Books That You Probably Read in High School ...

Some books never grow old. Some books never stop being passed around among friends. Some teachers never stop frowning at, or trying to hate particular books. At my high school, certain books were special and were at one time or another read by practically everyone (though there was often some difference among what the boys read and what the girls read). Anyway, just for fun, I thought I would compile a list of books that were popular among the girls when I was in high school ...

Forever by Judy Blume

Tiger Eyes may have more literary merit but Forever is the Judy Blume novel that every one reads. And if you know who Ralph is, you'll probably already know and understand why ...

Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey

Puberty Blues gets passed around for basically the same reasons as Forever but the reality is much harsher, with younger characters and self-centred boyfriends. At my school, this one actually lost a lot of popularity after one of our teachers made us watch the 1980s film version and discuss it. It was at that point that I realised the only bit I liked in the book was where the girls bought their own surfboard and basically told the boys to get stuffed. In recent times, this one has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to the television series of the same name.

Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

At one stage, Looking For Alibrandi was the most stolen book from high school libraries in Australia. And really, it's difficult not to like this book that tells the story of a young woman growing up and gaining a sense of identity against the backdrop of private schools and multicultural Australia. 

Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews

With it's selling points of wealth, incest, child abuse and sadistic grandmothers who would run around crying "Devil's spawn!" at her grandchildren who are locked in attic at every possible opportunity, this gothic-style fairytale remains universally hated by teachers and book critics and loved by high school girls. It's dark, it's kind of twisted, there is a lot of deeper elements in there and you'll get a really shoddy mark if you write a review on it and point this out. (I learned that last part the hard way ...)

Hey Dollface by Deborah Hautzig

Were they or weren't they ... Does it even matter? This novel of female friendship and emerging sexuality usually quietly slips under the YA controversy radar, but remains a memorable novel from my childhood. It must remain a memorable novel for quite a few other people too, as it has consistently remained in print for more than thirty years ...

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien

This tale of a young woman in a post-nuclear war world was actually part of the curriculum at my high school. The heroine is a pleasingly strong young woman, but far from having a gorgeous boy next door to help her out, Ann instead suffers Mr Loomis, a cold, clinical man who does not understand women, particularly the young, idealistic and nature loving Ann. Which when they are the last man and women on earth is bound to cause some trouble and not of the romantic comedy variety. The whole thing is open to a zillion interpretations, but if I was Ann, I wouldn't have stuck around either ...

Tomorrow When the War Began (series) by John Marsden

This action packed tale of a group of kids who stage guerilla warfare when Australia is under attack is, for some, one of the only books that they actually read voluntarily during the course of their adolescence. In my humble opinion it drags on for too long--the first three novels are the best--and the spin off series was a little unnecessary but you have to give the author credit for his understanding of the teenage mind and ability to write a page turner.

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

One of those controversial books that turns out to be a massive disappointment.

Have I forgotten anything? What was your favourite book in high school, or which is the most controversial title that you can remember from that era?


Andrew Leon said…
I didn't read any of those. In fact, a girl did a book report on Flowers in the Attic my freshman year of high school, which pretty much set me against ever reading them.
High school, for me, was a lot of Piers Anthony.
Kathryn White said…
There are three Australian titles on that list and nearly all of the books are by female authors, so I'm probably offering quite a few gender and cultural biases here, lol. If I recall right, Lord of the Rings was the book that most of the boys in my class, along with a lot of HG Wells.

Funny. The boys always read sci-fi and adventure and the girls are always more interested in coming of age tales and melodrama. Could be fodder for a post of its own?
Andrew Leon said…
Hence the stereotypical way that books are marketed these days, although the field has been broadening for quite a while.
Other than school assignments, almost all I read in high school was sci-fi/fantasy.
Brona said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brona said…
I'm showing my age by saying that I read the Flowers in the Attic series as they were published!! (well almost - the fourth book came out when I was in Yr 10 which got me started on the series). We hung on every gory word.
I also studied Z for Zachariah at school - it got me started on my love of end-of-the-world stories.
My teen years were also dominated by Catherine Gaskin books - I loved Sara Dane & Fiona.
Kathryn White said…
I've never read any Catherine Gaskin, though I know plenty of readers who did! Same as you, I hung on to every gory, shocking detail of Flowers in the Attic and its sequels.

I found out today that Z for Zachariah is going to be made into a film. I hope it's as good as the book.
Kathryn White said…
Yeah, there has been some broadening in recent years, which I think is just awesome.
I've never heard of Hey Dollface but the others are all certainly familiar and were passed around
Kathryn White said…
I'm starting to wonder if maybe Hey Dollface was only a big deal at my high school?

I'm glad you remember some of the other books on the list :-)

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