HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
I’m twenty! Yay! I honestly can’t believe I’ve been alive this long, I really have outdone myself.
To celebrate, I’m talking about twenty books that have made me, shaping me into the reader I am today. The best of the best in terms of turning me into a functioning human being, even if the books are…. questionable, in some places.
Solitaire by Alice Oseman
If you’ve been around me for more than two seconds, you’ll know I love this book with all my little heart. When I read this in January, 2015, it truly changed my life and how I approached characters in novels. Tori Spring was the first character I ever found myself completely in sync with: she was a year older than me, depressed and jaded with the world, and not really confident in things going on in her life, something fifteen year old me desperately needed to see in a character. I still love this book, and I’m re-reading it over the Summer as one of my dissertation texts!
Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon by Matt Fraction
Personally, I believe this is the best comic run to ever come out of Marvel, and it changed the way I approached the MCU. I was already an MCU fan, really, but I get so heated over how badly they butchered Clint’s character. This was also the second Marvel comic I ever got into (I’ll talk about the other one later), but it helped me fall in love with Kate Bishop with a fire I’ve never felt before. I really, really recommend this, although I would suggest only reading the first four volumes written by Fraction. The Hawkeye VS Deadpool comic is also brilliant for this specific version of Clint!
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
LOOK: if you lived in the UK between the years of 2007-2013, and were a teenager or on the border, you have watched this film. I’ve actually read the whole series, and really want to do a re-read, only I…. accidentally donated the whole series other than the first?
I love Angus, am the BIGGEST Dave the Laugh fan you will ever meet, and will forever talk about how ungrateful and catty Georgia is, especially for how she treated Dave. I will also confess I just accidentally referred to her as Olive because of the opening scene.
Ember Fury by Cathy Brett
Ignore the terrible quality of the cover, this was my life! I used to sit with my dad and copy the drawings in this while he painted just because I loved it so much.
Sometimes I sit and think about Ned, Ember’s imaginary friend from the 1940s who lived during the Blitz. This book is pretty wild and top of my list to re-read if I ever decide to read my childhood favourites!
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Pretty sure this is the only steampunk story I’ve ever read, but I want you all to know I love it with all my heart.
I’ve actually realised this and Ember Fury have the similarities of a war-era setting, although I think this would be more widely-liked by the book community now. It has really strong female characters, a cute slow burn romance between two of the teens, and illustrations? Apparently? I cannot remember these illustrations, I just remember a little creature in an egg and having a crush on the main girl!
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A bit of a later read when I was in year 8 (so… when I was 12?) that actually made me fall in love with Shakespeare and classics in general!
I have such a soft spot for this play and the characters in it, I adore Mercutio and Benvolio with all my heart, and if you ever insult the Baz Luhrmann film in front of me, I’ll kick off. I even wrote a whole essay during my first year of university- that was my module grade- analysing the play in relation to Gnomeo and Juliet. I ripped a kid’s film to shreds and I had the time of my life!
Death Note Volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba
I read this when I was fourteen? Maybe? My friends at school all went on about manga and anime and how great this was, so I went ‘fuck it’ and picked it up and I loved it. After this I got into Deadman Wonderland and Attack on Titan, but Death Note has a special place in my heart as the first manga I ever properly got into. I own all the black editions, only volume 6 is in French- entirely my dad’s fault, he bought the wrong version online for me- and I’ve never finished the series.
So my manga love can be directly traced back to year 10 peer pressure!
You Against Me by Jenny Downham
According to Goodreads, this came out in 2011, so I was around 12 when I read this for the first time. I remember it being super dark and would 100% be considered problematic now with its predominant focus on the romance instead of the harder side of this story, and I know for a fact more recent books have done this concept way better, but I really loved this when I was younger. It made me more aware of difficult issues that I hadn’t seen when I was younger, especially victim blaming of young girls who suffer from assault and harassment, and has definitely influenced how I approach content in books.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
This is a very recent favourite- my favourite of 2018, in fact- but it really changed my reading for the better. It essentially started off a resurgence in my love of reading anything and everything, and only reading if I know I’m getting enjoyment from what I pick up. Molly as a character means a lot to me, too, as a fat girl and as someone with anxiety, and I think this book is one that has impacted my life the most on this list. This and Solitaire especially are the most important in being there when I needed them the most.
IT by Stephen King
It took me TWO WEEKS to read this in year eight and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top that, other than when it took me 3 days to read The Name of the Wind when I moved house in year 10. While this isn’t the most important Stephen King book in my reading experience so far in life, it definitely played a massive part in the growth of my love for both horror and coming-of-age narratives. It’s around the time I read this that I got really into The Goonies and basically any eighties film with Corey Feldman in a main role!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Ya girl still has bad dreams about that opening scene where Bod’s entire family are literally massacred! Like! What the fuck! Everytime someone talks about The Cruel Prince opening all I can think of is that I’ve already seen that exact same family killing play out in a book I originally thought was safe for a 9 year old, and it scarred me more than any other book can. The illustrations of the dead and supernatural beings in this are also terrifying, and I’m still waiting for that sequel!
The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric
Words cannot express how excited I am to eventually go to Venice because of this book. I read and re-read this obsessively growing up, imagining I was the main character. This book is to me what Ink Heart is to so many others, with how exciting the fantasy world is lingering under the surface of our own. Michelle Lovric truly owned me entirely with this book, and she’s coming out with another book set in Venice this year, and I’m just- YES.
Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
Y’all. I own all 15 of these books, and the novella collection. I own the first four in the original glow-in-the-dark mass market paperbacks. Myrnin is basically my whole ENTIRE LIFE. No other series about vampires ever got me this bad, and nothing appealed to my emo side quite like Eve and Shane having a Metallica VS Korn fight for literally no reason other than them both being loud assholes. God, that scene in book one with the acid? Sam? MYRNIN? My hatred for Shane in Bite Club? This series is still so exciting to me I really need to re-read it ASAP.
Demon Thief by Darren Shan
This is most definitely my favourite series. It’s still the most graphically violent I’ve ever read; it doesn’t hesitate to use body horror, kill off characters, and just do the extreme to a bunch of kids. Demon Thief is my favourite because it follows my favourite character, Kernel, and was also the first in the series that I read! The actual order is Lord Loss-Demon Thief-Slawter-Bec, but I read it Demon Thief-Lord Loss-Bec-Slawter! I also borrowed the series originally from the teaching assistant in my class when I was in year 6, and it’s the reason I made friends with my best friend online when we were 13.
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
I went back to my review to get an idea of my early thoughts but… yeah, I got nothing, young Connie couldn’t write good reviews for shit.
I distinctly remember it being the first book I read with both explicit swearing and enemies-to-lovers (including actual discussions of sex) and that really impressed me? It really had an impact on me and pushed me to start reading books that have an older YA feel to them, and also introduced me to more contemporary reads!
Young Avengers by Allan Heinberg
GOOD LORD. This series sure started a love for comics I never ever had before. I’m a massive fan of all things teenage and coming-of-age themed, so this was a series that really did mean a lot to me. I spent ages looking for this first ever volume to read and I ended up reading it online, ordering volume 2 through thriftbooks, buying Children’s Crusade and getting the Omnibus of the Gillen run for my birthday. I also got into the Runaways thanks to this comic, although I didn’t read it for a good few years!
Carrie by Stephen King
My first Stephen King book!
I bought the copy I still have when I was around 10 years old from a second hand bookstore in Great Yarmouth. Every time I go back I visit that same bookstore and try and pick up another King book; most of my books by him, other than IT, are second hand. Carrie really helped me get into horror in general, and it does mean a lot to me by introducing me to an author I now love- some of his films are also my favourites as coming-of-age narratives, something he does really well.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
I won’t deny that I loved this book and read it about five times in one year, and have never touched it since. I really do love what this book did for not only making a change in contemporary YA- although I hate the wave of books that romanticise illness that came after it- but also popularising adaptations of teen romance books without humiliating the teens who love romances!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I wrote about this book for a creative piece I did in year 10! I love it! It introduced me to a whole wave of 1) character, rather than plot/setting, driven narratives, and 2) narratives about mental health and heavier topics. I honestly think this remains one of the best pieces of literature in Young Adult history, and the film is also incredible.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
This is TOP TIER fantasy. I’ve re-read it about ten times. Katsa is the strongest female protagonist in YA fantasy without it ever becoming some ‘big thing’ that she’s badass- she does what she does to survive, and is so nuanced and well written. I kinda think a lot of current YA fantasy is just edgy for the sake of it, with… fake badass female characters, who you’re told are cool but never are and aren’t well written? I should probably do a post about my bookish opinions, to be honest. But Katsa is actually incredible as a character. Katsa and Po honestly owned my heart when I was growing up, and I still love Raffin and his blue hair even now!
And those are all the books that made me. Have we got any in common? What books would be on your list?
Thank you for reading, and joining me on my birthday!
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I also currently have a GoFundMe set up to help fund my third year of University, so any stray pound helps ❤