So, after seeing Catching Fire this weekend (and LOVING IT SO HARD), I tried to imagine whether or not I would have been into The Hunger Games trilogy as a teenager.
This is not an easy thing to do. Unless I’m mistaken (and someone, please tell me if I am), there wasn’t much dystopian YA on the shelves in the late 90’s. Or, if there was, I totally missed it since I was pretty busy searching Altavista for Backstreet Boys pictures, while my brother thumped on the door, demanding to use the computer for his homework.
But obviously we were all reading something in the 90s, right? For many of us with the reading & writing bug, the diagnose came during, or well before our teen years. My earliest memories of it are when I was three or four. I used to dictate stories to my mom before I could write, and then she’d hand me my pages and I’d illustrate them with crayon or marker, whatever was handy.
Anyway, I digress. We didn’t have Suzanne Collins or JK Rowling back then, but we did have the greats like Ann M. Martin (who I wrote to in fourth grade, and who WROTE ME BACK), Francine Pascal, and of course, our sovereign ruler, Judy Blume.
And so, I present the The Most Important Books I Read as a Kid, based strictly on how well I still remember them today, and how likely I’d be to stock them in the bedroom of our future kids…
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume. One of JB’s lesser known gems, and a fantastic one at that. A coming-of-age at the end of WWII? Yes, please.
Alice in Rapture, Sort of by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I still remember her unfortunate discovery of what Lucite is, and I was horrified for her when she got sick at home by herself.
Tie: Baby-Sitter’s Summer Vacation & Baby Sitter’s Winter Vacation by Ann M. Martin. Summer camp? And a SKI LODGE!? They were so grown up and mature!
Thirteen by Candice Ranson. There’s a scene at the beginning with the two protagonists on a board walk together, and a scene at the end when they buy matching dresses together in a big city. I dreamt of having similar experiences.
Tie: The Mysterious Story of Henry Sugar & The BFG by Roald Dahl. I devoured and re-devoured both of thesuntil I was way past the target age group. Also, check out the Henry Sugar cover. I’d hang that in my house, to this day.
Uncanny! by Paul Jennings. When I went on a school exchange program to New Zealand, I think there was a Paul Jennings story read to us in class (or maybe my host family had copies?). Either way, it’s a shame that more American kids weren’t introduced to the quirk.
The Children’s Story by James Clavel. Read to us in class by one of my sixth grade teachers, who gave me a copy at the end of the school year. Haunting.
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. Read to us by that same sixth grade teacher. One of my first introductions to adult suspense (he read up through the last scene and then gave us a writing assignment to complete the story.)
Fun fact: all covers shown are the same ones I had, except The Most Dangerous Game. I’ve never seen a cover for that until today.