Johnny Collins's blue-eyed sister, Jamie. He thinks his life with his older brother in their ramshackle house would be just about perfect if only Mace would stop complaining about Pop and forget all about his schemes to leave Oklahoma.
When Pop stays away too long and forgets to send money altogether, Mace starts to rule the house with an iron fist. Even worse, he reveals a fact about Tex's birth that ends his easygoing days forever.
Tex was my first literary crush. I fell so in love with Tex. So. In. Love. He was a bad boy, the rebel, the one your mom would never let you date. But he had a core of solid gold sweetness. You just wanted to wrap him up and make him feel better. Matt Dillon played him in the movie version, which as I recall was okay. I couldn't stand Meg Tilly in the role of Jamie, though. Still can't. Anyway, I credit Tex with introducing me to my life long love of tortured souls, bad boys and haunted heroes.
6. My First Love and Other Disasters by Francine Pascal
It's not easy to be fifteen and in love - especially if the boy you love is seventeen, gorgeous, and doesn't even know you exist! Victoria is determined to be a mother's helper on Fire Island, where Jim will be spending the summer. So what if he's got a girlfriend back in the city. Anything can happen. Victoria finds herself overburdened with two small children, but she's sure it's worth it because Jim not only notices her - he likes her! And yet, if this is her dream come true, why isn't she happy?
Classic story of friends into lovers, loving the wrong guy, appearances are deceiving, and all of that. Toss in a The Nanny Diaries level of child neglect and this one stuck with me. No, not a classic. But I still have my copy.
7. Going On Sixteen by Betty Cavana
It should be a wonderful dress. It should be a dress that would transform her from the awkward, self-conscious Julie Ferguson into an entirely different girl. Fervently Julie whispered to the mirror, "I hope."
This was such a sweet book. Written in 1946, it included soda fountains and ladies' dress shops and a boy named Dick who wasn't ridiculed. Another ugly duckling tale, but about a girl who'd lost her mother and was fighting her way through her teens with only a rough, gruff farmer father to turn to. My copy cost 50 cents. When did books only cost 50 cents?
8. Sooner or Later by Bruce and Carole Hart
My name is Jessie Walters. Everyone calls me Jessie, except Michael sometimes calls me Jess (I love that). I'm thirteen. Michael's seventeen. I think I can handle myself with Michael most of the time. But when he looks at me, I freak out. He's so attractive and so different from anyone my own age.
I don't think Michael would be very interested in me if he knew my real age - even if I am going to be fourteen in a few months. And I hate having to lie to him because I have to keep covering up with more lies. I have to tell him the truth soon, but I just can't get myself to say it. Well I got myself into this and I'll get myself out. Without a scratch I hope.
Okay, this was technically a movie that was turned into a book, although in my defense, I read the book before I saw the movie that inspired it. The movie starred 70s heart-throb Rex Smith, and if I recall correctly, he was dreamy. Hey, I was only thirteen. Thing about this book - I remember when I read it thinking it perfectly acceptable for a thirteen year old girl to date a seventeen year old boy. If I'd been Jessie, I'd have lied too (Rex Smith!). But now, having a daughter of my own, gack! And how did she pull it off, anyway? Can thirteen year olds really pass for sixteen? No, don't answer that. I need to get some sleep in the next ten years.
9. Alabama Moon by Brenda Cole
Stacy had a few questions! "It will all work out for the best," Aunt Sarah had comforted homesick, city-bred Stacy. But would it? Stacy had just learned that her parents were divorcing. They had sent her miles away to spend the summer with relatives on a farm in Alabama. What did she know about cows, horses and tractors? What did she care about okra picking and home canning? What difference would it make if she couldn't even guess the feelings of tall, lanky Lane, whose sandy hair and blue eyes had captivated her from the moment they met?
Anyone reading this who never read a First Love from Silhouette novel, you must have no soul! These were the best. I've kept a handful, thinking my future children would like to read them. Yeah, I've gotten over that. But this one was my all time favorite. Makes me wish I were fifteen again and racing home to flop on my rainbow bedspread, crank up the REO Speedwagon and get lost in the bloom of first love...
10. Deenie by Judy Blume
When Deenie sees the brace for the first time, she wants to scream. Forget it...I'm never going to wear that thing. Everyone will know. Everone!
But the words won't come out. And Deenie, beautiful Deenie, who everyone says should be a model, is stuck wearing a brace from her neck to her hips. For four years - or longer. How would she ever face the hard times ahead?
This is the Ugly Duckling story in reverse. Deenie is beautiful and on her way to becoming a model when she finds out she has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Suddenly she's a freak. Not only did this book take on a pretty unusual problem, Blume pulled no punches talking about Deenie's discovery of her own body. I think Judy Blume deserves credit as the writer who ushered in the modern YA protagonist, one who is real instead of one who parents wish was real.
The last three books on my list are YA titles, but I have to confess that I was way - waaayyyy - past my young adult years when I read them. Even so, they still count among my 13 favorite YA books, so I figure I get a pass. Also, since these are all new(er) titles, I'm not going to include the back cover blurbs. You can find it on Amazon via the links.
11. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingOf all the HP books, this one does such an amazing job allowing Harry to be obnoxious it ranks as one of my favorite YA books. Harry is downright annoying in this book. He yells at his friends, he broods and sulks. He throws things and pouts when things go wrong. He's acts 100% teenager. Brilliant.
12. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Amazing book. The amazing part is that the narrative is split between four main characters, yet I still managed a tear (or a few) for all of the girls. This technique could have gone so wrong, given the brevity of YA novels and the small amount of time able to be devoted to each individual story. But Brashares did such a masterful job capturing the essence of each girls' story arc it worked beautifully. Too, these girls seemed real. Like kids in my town rather than the jaded, more wordly than most adults girls portrayed in so many of today's YA pre-chick lit offerings.
13. Sloppy Firsts/Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty
I know this is technically two different books, but since the story spills from SF into SH, where it ties up so neatly, I feel justified in keeping these together. What a great heroine. What an amazing anti-hero turned hero. Marcus Flutie, where were you when I was in high school?
So, there we have my first Thursday Thirteen. Promise the next one won't be so wordy. I think.