Discussion: Books from Childhood/Teen Years

Two things prompted this for me. The second was this week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic that I honestly feel too lazy to try to work out, which is Top 10 Books From My Childhood (Or teen years) That I Would Love To Revisit. The first was an interaction I had on Sunday morning. My mom works in the library at our church, and I always go in there to chat with her after service.

So this Sunday, there was a family who came in and one of the girls in this family came straight up to the counter and asked my mom if she had any recommendations. My mom wasn’t really sure, and then deflects the question to me. This girl was obviously young, and I was thinking geeze thanks, Mom, I have no idea. I asked the girl how old she was and she said 11. That didn’t really help me at all except now I know what an 11 year old looks like (there’s a blur between about 6 and 12 where all kids look the same to me). She ended up walking away with nothing, and I spent some time after that looking at the middle grade/YA section we have there, if you can call it that. I mean, the selection was fairly decent considering I don’t see much more (maybe even less sometimes) in this age category at a Christian bookstore. Obviously, there is a better selection at like a Barnes and Noble when you’re going beyond just Christian reads, understandably, but it really got me to thinking.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this girl goes through a similar experience than I did. When I was a kid, I was reading things like American Girl, Babysitter’s Club, Boxcar Children, and I also read some Christian books aimed for younger audiences, and thanks to looking at the shelves at the church library I remember some of those books: The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle by Bill Myers, Dixie Morris Animal Adventures by Gilbert Morris, and others I don’t remember the names of. But at some point, probably close to 11, is when I came across an awkward stage of life in my reading where I discovered:

– The books for younger kids weren’t cutting it for me anymore.

– The books for teens were annoying because they were all dating and drama.

– While I had the reading ability for many adult books, most of them dealt with adult problems.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this is where this 11 year old girl is at.

It does seem that there is a decent selection of middle grade/younger YA books out there now, that maybe there is a good selection that is appropriate for an 11 year old, but I feel I know I certainly missed that boat. I spent years struggling not knowing which books were worth picking up. And I know this isn’t a genre that most of my readers read, but I feel that there is definitely a black hole in the middle grade/YA market in Christian fiction. There really needs to be more options.

But then again, maybe there are plenty, I honestly don’t really know since I’m not seeking those books out. Maybe instead the problem is that all these books are just titles on a shelf. This 11 year old girl just wanted to know what we liked. What had been tested and approved by someone else? How do you get this sort of feedback when you’re 11, from someone other than friends? 11 year olds aren’t reading blogs or on Goodreads. I think the best option they have is book fairs, and even that only helps so much.

I think it’s easy for people to overlook this age group. I remember some of books from my younger childhood years, and I remember some of the books from my teen years, but there is a bit of a void in the middle. I guess what I want to know is: do you remember what books you read when you were in that preteen/tween age? Do you remember feeling an awkward stage between kids’ books and teen books?

10 Responses to Discussion: Books from Childhood/Teen Years

  1. Yes! I definitely remember that awkward stage. The kids books were way too young, most MG books were below my reading level(and the middle school I went to had the AR program and we were not allowed to read below our level, though once you hit your points goal for the six weeks you were allowed to read up a few levels). The few YA titles were things I weren’t interested in, and yup, like you said most of the other books had adult problems I couldn’t care about(I remember trying to get through Gone with the Wind at this age and just couldn’t)

    I think what I mostly remember reading at that age was adult fantasy(and to a lesser extent, science fiction). The characters might have been adults, but since it was a fantasy world their problems were more like “oh look, here’s a dragon guarding the door I need to get through” rather than “my husband hates me and we’re getting a divorce”. I think I definitely read parts of books I didn’t understand at that age, but having speculative fiction definitely bridged that gap a little.

    • Sounds like someone should have introduced me to speculative fiction sooner! I enjoy reading those books now because I’d rather read about their problems than ones from our world.

  2. Well for me the first novel I read was when I was 11 years old. It was Mysterious Affair at Styles, and it was a gift from my aunt. And until I was 13 I only read books by Agatha Christie, maybe 3 classics and few religious books, and that was it.
    Maybe it was because of the lack of readers around me, it was hard to choose a book to read.
    now I am 16 years old, and picking a good book isn’t any easier, but the only credit is for Goodreads and books blogs that at least I know I’ll enjoy what I am reading.

    • I read some mysteries based on the game Clue when I was about that age, but didn’t move up to Agatha Christie. That might not have been a bad idea. I hope you find picking reads easier over time. Sometimes I still pick duds but GR and blogs definitely help me with choosing what to read next.

  3. I was thinking about this just a few days ago. It’s hard to remember what books are age appropriate; there’s such a big difference between eight and eleven years old, and you wouldn’t want to be caught dead with a baby book in sixth grade. I do remember there being an awkward transition period, and I remember us complaining about it over e-mails in the sixth grade. 🙂 I remember between fifth and sixth grade working through a few classics, like Jane Austen and Tolkein, and some classic kid’s books, like Dahl, the Anne of Green Gables books, and E. Nesbit. I also read some teen and adult Sci-fi/fantasy that had a greater focus on adventure and character development than romance. I also remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows, The Giver, The Outsiders, and Island of the Blue Dolphins in school. I think Lois Lowry and Avi were big authors for our age group. My favorite books at 11 were probably The Outsiders, Watership Down, anything by Tamora Pierce, and the Chronicles of Prydain. Central Baptist actually had a fairly big section for middle-grade Christian fiction, but the only books I remember from it at the moment were the Christian Choose Your Own Adventure books, which were bizarre, and the Mandie series.


    • I don’t remember those emails, but I don’t have a hard time believing that at all! I was so anti-classic when I was that age… I wish I wasn’t… I think I would have liked some at least, like when I had to read The Hobbit for school I liked it. I do remember reading some of those Mandie books, but I never got super into them. Thanks for your thoughts, Amanda!

  4. Hmm. I don’t think I had any trouble when I was 11 years old to be honest. On the other hand, I had a lot of trouble when I was 13-15ish years old. I didn’t want to read adult books, MG books were too easy for me. And even though there was YA, I also didn’t like the drama that came with everything. I really liked the paranormal genre, but I HATED romance. So I kind of just…stopped reading. Yeah. 😛

    • I understand! I might have had an easy time with what to read when I was 11, but I sadly don’t remember what I read because it was so long ago. So what did you enjoy reading back then?

  5. Interesting thought. I hadn’t considered it but 11 was pretty much a void for me too. I’d read all the Narnia books, some of them more times than I could count. I had read the first three books in Madeleine L’Engle’s time quartet. Again several times. A Swiftly Tilting Planet felt like I was still grasping for threads in that story I couldn’t quite connect so A Wind in the Door was my favorite then. I tried another book by her, Dragons in the Water, but didn’t love it as much so went back to rereading. At 12 I discovered The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley and absolutely fell in love. But I can’t remember any other books I read then. Except a lot of Babysitters Club 🙂

    • I’ve actually never read any Madeleine L’Engle before, and I only read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe until I was much older! So sad!

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