Merry Wanderer of the Night + YA

Just Contemporary Memory Monday — Contemporary Favorites

I thought it fitting that my first Memory Monday during the month of November would be a look back at the Contemporary books I read as a young kid that really influenced me and had made me a lover of Contemporary YA from a very young age.

When I was younger, I loved Willo Davis Roberts. She wrote these awesome mystery/thriller type novels where the protagonists were my own age and they were awesome. They were the reason that my mom was terrified to leave ten year old Ashley alone because when she told me I was not allowed to open the front door to people I didn't know while she was gone, I informed her that it wasn't a big deal, because if they were bad, I could just shut the door really fast. O_o Instead, the rule was that I was just not allowed to answer a knock while mom was gone, period. (I have a whole Memory Monday talking about just Willo Davis Roberts here. And for realz... it's a rather funny story).

But in the course of reading about these young kids totally outsmarting the bad guys, I also read a book by WDR called Sugar Isn't Everything. It's about a young girl, maybe 10 or 11 if I remember right, who develops diabetes. At first she doesn't know what's going on. She has very little energy, craves juices and candies and feels miserable and sick and run down. Her parents take her to the doctor and she is no longer allowed to eat sweet things, and I don't remember for sure (I read this in 4th or 5th grade, so...) but I think she needs insulin shots. There is a scene in the book where she is at a football game with her two best girl friends, and she leaves for a few minutes. When she's on her way back, she hears her friends giggling and she watches a snickers bar wrapper float down from where they were sitting. Ashley's little girl heart = broken.

Then, I found Cynthia Voigt. I don't remember exactly how I discovered Cynthia Voigt (although I strongly suspect it was a book stolen borrowed from my sister's library pile, who, incidentally is also named Cynthia [and come to think about it, might also have been the reason I was so keen to read these books]) However... I digress. While I don't remember the details of the finding, I do remember the first time I read Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman Saga. It was one of my first experiences with a mental illness and it completely changed the way I viewed life, reading, books, stories, people, and myself. In Homecoming, Dicey's mom packs up her four kids, leaves their little shack on the beach and starts to drive to her cousin's house because she recognizes that she desperately needs help in every way. But on the way, Mama stops at a mall, tells the kids she'll be back shortly and then disappears. This leaves young Dicey (somewhere between 11 and 13) in a terrible position. They have almost no money, very little food and a long way to go. So they walk. This young, young girl gets her three younger siblings motivated and they walk. They walk across states to get to their aunt or cousins house. And they make it. THEY MAKE IT. But things still aren't good there. The person who takes them in wants to civilize Dicey, turn James into a priest, play Barbie doll with Maybell and send Sammie off to reform school (who, by the way is only like 5 or 6). Splitting up the family is unacceptable to Dicey, and the others so she begins to formulate a plan, once again, to keep the family they have left safe and together.

The Saga continues, continuing over seven books and telling the stories of not only Dicey and her siblings, but also other characters we meet or who are referenced along the way. And let me tell you, it is a powerful set of stories. The stuff these characters face, the things they go through it painful and raw and so full of emotional truths that it took my breath away. I didn't know writing could be like this. And I devoured these books. All seven of them, more than once.

Sharon Creech was also a huge part of my early reading and I just absolutely loved her. Still do actually. I just finished a reread of my favorite Creech, Walk Two Moons and I love it just as much now as I did then. The experience reading this would have been vastly different had I read it for the first time when I was older, (mostly that I would have seen things coming that caught me completely by surprise as a kid) but I still loved it this time around, I still cried, still ached for Sal, wondering why she wasn't enough to keep her mother around, still cringed at the awkwardly embarrassing things Phoebe and Sal did together, groaned at Ben's awkwardly endearing attempts to kiss Sal, laughed myself silly at the crazy antics of Gramps and Gran and just fell in love with the book all over again. But Creech has other wonderful books, and other favorites included Chasing Redbird and Bloomability and The Wanderer with Absolutely Normal Choas being pretty awesome too. I've read more of her recent stories now that I'm older and I gotta tell you — Creech is still made of WIN. (Read my Memory Monday post all about Sharon Creech here)

I also loved The Babysitter's Club. I've already posted about that in a Memory Monday as well, but once again, I loved that this could be real. My girlfriends and I decided that once we were old enough to babysit, we would form our own Babysitter's Club, and it would be great. (It never happened, since I moved before I was really old enough to babysit and I wasn't really interested in the series anymore when I was old enough.)

And then, one of my largest reading phases was Mary Higgins Clark. Oh how I loved Mary Higgins Clark. I know that technically her genre is mystery/thriller, but it's also very definitely realistic fiction and I was obsessed. I inhaled her books, all of them and just buzzed with the reality of serial killers, the potential to be buried alive (which has always been one of my personal nightmares and only got worse after reading Moonlight Becomes You) and the knowledge that anyone out there could have a hidden side to themselves.

I could go on and on. Contemporary Fiction has always been a huge part of what I read. I have always loved it and gravitated toward it. There is something about reading about people who could be me, or who I could meet on the street that just calls to me, just really gets to me. I love it. And even as a young kid, I was drawn to Contemporary and a lot of the time, even when I was young, I was really drawn to those heartbreakingly real and achy stories.

So yes. Contemporary is my genre, now and forever. There are other genres that I love but nothing will ever replace Contemporary.

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Just Contemporary Memory Monday — Contemporary Favorites + YA