As you have probably already surmised, I am a nerd. This was no different in high school. Any chance I got, I was reading (never mind the Dark Ages of the Slytherin Princess, just kidding, what, who said that?). Every once in a while we’d be assigned to read a book and we’d get to choose the book. I lived for those times. Some of those books really stuck in my mind. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean they were good, but they left an imprint in my mind nonetheless. I’d like to take a moment to talk about five of them.
- Right Behind You by Gail Giles: This book is about a boy named Kip who accidentally killed a boy when he was nine. He spends many years in a mental facility before he and his father enter Witness Protection and start a new life. The story is interspersed by someone reacting to Kip’s shocking story. I can’t for sure say why this book stuck with me, but perhaps it was Kip’s journey to forgiving himself and learning to cope. I remember his psychiatrist telling him, “Don’t feed your hungry ghosts.” It’s a story about moving on and forgiveness, while also asking whether some people can even be forgiven. The message is fairly profound, even if the characters didn’t stick in my heart.
- The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith: This book is about a boy named Jack who gets abducted by this guy, then gets rescued, then he and his best friend go to London, and then Jack is given strange glasses that transport him to a different universe. Yeah, hella weird. But the main reason this stuck with me was because the ending pissed me off. Ironically, we were assigned to write a new scene for the book, so I wrote an alternate ending. Apparently there has been outcry because many believe Jack was gay and it was never addressed. A sequel eventually came out and supposedly addressed this, but I have no interest in reading it.
- Trigger by Susan Vaught: This book is about a boy named Jersey who tries to commit suicide, but survives. However, he is now disabled and has to learn how to cope with his new life. He also doesn’t remember why he tried to kill himself and spends the book trying to find out (spoiler alert: he was depressed). This book stuck with me because it was my first time reading a book about suicide. I felt deeply disturbed and confused, even writing a diary entry about it because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. As time when on and I became more educated about suicidal ideation, I was able to move on. But I still think about it sometimes.
- Impulse by Ellen Hopkins: This book follows three protagonists, all of which who tried to commit suicide and are now in treatment: Connor, Vanessa, and Tony. Told entirely in verse, it follows their journey to recovery and dissects the things that led them to that point. This book stuck with me for one reason only: the shocking ending. That really messed me up. It wasn’t what I had signed up for and I’ve never really gotten over it.
- Girl Stays in the Picture by Melissa De La Cruz: This is a book about teen celebrities, the main one being Devon who is freshly out of rehab and ready for a brand new start. However, there are a lot of roadblocks in the making of her new movie. This was supposed to be a series, but now De La Cruz is saying it’s not (despite the fact that it ended on a cliffhanger). I’ve thought about this because it was eerily similar to things that were happening with real-life teen stars at the time and because it ended on A FUCKING CLIFFHANGER.
So… wow, this list says a lot about who I was in high school. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the dark themes; I tried to hide behind a tough veneer to make it through those four years. I am surprised that I read so much contemporary, since I read primarily fantasy now. I’m also surprised most of the books I read had male protagonists, as I’ve almost always gravitated more towards females (I did not know non-binary was a thing in high school). None of these books are books I ever want to read again, but they all left an impression on me that I’ve never been able to shake. My tastes have definitely improved, though. Thank Jesus Elizabeth Christ.