Sometimes, when I finally act on recommendations or give into trying out a new book or series, I put down the book after reading it and tell myself, what a waste that I haven’t discovered it earlier! I love young adult (YA) literature because they can be as light or as deep as you want them to be: everything is up to one’s interpretation.
The reading of YA, or children’s lit, when you’re older significantly changes one’s experience of it. Back when I read Narnia, it was the most wondrous place, a land I wanted to get away to. Subsequent readings now that I’m older doesn’t lessen its beauty, but the nuances are different: I read the same lines differently, with more years on me. You can’t remove a certain “jadedness” to reading about a magical land once you’re older.
This Three for Thursday list contains five “old” books that I felt I really should have discovered earlier when I was younger, because not only were they fabulous reads, but they have been around for much longer (older than me!).
LeGuin’s first book in the Earthsea cycle, A Wizard of Earthsea, was first published in 1968. Earthsea–a sprawling archipelago–is the home and setting of the wizard Ged, who the cycle follows from his childhood. It is followed by The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972), and Tehanu (1990). Various short stories followed and are sprinkled all over the timeline, some in collections.
Coming-of-age books usually had profound impact on me when I was in that age range, and LeGuin’s Earthsea is beautifully crafted, both from a world building point of view and down to the characters in her story. They are flawed in many ways: prideful, selfish, afraid–but it is exactly this that makes this a wonderful coming-of-age, epic-fantasy adventure.
A five-book series published in 1973, this contemporary fantasy focuses on the battle between good and evil based on Arthurian legend, and prominently features children: the majority of the battle (and the preparation for it) is seen from the perspective of Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, as well as Will Stanton.
The interweaving of Arthurian legend and myth into modern life (or modern in the time it was written) was seamless, and how the children’s perceptions and their own personalities color the events and how these unfold is well done. It is not so much a coming-of-age story, but you do see the children grow within the span of the books, gaining a wider worldview, and trying to overcome the odds–trying, failing, but trying again and eventually succeeding.
(Note: the movie “adaptation” The Seeker is a dismal waste of time. The books are so much better. So. Much. Better.)
Published in 1977, it tells the story of two lonely children who find friendship in each other and proceed to build a make-believe kingdom, Terabithia. The friendship especially transforms Jess from being depressed and introverted.
To be honest, when I picked up the book, I had no idea what the story was. I had been meaning to read it for some time, and the movie that came out only furthered my resolve to read the book. All I knew was what it showed in the cover: two friends, and a make-believe land. What came out, though, was a profoundly poignant story that I almost felt pretty much steamrolled me into speechlessness.
I was actually on the fence about whether this would have been a better read when I was younger: I don’t know for sure if the poignancy would not have been as strong as when I actually read it, or if it would have been lost in the make-believe world. I eventually decided that yes, this would have been a great read when I was younger: if it had affected me as much when I was older, it would definitely have also affected me deeply while younger.
What didn’t make the cut
There were a couple series/books that I thought should have been on the list, but for various reasons I decided not to add. A notable book (or series) would be the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan: a classic, surely, but I am somewhat skeptical of my attention span when I was younger. Although I did finish and enjoy The Lord of the Rings immensely, the Wheel of Time feels like quite in a different place when it comes to descriptive prose, that by then, I might just have reached the limit of my patience.
What would your three books be?