While talking to Katy Moran and R.M. Ivory about books that we read when we were teenagers, I came up with the idea for this post. Wouldn’t it be lovely to explore the YA books that authors read while growing up. Katy Moran recently reviewed The Outsiders for me and now R.M. Ivory who you may previously have known as the author Rhian Tracey. Rhian is now writing under her married name –R.M. Ivory. She wrote four books for Bloomsbury and has just finished writing an exciting new YA novel that will hopefully be published very soon.
So here are the books that helped R.M. Ivory get through her teenage years.
Books have always played a huge role in my life. I learned to read very young and ever since then I’ve never been happier than when a book is in my hand. Whenever I had a problem as a teenager I would turn to fiction and quite often non-fiction too. I’ve always made sense of the world through reading and writing.
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Philip Pullman
Here are some books that stand out in my memory from when I was a teenager.
Paula Danzinger – The Pisatchio Prescription
The Pistachio Prescription was one of the first books I knew was written for me just by looking at the cover. A teenage girl sits on her rug surrounded by magazines looking fed up. I knew that pose, I knew that look, that girl could be me. I can picture the bookshop where I found it whilst searching for something…different. It was an independent bookshop with very steep wooden stairs leading to a small carpeted children’s section. I had read most of the titles in there and was looking for something new, something that wasn’t Narnia, that wasn’t Enid Blyton but that was right for me. As strange as it sounds now with such a wealth of wonderful YA titles readily available, back then the choices were children’s titles or adult. I’d had enough of the children’s titles but the adult ones looked boring, too far away from my world to merit serious consideration. I was searching for something about a thirteen year old and that’s when I discovered Paula Danzinger.
When I picked up the slim volume I’d never heard of a Pistachio. I didn’t know it was a nut until I read the first line of the book.
‘‘Pistachio nuts, the red ones cure any problem.’
I read the novel in one sitting and added Pistachio nuts to my mum’s weekly shopping list. I needed them in my life just like I’d needed the book. I would come to reread this novel and several other Danzinger titles over the years breaking the spines and eventually having to sellotape the pages back together.
Judy Blume – Tiger Eyes
This wasn’t the first Judy Blume title I read, in fact it might have been one of the later ones but it is the book that has stayed with me the most despite the lure of the sex scene in Forever which was passed around my group of friends with the reverence of a bible.
‘It is the morning of the funeral and I am tearing my room apart, trying to find the right shoes to wear.’
I’d recently been to my first funeral and when I read the first line in the bookshop I knew that this was something I wanted to understand more about. The book came home with me and sat on the shelf next to many other Judy Blume titles, but this one, Tiger Eyes was different.
This one dealt with serious issues and tore off the layers of hidden meaning I had heaped on the word death. For the first time this book taught me to look it in the face, to confront it and ask some big questions of myself and the world around me.
The Lady in the Tower – Jean Plaidy
I had no idea as a young teen that there were books written about Kings and Queens which were stories too. I was slowly making my way through nonfiction historical titles written by Eric Ives, Antonia Fraser, E.M.Warnicke and other impressively serious sounding people. When my mum introduced me to Jean Plaidy my two favourite topics – history and stories seemed to come together like a match made in heaven. I read everything she had written in fast succession which resulted in my picking C16th History as one of my A-level choices.
When I see that tile on one of my bookshelves I am instantly transported to a summer holiday in Spain. I am sat on an uncomfortable plastic white chair, on a small balcony in the stifling heat that only a pale Celt cannot bear, reading. I opened the book and fell into a world of mystery, murder, courtly love, …… and fell in love with historical fiction. I can picture myself waving off the rest of my family to the pool, or the beach or a day trip out to visit a castle or a monument, all I wanted was to be left alone with Anne Boleyn as she awaited her fate.
‘Here I lie in my dark prison.’
The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank
I was given this wonderful book at quite a young age, possibly 9 or 10 and devoured it. It is a book I have read so many times and have written about myself in my third novel The Bad Girls Club.* I felt so passionately about it that I wanted to include it in my own writing. It is a book that has strongly shaped my thinking, reading and writing. It is one of the most influential books I read as a young girl and then re-read as a teenager and then again as an adult.
‘On Friday, June 12th, I woke up at six o’clock and no wonder; it was my birthday. But of course I was not allowed to get up at that hour, so I had to control my curiosity until a quarter to seven.’
I can vividly remember the nightmares that followed the first reading of Anne’s diary as the horror of her situation and far too many millions of others hit me.
This had happened.
This was not a made up story full of horror and hate and terror. This was someone’s life, someone my age, a girl just like me. Again I had the same thought as I did when I picked up the Danzinger book – this girl could be me. I can remember crying as I sat and digested what had happened to Anne. I was haunted by the black and white photos of the bookcase that hid the entrance to their secret hiding place in the Annexe. I still am haunted by those pictures; they are the first pages I turn to when I pick up the book as an adult. I’ve since had to replace my original copy of Anne’s diary and am keeping it for my own daughter, when the time is right.
*I write about The Diary of Anne Frank and Forever by Judy Blume in my 3rd novel The Bad Girls Club published by Bloomsbury.
Thank you Rhian for an amazing post. I haven’t read any of these which is really sad because I should have. Especially the Diary of Anne Frank, not to mention Judy Blume!
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