A few of you may remember, but about a month or so ago I did a post like this for books I read in high school. However, that excluded a few books that have actually stuck with me for longer. Because yes, I was also a nerd in middle school. I just pretended not to be. But I was. Although, I’ll admit, a few of these were assigned reading. Still, you bet your ass I read ahead. But let’s not linger on what you already know. Here are a few books I read in seventh and eighth grade that I’ve never been able to forget:
1. Double Helix by Nancy Werlin: In my eighth grade science class, we each had to read a book or watch a movie related to science and do a presentation on it. I remember making said presentation, but I have zero memory of actually presenting. I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t present or because I blocked it out, but I have no idea how that went down. Regardless, I do remember this book. The story follows Eli Samuels, a recent high school grad who takes a job at Wyatt Transgenetics. Meanwhile, his father vehemently opposes this position and his mother is suffering from Huntington’s Disease. As Eli becomes more involved with Dr. Wyatt’s work, he starts uncovering some shocking things about himself. Spoiler alert: it turns out Eli’s parents worked with Dr. Wyatt and harvested the mother’s eggs so they could have a child without Huntington’s. Some other weird shit happens, including Dr. Wyatt trying to fix Eli up with this attractive girl who is technically his sister (because of the egg thing). So yeah, that’s a book that exists. It inspired me to write a story about cloning two years later, but my protagonist wasn’t a borderline dick.
2. If I Should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan: I was in the eighth grade when I first learned about the Holocaust. We did an entire unit on it, culminating in a field trip to the Holocaust Museum (a chilling and unforgettable experience). During the unit, we were each required to read a book about the Holocaust. I chose this fucked up one. Told in a dual-POV, this story follows Hilary, a neo-Nazi. After getting into a car accident, she keeps traveling back to the mind of a young Jewish girl named Chana. We learn about the horrors of the Holocaust through Chana’s experience and watch Hilary grow a heart. By the end, she no longer hates Jews! I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but that’s a pretty fucked up premise. Why must the story of the murder of countless Jewish people be told from the point of view of someone who literally wants them dead? So she can learn she was wrong? Who does that serve? Seems like it’s meant to offer sympathy to neo-Nazis and I am not about that. Regardless, this is the first book I ever read about World War II and it changed me. Human atrocities of such epic proportions were committed during the years preceding and during the war and a part of me has always tried to comprehend it through books. I know it will never be possible, but this goddamn book is to blame.
3. I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block: I read this book around the same time I read Double Helix, but for extracurricular purposes. The story follows Barbie Marks, a model who wants to be a photographer and Griffin Tyler, a model in the closet. The friends are helped by Mab, a faerie who may or may not exist. I don’t remember much about this book, except that it was the first book I read with a gay character and that it taught me what a pedophile was (spoiler alert: Barbie and Griffin were molested by a photographer when they were kids). Also, Barbie dates a rock star and Griffin gets a boyfriend and— I think— flies off into the night sky on a motorcycle with him. But now I’m wondering… was that whole “fairy” thing in the title an allusion to Griffin’s queerness? I don’t know. I guess technically this book is magical realism, but mostly it was just weird.
4. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln and Christopher Collier: That’s right, the title itself is a spoiler! We had to read this book during the Revolutionary War unit of my eighth grade Social Studies class. It follows Tim Meeker, a kid in the colonies who doesn’t really want to take sides in the war (though he does, flip flopping frequently, the fucking waffler). Meanwhile, his older brother joins the rebel cause. Tim gets caught up in many adventures during the different episodes, including helping his father take the cattle to market, getting held up by road bandits, and trying to deliver a message for the Redcoats. But the way Sam died fucked my fourteen-year-old brain up. He is accused of stealing his own family’s cattle and sentenced to execution. And this is his own platoon that does this, not the enemy. Anyway, he gets shot by the executioner, but it’s such close range he catches on fire and flops around until he dies. And that horrified baby Rainey. And this book gets a lot of hate on Goodreads, which I find hilarious.
5. Deathwatch by Robb White: My seventh grade Language Arts teacher was a bitch, but I’ll never forget the days she read this book to us. She would always end on such a cliffhanger. The story follows Ben, a college student hired to take Madec, a young lawyer, out hunting in the Mojave Desert. When Madec accidentally shoots a homeless guy, Ben flips out and wants to report the incident. Madec doesn’t like that idea and decides to spend the rest of the novel hunting Ben instead. And that’s pretty much all that happens. It’s a story of survival. And at one point Ben can see Madec peeing from where he’s hiding, which is a detail that totally needed to be in the book. Apparently there were two movies made of this book, neither with the same title, but I kind of want to check out the one from 2014.
What are some books you read in middle school that really stuck with you? Let me know in the comments!