After reading BMR’s recent interview with Kristen-Paige Madonia, I started thinking about some of the young adult and children’s literature that I still cherish to this day. As Kristen-Paige said, there is something magical in young adult literature that is hard to find anywhere else. Here’s some of the fiction from my youth that I still love to read, and that still helps to fire up my creativity when I sit down to write.
Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is the story of a spoiled young girl who is forced to grow up quickly on the high seas. I read this book in one sitting when I was about eleven years old. As an adult, I still love the detailed description of life aboard the ship and its ragtag crew.
Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet got me into trouble in the seventh grade when I couldn’t stop reading it during math class. Paulsen’s tale of a boy who learns to survive on his own in the wilderness remains an exciting, captivating read.
Alvin Schwartz’s More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is full of tales that are chilling enough for children, but made even more terrifying with the addition of Stephen Gammell’s controversial illustrations. Gammell’s artwork helped to get this series of books banned in some school districts; and to this day, when I see those ghostly images, I feel like I’m heading into the shadows. This was my favorite book from the series, and I still look to it when I feel like writing something scary.
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart isn’t technically young adult fiction, but it’s a short story that most young adults are required to read in middle or high school. I think many adults continue to associate Poe with high school English class, but reading him as an adult is even more satisfying as you explore his multiple layers. This story disturbed me then, and it remains another piece of fiction that I turn to when I’m feeling dark.
Bill Brittain’s The Wish Giver is a cautionary tale that I read in the fifth grade, and then several more times as I grew up. The eerily magical feel of the story never faded for me, and its lessons can benefit both children and adults. Of all the books I have read in my life, it left one of the biggest impressions.
Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows had trouble finding an audience until it was marketed toward young adults. What child didn’t feel gutted at the end of this book? As an adult, it still breaks my heart to revisit the classic, touching tale of a boy and his two faithful dogs.
Ashley Brodeur is an English major in her senior year at the University of New Mexico.