I’m well into my twenties now, with plenty of reading under my belt and far away from my seven year old self who struggled with Harry Potter. But there is one giant reading span I like to think of occasionally and the books I adored during that time: my teenage years. So for those who like data and recommendations, here are the books I enjoyed through my teenage years.
- 10 year old me: Shy, easily frightened and worried about finding friends after moving to the big city from a desert town. I took comfort in the books I already had enjoyed and re-read over and over again. Books such as my one about mythology, choose your own adventures and those picture books that I had told myself I was too old for. But it was the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling that helped me connect with my new peers in a strange new place.
- 11 year old me: I was into softball and making silly jokes. I had friends, more friends than I had ever had in my old home – which made me giddy. I was also the fastest reader in my class, eventually winning an award…to shave my teacher’s head (what kind of award was that?!) But I was also getting interested in learning about other countries, particularly China. And I think this was helped by a wonderful fairytale retelling set in 20th Century China called Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah.
- 12 year old me: I had begun high school and it was weird but fun place. But I also had access to a much bigger library – with a huge fantasy section that all my friends couldn’t help but rave about. Vampires. Girls with psychic powers. Classic about ‘godly’ lions…And then there was Raymond E Feist. I fell in love with Magician, an epic fantasy with dragons, dwarves, elves, magic and politics. And I loved it so much, I pretty much spent the whole year just devouring all his works and collaborations with other authors.
- 13 year old me: By this point I was pretty much turning into the kid who spent her lunch and recess captivated by a book. I was branching out into more modern novels, ones written by Meg Cabot about boys and dating and highschool cliques (which in the end I didn’t really care for). But I had found a new favorite author: Juliet Marillier. And Wildwood Dancing, a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and the Frog Prince was an absolute keeper.
- 14 year old me: I was into making mixed CDs for my friends, going to Karate with my best friend, playing video games with my younger brother and berating him… I also adored fantasy novels by Australian authors: Isobelle Carmody, Sara Douglass, Garth Nix, Trudi Canavan and Traci Harding. But the one book that really captivated me and all my closest friends was Does My Head Look Big In This? by Abdel-Randa Fattah. It was another Australian novel about a young Muslim girl and her choice to wear the hijab, and the clash between her culture and Western ideals.
- 15 year old me: I was beginning to seriously think about college and what I wanted to do…And the college I chose was the one that taught Mandarin (Chinese). I had first discovered my fascination with Chinese Culture with Chinese Cinderella and had read novels such as Wild Swans, Mao’s Last Dancer, Shanghai Girls and many others since then. But I think my favorite was definitely Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, a story about friendship, footbinding and love.
- 16 year old me: I was at college, with my close friends not there and struggling to find my feet. I loved my history and Chinese classes – thought my Sociology teacher hated me and eventually found friends that shared my geeky interests…Having actual friends who played video games, and who introduced me to so many that I almost squealed with excitement and didn’t leave much room for reading. I must have read only a handful of books that year but I do remember loving The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. One that my mum wouldn’t pick to read because she was scared of vampires.
- 17 year old me: It was my final year of college, I finally could drive a car by myself and I was pretty worried about my future and getting into university. I was so stressed I think I read less books than when I was 16…Driving my inner thoughts that I was lazy and unrefined. But it was also the year that teachers were giving me interesting books to read for English. And although my English teacher didn’t like me and wouldn’t bother with my questions – I adored The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It was dark, it was disturbing and I’m surprised I haven’t read more Atwood since then.
- 18 year old me: It was my first year of university – and I fell into the bookclub crowd. I had discovered Goodreads and Vaginal Fantasy – a bookclub hosted by Felicia Day, Veronica Belmont, Kiala Kazebee and Bonnie Burton. I finally got back into reading again – in a big way. Mainly due to having a Kindle and a drive to read something other than my prescribed textbooks. Posion Study by Maria V. Snyder brought a sense of excitement and curiosity – about a prisoner forced to become the King’s food taster.
- 19 year old me: I was dealing with a bad bout of depression, stress and anxiety – all not exactly nice things. I hated my degree, I was severely disappointed and angry that the university was cutting the Chinese language program and I was in bad place trying to figure out whether I should quit university. And books became very important – a chance to escape. I was reading more fantasy and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – this beautiful, lyrical tale was the lighthouse in a severe storm.
My teenage years were a mixed bag – but the one big highlight was all the books! They have helped me over the years through learning about other cultures and how to be more emotionally aware, but also through some very tough times. This is why, although people like to complain about all the YA books, I love seeing more and more teenagers reading. It is a delight and a pleasure I cannot really describe in large detail.
So what books did you read in your teenage years?