I have very few complaints about being a grown-up. Why, just today I had Triscuits and cheddar cheese for dinner and I plan to stay up as late as I want tonight. Cray-zay. But sometimes, I get to feeling a little longing for the great Young Adult fiction of my awkward years.
C’mon, you remember how “Harriet the Spy” was more than just a book character; she was a role model, right? I’m here to tell you that some YA fiction, like the wine we can now drink as grown-ups, is even better with age. Reread these and you won’t regret it:
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Required reading in 5th through 8th-grade classes across the nation at one point, I have no idea if this book is still popular. Gary Paulsen made reading cool for boys back in the 1980s and 90s. He also planted the love of survival fiction in me. Follow Brian, the young hero, as he lives in the wilderness after a plane crash. Since it’s a kids’ book, you probably don’t have to worry too much about whether he’ll make it to the end.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Katherine Paterson can write. This touching book is both imaginative and starkly real. Lonely friends, Jesse and Leslie, create a fantasy world they call Terabithia. It’s their escape from the real life bullies, poverty and eventually tragedy and grief. For me, it stands out as one of the first times an author made me really feel some emotion. It still does.
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
While Shel Silverstein’s poems about eating a lot and turning into a TV if you watch too much of it are clearly aimed at children, a lot of the poems are surprisingly adult. The messages of other poems range from silly (“I’m being eaten by a boa constrictor and I don’t like it one bit”) to serious (“All the magic I have ever known, I’ve had to make myself”). “Where the Sidewalk Ends” mesmerized me at 8 and decades later has the same effect.
I’m not sure R.L. Stine, “The Babysitter’s Club,” or Choose Your Own Adventures hold up the same way, but it’s great fun to pick up your old childhood favorites and slow down on a Saturday morning. You can do grown-up stuff later.