Thursday, September 03, 2009

Book Review: Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading

book coverLadies, who among you remember: 1) “We must, we must, we must increase our busts!” 2) spending the night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 3) a young spy’s penchant for her notebooks and tomato sandwiches 4) Tony wearing his raincoat to the blackboard 4) taming a wild island dog and naming him Rontu 5) and gazing at your first real love over a pot of boiling fondue cheese?

If you remember that these are from the teen books 1) Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret 2) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 3) Harriet the Spy 4) Then Again, Maybe I Won’t 5) Island of the Blue Dolphins and 5) Forever, then you are among the legions of women readers who never forgot the teen books that saw them through school bullies, puberty, heartbreak, body angst, and soured friendships.

Blogger and teen book author Lizzie Skurnick, along with guest essayists Meg Cabot, Laura Lippman, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Jennifer Weiner, write about their favorite books with some humor, a little snark, and a lot of earnestness in Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading.

If it seems like this book leaves out the guys, well, it kind of does. Out of 72 essays, only 7 are what can be considered books for boys: Farmer Boy; Danny, the Champion of the World; The Great Brain; I Am the Cheese; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t; The Pigman; and A Day No Pigs Would Die. Keep in mind that all of the contributions to Shelf Discovery are women, most of whom make a living writing chick lit.

I’d like to add a personal note that my favorite teen book of all time—A Summer To Die—is not included in the book. But since Lizzie Skurnick so eloquently blogs about it here, then I’ll forgive this oversight. Now I'm wondering why One Fat Summer (the male Blubber), A Separate Peace (I had the biggest crush on Finny), and The Chocolate War (one of my first life lessons about the good guy not always coming out on top) didn’t make the cut?

This book is like People Magazine’s Most Beautiful issue. In the following issue there are always angry letters-to-the-editor from fans whose idols didn’t make the cut. Like People always tells them, there are only so many pages to devote to all the beautiful people in Hollywood. And there is only so much room in Shelf Discovery to talk about the hundreds of beloved teen books out there.


Lizzie Skurnick said...

I forgot about "One Fat Summer"! Must reread...

Tressa said...

I've never come across anyone who has read it, but I know they're out there. It's got all the before & after elements that females like in their stories.

Loved your book so much!

Carla Jean said...

Funny, I JUST checked this out from the library yesterday!

Tressa said...

Carla, I hope you'll enjoy the trip down memory lane. Some readers born too late might have only heard of a few of them, but if you're an avid reader 30-45, then you should be familiar with most all of the books in Shelf Discovery.

The book brought back wonderful memories of me riding my bike with the white flowered basket on the handlebars to Homewood Library during the summer to fill it up with books.

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