A Y.A. Lover's Summer Reading List, by Judy Blume, R.L. Stine, and Others
We asked some of our favorite Y.A. book authors for the titles that would have been on their ideal summer reading lists, and why.
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Y.A. for Grownups is a weekly series in which we talk about Y.A. literature—from the now nostalgia-infused stories we devoured as kids to more contemporary tomes being read by young people today.
A seasonal gift (or burden) of our youth is the old summer reading list, those books we were supposed to "get ahead" on while ostensibly on vacation for three joyous months. Sometimes we loved the list, sometimes we hated it, and we read it with varying levels of dedication depending on that. But what if you could have picked those books yourself: What would you have chosen? As a companion to our primer on how to identify the perfect beach read, we asked some of our favorite Y.A. book authors (Judy Blume! R.L. Stine!) for the titles that would have been on their ideal summer reading lists—from middle-grade to Y.A. to adult—and why.
author of the Goosebumps
and Fear Street
series (among others) and an upcoming novel for adults titled Red Rain
, told The Atlantic Wire, "I would recommend a wonderful, scary Ray Bradbury novel that has always been one of my favorites—Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Late at night, a boy in the midwest sneaks out of his house to go watch a carnival set up in an empty field. He doesn't realize it's a carnival of evil and he's about to be trapped in all its horror." Stine adds, "I would also recommend The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
A bit difficult but accessible enough to Y.A. readers and worth it for the amazing imagination and droll humor and unforgettable characters."
author of any number of books you devoured as a kid, including Are You There God?, It's Me Margaret
, and quintessential summer read the adult novel Summer Sisters,
"Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
," about a Jewish girl in New York in the 1930s who dreams of becoming an actress, and the course her life actually takes. (The book became a movie starring Natalie Wood.) "I wanted to be Marjorie—except for the ending," confesses Blume.
author of The Eleventh Plague
and the upcoming Magisterium
(October 2012), offered the following: Watchmen, by Alan Moore.
"In my mind Moore's classic graphic novel could be a perfect school assignment," he told us. "You can talk about its themes and structure all day long as well as use it to explore issues of history and gender and power and fanaticism, but at the end of the day it's an incredibly engrossing story about people in ridiculous outfits punching other people in ridiculous outfits." Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth.
"My parents didn't much care what I read as a kid, just that I was reading. If we can get the entire country to subscribe to this notion, then this is a great school assignment for reluctant readers, especially boys. Again, plenty of fancy literary stuff to talk about, but it's laugh-out-loud funny and shockingly profane in a way teens might appreciate and relate to." And, Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry.
"Like most kids, when book report time came I was looking for the shortest book possible, but there comes a time when you need to make the leap to a big one," he says. "McMurtry's classic is a great entry point. Beautifully written with unforgettable characters and a truly epic sweep...I have a hard time imagining anyone not getting sucked into the joys of long immersive novels by this one. And for kids who need an even more gradual on-ramp, the movie's great too!"
author of the Shiver
trilogy, The Scorpio Races
, and the forthcoming The Raven Boys
(September 18), informed us, "This is the summer reading list I'm going to assign to my minions when I'm Queen of the World. So you might as well get a jump on it now." Her list begins with The Arrival, by Shaun Tan
, of which she says, "This book doesn't even have any words. Just stunning artwork and a very clever immigration metaphor." Then there's How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford
. "In my head, this book is a movie, and in the movie, there is John Cusack, and in my dreams, John Cusack is still 20." The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.
"Just because if you haven't read it, you need to." Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld.
"This book has vampires, but not like that. Even if you do like your vampires like that, however, I think you'll like this one." And Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.
"This book will take you the longest to read of all of these, but it's worth it. It's the story of two girls shot down over World War II France, and the characters are so real you'll want to write them letters."
CARAGH O'BRIEN, author of the dystopian Birthmarked trilogy (the final book of which, Promised, will be out in October), told us, "The stories I liked to read and reread back around 5th grade hooked me with their gritty fantasy or injustice or both. An abused horse, an accused witch, or a cut bird could get me every time. I’m still guided by MacDonald’s ethereal moon lamp." As such, she chose The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald; The Green Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang; Blitz, by Hetty Burlingame Beatty; and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare.
author of Prom & Prejudice
, The Lonely Hearts Club
, and, most recently, Take a Bow
, gave us some titles we loved, too, including Sweet Valley High, by Francine Pascal
. "I spent an entire summer reading this series and would bike to the library to get the next book as soon as I was finished. I think even back then I knew it was escapist fun. There weren't any blonde, 'perfect size six' twins where I was from!" she says. She also loved Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt
. "While this book is a complete 180 from Sweet Valley High
, I’ve always been compelled with real people with real problems. And boy did the Tillermans have their problems!" From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg.
"I became obsessed with this book as a kid. My family visited New York City when I was in sixth grade and I begged my mom to buy me this book at the Met about the rooms featured in the book. I still think of this book every time I walk by the Met." Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes.
"This book was the first time I was aware of the first-person voice. The way the narrator of the book goes from being very simple with many misspellings to an eloquent narrator and back broke my heart," she says. And finally, anything by Stephen King.
author of Not That Kind of Girl, Same Difference, A Little Friendly Advice,
and, most recently, The List,
suggested the following, from classic to contemporary: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith.
"This novel encompassed everything I loved reading about as a teen—an aspiring young female writer, a decaying English castle, and lots of boys." Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton.
"This was the first book I read in my adolescence that eschewed the traditional happy ending, and it made a huge impact. I must have read it a hundred times. Botched sled suicide for the win!" Her more modern choices were The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank
—"I fell head over heels for Jane Rosenal as an adult, and I know I would have loved her as a teen reader"—and The Finishing School, by Muriel Spark.
"I know this novel would have been a favorite of mine had I read it as an adolescent," she says. "I often dreamed of attending a fancy, indulgent boarding school for rich kids. And I think any teenager would love the confirmation that their mentoring adults are secretly, desperately jealous of them."
author of A Need So Beautiful
, The Program
, and the upcoming A Want So Wicked
(June 26), was a big Stephen King fan, too—plus Fitzgerald and the always great Lois Duncan. Her picks: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
"Love, tragedy, and huge lavish parties. It’s crazy how every time I read this book, I discover something new or horrible about the characters," she says. "Time and experience definitely change your perspective." [Re-read this one!] Summer of Fear, by Lois Duncan.
"A cousin trying to steal your life, and your boyfriend! I’m all over that kind of scandal," she says. "Add in mystery and witchcraft, and this was one addictive read when I was a teen." And Young agrees that "pretty much everything by Stephen King
" is worth a read."What is it about Stephen King that connects with teens? I absolutely devoured everything he wrote from The Tommyknockers
, minus IT,
because it freaked me out."
JESSICA SPOTSWOOD, author of Born Wicked, the first in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, told The Atlantic Wire, "My dream summer reading list would have definitely included Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind,which is still one of my favorite books; I love how strong and clever and flawed Scarlett O'Hara is, that she's a survivor in a society that doesn't value that in its women. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells would have been on my list, too, because then as now I love stories about complicated families and the friends who become our families. And my favorite Austen in high school was Emma, because I was an (often ill-fated) matchmaker myself -- but today I would go with Northanger Abbey, because I adore snarky Henry Tilney."
Well, that should get you through August.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.