Rereading Childhood Books as an Adult
By Courtney Kruger
Sometime this past winter I discovered Bookaholic, a used bookstore, for the first time. It was not until the summer I realized I could rediscover favorite books from my middle and high school years. Growing up, I had never really been to used bookstores. My mother was an English teacher and was always trying to find new and exciting books at Barnes and Noble or Borders for her students. Looking back, I realize how privileged we were to be doing that. As a now broke college student, I started frequently visiting Bookaholic. Whichever books I had not set out to look for, through the help of Goodreads.com, I rediscovered by just browsing the Young Adult shelves. So began a thrilling and nostalgic journey of disrespecting my bank account.
One of the differences I’ve noticed in reading these books as an adult now, compared to as a teenager, is my complete change in genre interests and threshold for tropes. As a teenager, I was super into modern fantasy and historical fiction, with some romantic twist, for the most part. Books like the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, The Keisha’ra series by Amelia Awater-Rhodes, the Modern Faerie Tales series by Holly Black, and The Host by Stephenie Meyer were some of my favorite modern fantasy/sci-fi books from back in the day. At this point, I have come to realize I no longer connect with Young Adult books like I used to, which probably makes sense. I find them to be a bit corny and predictable, for the most part. Back when Twilight by Stephenie Meyer was all the rage. I loved that her books were these huge 500 paged adventures, but after rereading The Host, for example, I was overwhelmed with the repetition and thought it could have been shortened by at least 100 pages, or split into a duology.
As far as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series is concerned, I have no desire to reread them. They were probably my favorite books as a teenager, up until that point. Groups of my friends all drove to the midnight releases… It was everything. I had probably read each of them at least three times, maybe four, and looking back I definitely notice some problematic themes or moments that haven’t aged well.
A few years ago, on a whim, I bought a hardcover trunk boxset of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I had only read the books once, as they were released, as a kid, and never actually finished the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I wasn’t ever a fanatic of Harry Potter, but I always went to the midnight releases as a kid, and then teenager. I loved the excitement, waiting in line, and then finally being handed this beautiful book as a copy of my own by the end of the night. I have noticed the warm feelings of nostalgia sort of waned when I started the fourth book, Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire. It’s almost like the first two or three are so ingrained in our culture as modern classics or fairytales that it was easy for me to be swept up in the story and nostalgia, but after the fourth book everything starts to get pretty deep and heavy. It’s not the same happy feeling anymore that the first three evoke.
In middle school, I came across R.L. Stine’s Young Adult series collections. I had watched Goosebumps, the TV show, from time to time as kid, but the books did not interest me. However, his Young Adult books were short and sweet with high school romance and always had suspense and twists with a great big reveal at the end. Every book was made with the same formula, but I love them and devoured as many as I could find. My favorite of his collections were The Baby-Sitter series. At Bookaholic you can buy one of his books for $1-3 so I’ve bought way more than I’ve actually read at this point, but I don’t care! I’ll keep buying them. Their covers are designed from the 80’s, early 90’s; bright and flashy borders and/or typography with drawn scenes, typically of girls looking panicked in some precarious situation. They’re perfect for quick reads between other books when I need a break. They’re corny, horribly predictable, even a bit problematic and eye roll inducing, but I know what I’m getting going into it and they’re over so quickly I don’t mind.
These days my favorite books include modern classics like Tuesdays with Morrey by Mitch Albom, Night by Elie Wiesel, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I never would have touched as a teenager because they all seemed “too sad.” I’ve tried popular new adult fiction like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, The Dinner by Herman Koch and Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which I never would have been interested in because there wasn’t a female protagonist and/or romance and fantasy. I’m even reading a bit of poetry in milk & honey by Rupi Kaur and Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire.
Thinking about all these books and differences in preference, I think there is a time and place sometimes for genres in a person’s life. The Young Adult genre gave birth to my love of reading and desire to consume as many books as I possibly could as a kid. Finally, my love of reading has been revived after years and I can learn to appreciate whole new genres of books that I never would have even thought twice about before. Just because you’ve moved on from, or outgrown, a certain type of book doesn’t mean you can’t go back from time to time and revisit old stories, characters, or genres. I love the ability to go back and forth between new books and old favorites whenever I desire.
Current Status through My Favorite Childhood Books
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Hawksong (The Kiesha’ra)
Wyvernhail by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
The Baby-Sitter II
The Baby-Sitter III
The Baby-Sitter IV
Hit and Run by R.L. Stine
Ironside by Holly Black
The Face on the Milk Carton (Janie Johnson #1)
Whatever Happened to Janie? (Janie Johnson #2)
The Voice on the Radio (Janie Johnson #3)
What Janie Found (Janie Johnson #4)
Fog (Losing Christina #1)
Snow (Losing Christina #2)
The Fire (Losing Christina #3)
Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B. Cooney
My Louisiana Sky
When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt
The Ocean Within
Tides by V.M. Caldwell
Photograph made available by Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash