Young Adult Books That Changed My Life

As kids,  my mother would not deny me or my siblings books. She was quick to say hell to the no when you wanted another Barbie doll or Darth Vader action figure (because your older brother with the weird plastic-chewing compulsion wrecked the Dark Lord’s lightsaber again) but she would buy you as many books as you could carry. So thanks to Mama Gladys and Scholastic, here’s some of the books that had a major impact on me as a young person.

Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements

As a kid who weighed about only 20 pounds more than her classmates but thought she was monstrously fat I remember reading this book and wanting poor Elsie to rise up and kick those snooty girls’ asses. This book taught me that teasing people was never okay and that I should be grateful my mother didn’t put me on a carrots-and-broth diet.

Anything by Norma Klein

If there was a Cult of Norma Klein, I would be the leader. We’d summer on Fire Island, call our parents by their first names, wear gauzy caftans, drink wine and write flash fiction about intelligent girls, romantic boys and their dysfunctional families.

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

I read this book not long after a close classmates’ father was murdered. It was my first experience with something so tragic and Blume’s delicate yet unflinching treatment of such an event helped me process a lot of emotions surrounding his death.

The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson

After reading this book, I became even more respectful of my parents. I remember asking them, “How much do you love me?” and “Would you ever send me away for being bad?” I was so paranoid! To this day, it still gives me chills.


8 thoughts on “Young Adult Books That Changed My Life”

  1. Oh, you are clearly from my era. I loved Norma Klein, too. I also loved and re-read M.E. Kerr and Paul Zindel. Paula Danziger’s The Cat Ate My Gymsuit is also a classic!


  2. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read Judy Blume or Norma Klein. As to the YA I’ve read as an adult that would’ve had a huge impact on me as a teen? I would say, Russell Banks, Rule of the Bone (an adult novel with a teen protag), and Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos.


  3. It’s great that books can have the power to change lives, isn’t it? I’ve turned to books since I was very young. In fact, Medeia Sharif commented on my blog that reading is her oxygen and I thought that sums it up just perfectly. 🙂


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