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Books That Shifted Your World

It's no secret I'm a bookseller in the children's department of an indie bookstore. I enjoy it a lot (I don't think you could work in the kids department if you didn't, to be honest), especially when kids come in asking for help! These kids are earnest, and they want to read, and most times, they want to be challenged.

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.

The Giver:
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!
 - Veroncia

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. - Veronica
The 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. - Kaitlin
Little 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.  - Kristin
 What books changed your childhood?
Somaiya Daud

Somaiya Daud received her BA and MA from a university in DC in English. She is currently working on her PhD. When not writing or studying, she spends too much time on the internet yelling about comics and robots. Her first novel, Mirage, is coming 2017 from Flatiron Books.

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  1. The Giver is one for me as well. But no books have influenced my writing more than Harry Potter. I read Deathly Hallows two months after my aunt died of cancer, and it gave me a whole new perspective on the acceptance and inevitability of death.
    What I love about sci-fi/fantasy stories is that they seem different enough from our world/experiences that they give the reader adequate escape, but they're still true to life and can teach us a lot about our lives and the world around us. It makes me kind of sad when parents think their children won't be able to relate to a character just because they live in a world that is foreign to them.

  2. Gosh, how do I pick? I guess I'll just go with the ones I read over and over. I was the Animal Books Kid, so if it was wolves or horses or dogs, I was there. When I read the Island Stallion by Walter Farley, I don't believe I ever saw the words on the page once. I was watching a movie. From the time when they see the horse on the cliff, get lost in the catacombs, then find the secret cavern in the island's interior--gosh, I adored that book.

    Another one was Kavik the Wolf Dog. His journey fascinated me, how he lost his courage from being in a plane crash, but during his two thousand mile journey back to his master, he regains his courage again.

    Looking back on it now, so many of my favorite animal books were about the hero being outnumbered, overpowered, and the literal underdog, yet rising above it all through physical strength, intelligence, or just the strength of devoted love.

  3. For me it was probably Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice.

    Harry Potter because it was the first book series I was ever obsessed with. I just fell in love with this whole other world and never wanted to leave, which was a new experience for me. It's probably affected my reading habits more than any other series because I was suddenly clamoring for every fantasy book I could find.

    I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was 12 and hated it. I couldn't follow the language and consequently thought it was stupid. But I read it again a year later after I saw the movie with Kiera Knightley and loved it. I remember being absolutely amazed that this author could take words and turn them into these witty, hilarious, and beautiful sentences.

  4. The Neverending Story! It was magical and fantastic and epic and everything I needed as a 9 year old girl who had outgrown her section of the library!:)

  5. So difficult to pick! I loved the Babysitter's club, then transitioned to Nicholas Sparks' early novels, and then spent my late teens and early twenties devouring HP.

  6. With the very obscure Once On a Time by A. A. Milne and The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge my love of whimsical, un-ordinary fairy tales was born.

  7. I think it was A to Z mysteries when I was in early elementary school. I became obsessed with mysteries after that and I started to read Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie a couple years later.

    For writing though, I'm a huge Murakami and Kazuo Ishiguro fan.

  8. I have three big ones;

    Howl's Moving Castle was the most unique book that I read in the fourth grade. It totally changed my persepective on fantasy because ultimately, it's not a story about magic, it's a story about people getting in their own way and blaming it on the those around them which I think is something everyone can relate to.

    A Wrinkle in Time was a book that I didn't even want to read but I mom gave it to me and promised me that I'd love it. And of course I did. It was my first exposure to speculative science fiction. Also the relationship between Meg and her little brother was so fantastic, I hadn't read a lot of strong sibling relationships up to then.

    A Door Near Here is one that I probably should not have read at such a young age but it totally opened my eyes to the real life pain that fiction could depict. That book was my first window into parts of the real world that I knew nothing about.

  9. Kathleen: I wished so fervently I'd found Diana Wynne Jones when I was the proper age for her books. Alas, I didn't find her until the movie of Howl came out and I was mostly grown. I think Dogsbody would have had its covers worn off. :-)

  10. Awesome post! I'm struggling to remember mine!

    Harry Potter for sure, but I know there were others around then...!

    One of mine was a New Zealand book - The Tiggie Thompson Show by Tessa Duder, loved that book! It was much more challenging than the other books I'd been reading at that age and I continue to love that book today!

  11. There are so many that I don't know where to start. The first book I clearly remember loving/reading over and over again was The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read that one, The Horse and His Boy, and The Silver Chair from the Narnia series and loved them so much!!! I also loved The Neverending Story!!!


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Item Reviewed: Books That Shifted Your World Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sumayyah