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"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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6 February 2008

I Was A Teenage Bookworm

I've had the nicest weekend. Tourist season has begun in full force and so, there was Diabolique (my Facebook husband), in town for her sister's wedding, Crowley, here for the Maiden concert and Leela, here for me! Much socialising and catching up transpired, some very drunken evenings, lots of secrets told and received, and basically yesterday, Monday morning blues were in in full force, because everybody had goooooooooooooooooone and I was all alooooooooooooooone.

Today is a little better because Samit will be here soon for the launch of his new book. I am comforted.

I'm wondering whether I should launch on the drunken weekend, and how I am the BEST host EVER and how everyone who wants to drink in Bombay should just call me because I rule, but you know, seeing as I'm all modest and self-effacing I'm going to just hint at how awesome I am and let you fill in the rest. Instead I will talk about something I don't think I've mentioned on this blog before, my love for young adult literature. I think I have said before that I love Sweet Valley and Judy Blume and the BSC but I haven't actually gone into why and how and so on.

So, without further adieu, may I present to you my most favourite YA books in no particular order:

> Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn: Possibly one of the ONLY books that made me cry. I don't cry easily. Even Little Women didn't do it (and frankly Beth was a little annoying. What? She was! I don't like all these matyr types. I hated Cousin Helen in What Katy Did and Pollyanna, dude I wanted to slap her.) Anyway, so Thunderwith is this Australian book about this girl whose incredible, fiesty mother dies and so she has to go stay with her biological father and his new wife and kids. Because she's so lonely and because her stepmother is really horrible (not like child abuse types but generally cold and distant. I'm getting teary just writing about it. Jesus.) she 'adopts' this dog who keeps appearing and calls him Thunderwith. A dingo, I think. And when she has to face bullies at school and the Horrible Step at home, the dog helps. It's one of those coming-of-age books where there is a crisis point and then everything is resolved. Horrible Step even becomes Not-So-Horrible. I seriously loved this book. I think my most favourite bits were when she begns to become close to her younger sisters and brother. That made me go all awwwwwwww.

> Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume: I had a really hard time picking which of Judy's books to put here. Superfudge started me off on her, but Are You There God was the book of my preteen years, where I was trying to play catch up. It was, I think, the most age appropriate book I read that year. Especially since me and my friends at school were doing the same "have you got your period yet" competition that the kids in the book do. I don't know why we wanted it so much, but I suspect, looking back, that the book triggered it off. I had a copy of the book with a pink cover, I remember and all four girls sitting around chatting and by the end of the school year the cover was almost off.

Of course, you already know what this book is about but if you're one of the two people on the planet who hasn't read it, a recap: Margaret has moved from New York to a suburb (New Jersey, I think) where she quickly makes friends with three other girls who have a secret club called (wait for it) the Pre-Teen Sensations! In a very Judy-like way, one girl is not everything she seems, and the protaganist has to figure out stuff for herself before she can take a stand. (On a side note, I think the one book where friendships weren't THAT central in Judy Blume was Starring Sally J Freedman As Herself. I think Sally is one of my all-time favourite heroines. She was so SORTED, you know?). Anyway, Are You There God is the period book, just like It's Not The End Of The World is the divorce book, Then Again, Maybe I Won't is the wet dream book and Forever is the sex book and so on. What would our information be without Judy Blume? Much more scientific and a lot less fun, that's for sure. (My mother gave me the whole "the man plants the seed" schpiel along with something about my uterus lining falling out. It sounded gross. Hey, maybe that was the idea. Hmmmm, sneaky, Mom.)

> This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger: Again, it's hard to pick which of Paula Danziger's books I liked the most, so I'm picking the one I re-read most often. It's set in the future, with the premise, I guess, that teenage girls are the same across the ages. So, Aurora is majorly bummed when her parents, like, have to move to the moon and she has to leave her cool neighbourhood (which has a mall people live in, it sounded awesome) and mood clothes (which change colour depending on what mood you're in) and move to a place with basically no atmosphere. Things get better though, coz she meets a cute boy (yay! I loved how these chicks always found cute guys, no matter where they were) and she acts in a play and discovers that life on the moon isn't so bad after all. I think my favourite bit about this book, apart from the descriptions of the world in the future was when she's worried that she's going to rust from not making out for so long and her boyfriend who is taking ESP classes tells her not to worry about the rusting. It's a sweet exchange.

> Julie Of The Wolves by Jean Craighead George: So, when I was young and my Abroad Relatives used to visit, they always got me these Newbery Award winning books which I devoured. (Okay, if anyone here has read Jacob Have I Loved was it not AWESOME?) Most of them were about young people overcoming difficulties in these exotic locations. Julie Of The Wolves is about this Eskimo girl, given away in child marriage to her father's partner's son and how she runs away. Only she gets stuck on the tundra with no civilisation whatsoever and then she spots this pack of wolves who she befriends and lives amongst. It's a poignant, sad story. I can still remember one line for the book where she finally stops walking on all fours and stands up and tells Amoraq, the pack leader, "I am me, your two-legged cub". It always made me want to get lost in an icy wasteland and meet wolves and watch them and share their food and so on. I find on Wikipediaing the book that it's been banned several times because of the attempted rape of the main character. I remember that scene, it's when her teenage husband wants to have sex with her because all his friends are teasing him about "having a wife and not mating with her." Oh, this book was awesome. I wonder where it is. On my bookshelf in Delhi, I think.

> I'm not putting all the classics in here, because, hey, they're classics, people will read them anyway. But, because you asked, my favourite young adult classics are: The Catcher In The Rye, Jane Eyre, Jack And Jill, What Katy Did Next and Anne Of Green Gables.

> And not quite YA, but I LOVED the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. Spanning Ramona's life from the time she's about six to when she's nine, the books are an excellent picture of growing up in middle class America. Wait, that made it sound rather dull. They're about all sorts of things really--learning how to ride a bike and figuring that not all adults love you and pets and new babies and older sisters and parents who fight. These books are so so great. Do yourself a favour and find them.

> I'm trying very hard to remember what Indian authors wrote young adult literature when I was growing up. There was Paro Anand who wrote a set of short stories called Pepper The Capuchin Monkey. (Incidentally, I met her for an interview and carried along my copy of Pepper and she signed it for me and the ten year old inside me did a cartwheel.) There was RK Narayan, who I still love. (I had a craving for lime pickles each time I read Swami And Friends). I guess the Juneli At St. Avila's counts although I thought they were a badly written, derivative series even as a child. Hmmmmm, who else? This is terrible. I'll just write YA stuff myself.

I should probably go. This post is addictive and if I don't stop I'll be going on forever.


  1. Oh me and my friends loved reading Judy Blume books as children especially Superfudge (im sure there were more about fudge?).

    But Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret was an absolute classic (for teenage girls anyway!), i've never actually met anyone who has not read it!

  2. 'Just as long as we're together' was my favorite Judy Blume. I read it till the pages tore. The YA phase was strange wasnt it? On one hand i was reading erica jong, but on the other hand it was Blume that warmed my soul like nothing else. Ah growing pains!

  3. ruskin bond.

    i am the third person on this planet who never read judy blume. the literature of my youth were african folk tales and genetic engineering for kids. not to mention mark twain and edgar allen poe.

    now. tell me about maiden. did they play the trooper? hallowed (they must have)? seventh son of a seventh son? the virus? wasted love? awwww..........i feel 17 again.

    go eddie!

  4. beverly clearly!!!! SOMEONE ELSE READ HER IN INDIA!!!!! i still have em somewhere.

  5. @ Hobo: Since ickle eM is yet to be fully converted to being an Iron Maiden, and may not remember all the song names ;-)(though she looked a little awestruck at monster Eddie waltzing across the stage)...they did Can I Play With Madness, Fear of the Dark, Heaven Can Wait, The Clairvoyant, The Trooper, Hallowed (but, of course, Powerslave, Aces High, Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Moonchild (and a couple of others, which were missed, thanks to shitty bombay traffic)..

  6. Never heard of any of this stuff. Who's up for an Asterix?

    (I spotted a typo, but I'll keep mum.)

  7. why am I not surprised Crowley knows ALL the songs they played?!

    Get a life, dude- you are not a teenager anymore even if you do behave as one...

  8. I think you'll like 'The Undomestic Goddess' and 'Confessions of a Shopaholic' by Sophie Kinsella, I would say these books are a howl and aimed at the inbetween YA and A crowd.

  9. I guess if you happen to write a book, it should be on the "adult" literature than on the YA literature.. i like your style of writing.. go on and on and on.. cheers..

  10. I thought I was the only one who read Beverly Cleary too, though my favorites were Dear Mr. Henshaw and its sequel Strider. Strider was definitely very YA though from a boy's perspective.
    Also loved Anne of Green Gables though Emily was probably my favourite of Lucy Maud.
    Ok now I need to hunt those books out :)

  11. Ramona Quimby! Yess! I gave all my RQ books off to my little cousins. im one of those ppl who never read Blume. In my teen years I was reading freaking Steinbeck and some Plato and Aristotle. I thought i understood them at the time, but it just messed me up. Now i read young adult fiction i guess. sometimes.

  12. hey no review about the maiden concert!! sad ya :P
    and thanks for the list, will check 'em out :)

  13. Hey, what, no Enid Blyton???!!! And no Daddy-Long-Legs either???!!! I did read 'Just As Long As We're Together' (It's nice and creey simultaneously how similar that one is to my life) and 'It's Not The End of the World'... didn't you read 'Bridge to Terabithia' by Katherine Paterson?? I haven't read her other books but I would any day say this is the best! I read it post the YA phase though and it stuck big time... and would 'To Kill A Mocking-bird' count as YA?

  14. This just jarred so badly: "So, without further adieu, may I present to you my most favourite YA books in no particular order"
    Its gotta be ado, not adieu however much you twang your words. right, perakath?

  15. OH!! Julie of the Wolves is one of my all-time favorites. I almost named my daughter Miya because of it.

    I can't wait for my daughter to start reading Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.

  16. I didn't think I would hear about Juneli at St.Avila's EVER again!

  17. why is jane eyre YA lit? that would make poor charlotte b so upset.
    anyway, has anyone else read "an old fashioned girl" by alcott? how i loved it. also "lord of the flies", "the hobbit", "LOTR", "franny and zooey", and the animal ones - white fang, call of the wild, black beauty. and was i the only teen who read the entire wodehouse?

    ALSO: am new to this blog, and just read your guide to womankind post -- there's a douchebag who left a comment there. his name is pheno menon. HEY PHENO MENON you are a hypocritical slimeball. just had to get that off my chest. that prototypical Indian Male -- yuck.

  18. Pheno Menon, heh that's a good one. Mallu boy.

    Actually, Anonymous, I saw another one. But eM's written before that sometimes she writes KERELA instead of KERALA but doesn't feel like going back and changing it, so would we please leave her alone? :)

  19. yes, yes and YES!!! I read these too and am thrilled to discover a few more that I am keen to read even as a twenty-something with a heart of a pre-teen :P

    Sweet Valley High was my staple when I outgrew the BSC, but had to read SVH in secret because it was for ages '16 and up' and I was 12 :P

    Judy Blume! Ohhh Ramona! Paula Danizger! - I forget which ons it was called but it had something to do with pistachios and I remember buying a packet so I could eat them the same way the girl did in hers.

    I loved the classics like Enid Blyton, Jane Eyre, Little Women as well...Good times...

  20. Stupid blog, stupid & predictable selection of “books”. And the “classics” you mentioned are quite simply extinct chick-lit, dull dull dull horrrrrendously dull boring to the point of embarassment. Nobody reads that crap no more anyhow, except Victorian literature freaks, and ugly, drunk chicks with way too much time on their beggar hands. And me….WTF am I doing here anyway, reading a typically freakish chick-blog, and bothering to comment on top of that ! Just plain STUPID……people have no business posting links to this jackass page in irc chatrooms.

  21. I read very antiquated books when I was a kid, Mary Norton, The Chalet School books, E.Nesbit etc. I did'nt like Judy Blume too much.

  22. loved it, obviously! there could be only one other person (actually 3) who would have the same lists, the same classification (the period book, the divorce book, the same memories! actually, just probably the same copies! and dude...jacob have i long has it been since i heard that title?

  23. Hahaha! Completely echoing Bani about the three other people :)

    What about Paula Danziger's camp books? I still remember one about one girl with super curly hair and a camping tent full of bat droppings. And Everybody Else's Parents Said Yes. I still have one lying around (it might be yours).
    Ooh, Ramona and Beezus and Henry something was his name?

    Listing my favourites would take a while, but the ones that had an impact would have to be Are You There God, and the SVH in which Regina dies.

    Love the post, brings back such memories.

  24. Congratulations eM dear! It appears that the world's oldest and most crotchety blog-reader has graced your page, who believes that an in-depth knowledge of avant garde metal is a sure sign of "acting like a teenager".

    To this particular anon commentor:
    Would you prefer it if I rattled off names of Glenn Miller songs, perhaps?
    And why the anonymity, grandma (gramps, as the case may be)? Arthritis? Or did your dentures slip out and crack the keyboard?

  25. I like the song you're currently pimping, btw...

  26. hey... i thought you quit smoking!! there is an incriminating pic of u on Diabolique's facebook that!!!

  27. @ Crowley... you tell him!!
    loving iron maiden and knowing their songs is being a teenager?? i think ooold age makes ppl judgemental about other ppls choices and tastes.

    oh and being in an IRC chatroom is really, really cool and definitely does not mean that the author of that comment has "way too much time on their beggar hands."
    (sorry em and crowley... i know u dont need me defending you)

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. hey... this opens at work now!!! by the way...what comment you deleted??

  30. danke schön mister crowley. pity i missed it.

  31. Ah, Mazzy Star. My ex-girlfriend was a big fan of Fade Into You. She kept insisting it should be "our" song. All that stuff about holding hands inside and what not. Dirty sleazy dykes.

  32. Hey,

    Am a huge fan. Keep writing the good stuff. I am fron Chennai, and am trying to write a good dating/being single/'relationships' column for my paper. Not all that easy, considering our conservative attitudes down south, in spite of the current club, pub and partying organisations are still ruled by nammam uncles and starched-cotton-saree aunties :(


  33. hey, you got written about in today's 'Ergo' in Chennai. your style is "self-consciously literary".

  34. @Bulbul:-
    The Undomestic Goddess was absolutely hilarious!
    And yes, at times, I read Enid Blyton

  35. hey was passing by... I read are u there god? too!! and another fav of mine was 'tiger eyes' absolutely amazing!

  36. V and I thank you for your compliment!

  37. OK, I'm here responding more to Akash than the blog itself., which is very good, I may mention, am a regular reader. I did visit
    Indiaplaza Golden Quill
    , other than a couple of names like Usha K R and Advaita Kala, have not heard of the rest. Anyone here read any of these books?

  38. Not related to this post, but I just read a Tolstoy article in the asian age. Wanted to say that, I am learning russian for their books. I am also a big fan of children's books :) I wont say YA, because I am still quite old fashioned - as in I dont think books for kids or ya's should be full of exploring sexuality, etc.

  39. And err, forgot to add, I dont think I'll check back again to see if you replied. So please email me instead. I am not only learning russian, but also french and bengali - once again - both for children's books and classical literature.
    Yes, and sanskrit too !

    How do I get the time? because I am not into any of the modern tech habits ;)


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