As I was reading Lizzie Skurnick’s Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, I got to thinking about the books I reread obsessively from the ages of 10-14 or so that weren’t included in her book.
Some weren’t really teen books. The summer I turned 13, for example, I read Gone with the Wind twice. I’m not even sure I put the book down at the end before turning back to the beginning to start all over again. I loved it that much.
I’m not sure why The Outsiders wasn’t included. Maybe because Skurnick’s focus is on books that formed a young female consciousness, and the protagonist of The Outsiders is a fourteen-year-old boy. But I had no problem envisioning myself as Ponyboy, especially when I found out he was a writer. The Outsiders was another book where I reached the end and turned right back to the beginning. And aside from Fonzie, Dallas Winston was my first introduction to the bad boy. (Hey, Fonzie wore a leather jacket and drove a motorcycle. That definitely qualified him as a bad boy.) Dreamy Dallas, shot down in a blaze of quixotic (read: super pointless) glory.
This was the cover of the edition that I read and reread. The edges were dark turquoise green and the book was printed on that pulpy 1960s paper that yellowed and smelled musty.
And then there was Gordon Korman, without a doubt my favorite YA author when I actually was a YA.
If it seems like Korman has been around forever, that’s because he has. He wrote his first novel when he was in 7th grade! There’s a wonderful story that sounds apocryphal but that I hope is true about how a track coach unexpectedly became the English teacher and assigned his students to write a novel. Korman sent his off to Scholastic, and it was published. My own favorite of the three novels of his that I read and reread during my own middle-school years–Son of Interflux, Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag, and Don’t Care High–was published when he was just 22.
My personal copies of these books, dog-eared and crinkly from having wet fingers holding them for bath-time reading, have long since disappeared, but they were available for a penny each on Amazon. So I can now proudly add these three classics to my library: