Off the Shelf (The Daily Post Challenge)

Another day, another The Daily Post post! 😉

One thing you should know about me: I love to read. I read so much as a kid that my eyesight has suffered the consequences. At my peak- third grade- I could read a 200 to 300-page novel in one day, granted, that I had plenty of time on my hands. Seriously, I was a bad-ass eight-year-old. 😛

Anyway, I digress: the bookshelf in my room is small- only two levels in which I can fill my books. They are stuffed to the brim, from my dad’s old collection of classics that he bought from the ’80’s (aka yellowed pages, dusty, and very old) to those that I bought with my own allowance money from my preteen and teen years. I used to have much more books before, but after the move almost five years ago, a good chunk of them have either been stored in the garage (filthy as heck) or lost. The ones I have with me right now are the cream of the crop, my most favorite ones that I could read again and again and again without tiring.

Since I love books, this challenge has been extremely difficult for me. To choose a novel- one novel- that I could re-read. It is not fair for me to select one and isolate the other books that have proved integral to my childhood, shaping me in becoming who I am today.

Simply put, it’s a tie. Between five novels. Sorry, The Daily Post, but I’m going to have to fudge the rules a bit to make my point.

Here’s the challenge: Let’s go.

1. Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You, 4th edition (2004). By Carol Weston.

Between the ages of ten and fourteen, I was really big on psychological and self-help books for adolescents. I would read and purchase all of these books, as means of understanding the psyche of teenagers and ways to make it through the “turbulent” teen years. I guess I was “preparing myself” for those times. Weston’s massive 420-plus page advice book was extensive. She had everything, from advice on relationships to drinking and drugs to college applications. There was also this bomb-ass cheesecake recipe, which I actually used! I loved how Girltalk was timeless, relatable to adolescents today, even in the digital age. ‘Cause Weston deals with real problems; she keeps it real.

2. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, (1993). By Chris Crutcher

This was the novel that started it all. My love for Chris Crutcher’s books, that is. I first read SFSB in the ninth grade, curious about the title when I saw it on the school’s summer reading list (granted, it was intended for sophomores, which was weird…). I fell in love with it immediately. It had witty sarcasm, it had punch, and it had soul. I jived to this book; it was mon amour. A story about two misfits, overweight swimmer Eric Calhoun and severely-burned Sarah Byrnes (unfortunate last name), SFSB recounts their topsy-turvy adventure during their senior year, as they grow from their experiences together. I would re-read this book in a heart-beat.

3. Best Foot Forward, (2005). By Joan Bauer.

Light and simple, Best Foot Forward would be my go-to book to bring on summer vacation, to pass the time if I get bored. It’s not too long, and has this…small-town charm to it (although it takes place in big-city Chicago). But Bauer’s writing style is straightforward and gently humorous, and I like that. Might be considered boring to other readers, but that’s not my problem. As the sequel to Rules of the Road, Best Foot Forward picks up where the previous novel left off, once again peering into the life of sixteen-year-old Jenna Boller, employer at Gladstone Shoes, who must now help her boss, Mrs. Gladstone, prevent her enterprise from being taken over by her scheming son. Plain, but poignant, BFF has plenty of sole (pun intended).

4. The Thief Lord, (2000). By Cornelia Funke.

It wasn’t until I watched the 2006 family-friendly movie of the same name that I was interested in reading The Thief Lord. I had read some of Funke’s other books (including Dragon Rider and Inkheart), but for some reason I wasn’t interested in TTL. But once I picked it up and read the first two chapters, I was enchanted. I felt myself being transported into the canals and alleyways of Venice (where I had actually been to when I was thirteen- amazingly beautiful place), and into the lives of the rascally, but innocent and good-hearted young thieves. Centered around brothers Prosper and Bo, the two befriend the titular “Thief Lord,” who offers them shelter from their evil aunt and uncle, in exchange for robbing the residents’ houses for food. Although clocking in at over 300 pages, TTL is a dizzying ride through the nooks and crannies of this complex, interwoven children’s tale.

5. Th1rteen R3asons Why (aka Thirteen Reasons Why), (2007). By Jay Asher.

To be honest, I actually didn’t like the book when I first read it. I found it very strange and I just didn’t understand Hannah’s voice and style through the tapes. However, I read it again two, three years later, and something just…clicked. I felt it. I felt Hannah’s emotions pouring through the core of the novel, the cool, but also at times manic phrases that created a small ache in my chest. You do really want to help her, although you know that you can’t. Seen through the eyes of Clay, a classmate of Hannah’s, Thirteen Reasons Why deals with the serious issue of suicide, and interestingly has helped those in real life get attention for their problems. There were also talks a few years ago to adapt it into a film (which I would love to see), including casting Selena Gomez and Logan Lerman in their respective roles as Hannah and Clay, but I don’t know what’s going on right now. Regardless, a well-written novel.

And voilà, that’s all! My books, my childhood. My life.

– The Finicky Cynic


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