A thing we worry about a lot (we being my coworkers and I) is giving kids the best possible experience. We want to give them books that speak to them and their experiences, but I think sometimes people get caught up on what that really means. I've had parents and grandparents waver on buying books like Anna Hibiscus because the main character lived in Nigeria and was therefore too far beyond their children's realm of experience.
And it makes me sad! Because first: you are depriving children the opportunity to expand their worlds and learn to identify with people different than them (one of the number one problems we as a culture have is our inability to connect with people that is not us!) but also because God, their reading experiences are going to be vanilla and that is so sad.
Anyway! It got me thinking about the books that changed my world, and challenged me when I was younger! And I asked the other YA Highway girls. This is what we had to say.
I think it was that book for so, so many people. I remember reading that book and feeling like nothing had ever spoken to me so clearly before. It just opened a humongous door of challenging reading. Also, I credit THE GIVER for making me the kind of person who delights in open or downright negative endings. All through college I just wanted books to end with vague uncertainty. - Sarah
With the Giver it was because I was a VERY emotional child and I had always hated how sensitive I was, but the whole book (for me) was about how essential emotions were, so for me it was a step on the path to accepting myself, woohoo!
The Lemming Condition
And the Lemming book is this huge (heavy handed, I'm sure) commentary on conformity and taking a different path than your friends and family, at the expense of those family and friends and ugh, the loss and the intensity, it was a lot to take but so important. - VeronicaThe Golden Compass
I think I was the main character's exact or almost exact age when I read it. (She's 11, iirc, and I was 12 when I read it the first time.) And the idea that there could be these parallel universes with people my age going on these amazing and scary adventures was just mind blowing for me. - KaitlinLittle Women
A big part of that was being so young when I read it (4th grade?) and yet getting the stamp of approval from my librarian (since she picked the book out for me when I told her I wanted something more challenging that BSC, lol) that, yup, she's ready for this big, classic tome. And I loved the story. It was about sisters, which I longed for, and it was written in this lovely language that I felt proud to be able to follow and I was fascinated by how it was historical, and yet it focused on the female perspective instead of some textbook list of battle dates. Plus, I was Jo. Of course, everyone is Jo. But readers have those moments where they are Jo or Emily (of New Moon) or some other character that normalizes their own preference for things like reading and writing in a world that calls those children nerdy or unsocialized and it is wonderful and eye-opening and beautiful acceptance-y. - KristinWhat books changed your childhood?