Yesterday, while playing on my social media accounts, I found what I considered to be a wonderful bracket poll that Entertainment Weekly is doing. They’re asking us, their readers, what is the best young adult book of all time? Now, to me, there are some that shouldn’t be on that list and there are some that are missing, but looking at the list got me thinking of the books that impacted my childhood and youth.
For instance, one that is on that list is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Now, this is going to get very candid from here on out…
For those who don’t know about the book, Thirteen Reasons Why is written in the perspective of a girl who committed suicide and its title is based on the number of reasons why the girl committed suicide. A note with thirteen names was given to be handed off to each person on that list that also included a map and cassette tapes. The girl then takes you on a journey through the perspective of one of the thirteen people and herself, of course because of the cassette tape.
The story is an emotional rollercoaster and a touching one at that because every single person in this world can relate to something in this novel. You may not be the girl, who committed suicide, but you could’ve turned a blind eye to someone, something, or a situation, could’ve teased someone because everyone else was and you didn’t want to be mocked, be the mean girl or guy in a situation because you know cliques get catty no matter guy or girl clique….we all have been someone described.
And for me, when I read this book, I was the girl who committed suicide; but I survived. However, I could list out and relate to some of the reasons she did it. I had people who lied and destroy my reputation; I had been sexually assaulted by guys I considered friends; I turned blind eyes and felt guilty later on; I didn’t do something (or did do something) and then felt immense guilt later on… I think people don’t realize what their actions may set in motion at the time of doing said action and this realization, the way it’s put in the book, really brings you to back down to earth. At some points I wanted to stop reading because I would find myself relating so much to Hannah, the girl who commits suicide, and find myself remembering situations that happened exactly as it’s written out, but I felt that reading the book was a way of coping with my memories and coping with what happened. It made me feel like I’m not alone. And I’m not. And since I read that book I’ve become more open and honest about my past because I never know who I will help. I still have issues; I still don’t find myself confident enough or anything like that, but I know—I know hands down—that I am strong enough to deal with whatever life throws at me no matter how hard it is, no matter how slow I go through it. Life is worth living.
Another one, which is not on the bracket, is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. Now, this is a toss –up as a YA book. I think Europe says it’s YA, but America doesn’t, but I read it as a teen, so it’s YA to me.
This book is about a boy named Christopher who has a form of mental or behavioral disability (though I seem to link it to autism due to personal knowledge of the disability). One night his neighbor’s dog is killed, the police suspect him, and he tries to find out why and who did it because it bothered him so much. So, he starts being kind of like Harriet the Spy and questioning his neighbors, who he had never interacted with before and trying to piece the puzzle together. What makes this unique though, and impacted me, is that the story is told through Christopher’s view. And since he has a form of autism it allows you to see/read into the thought process of a child with autism who are normally extremely intelligent and highly functional. My cousin’s have autism; one severe, one not so severe. The one who is severe is 17 and cannot speak at all. She can say like mom, or I want, and things like that, but she’s can’t have a conversation like we do today. But I remember when she was 3 or 4, instead of throwing toys all over the place she was lining them up, putting them in size and shape order, putting them in color order—I was amazed. I certainly wasn’t clean at that age nor cared about lining things up or putting them in color order. I was always fascinated by her and this book, whether it’s a true glimpse or not, gave me an idea what it’s like to be the mind of an autistic child. It also made me understand more what my aunt goes through raising two autistic children as a single mother since Christopher’s father was raising him on his own as well. It’s a book I will always cherish.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck; this is a heart breaking story, but it’s a true testament of friendship and love. This book is set during the Great Depression and the main characters, George and Lennie, and trekking the country to find work at ranches to make it by. However, Lennie has a mental disability as well as having a love for soft things. He constantly tells the story of wanting to touch soft bunnies and cuddling them. George also constantly looks out for and after Lennie, like a brother, a best friend. He kept him out of trouble and in the end…well… you’ll have to read it to find out.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank. Until I read this book, I didn’t really fully understand what happened during World War II. I didn’t fully understand the hatred that was really built up against the Jews (I feel bad even just saying Jews). It also made me realize what it was like to be a person oppressed, in hiding, living off of nothing, scared for your life because your kind wasn’t liked. I feel like this was much worse than slavery and much worse than segregation. This was wiping out an entire people. I still can’t fathom today how and why that happened and happens because it’s still going on today. It just grounds me every time I read this book.
For now… I’m done…I may come back and write about more books, but these are the 4 that have definitely stood out for me.
Until next time, xo.