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Books That Made My Adolescence

As university students, we often tend to see our teenage years as a faraway reality that we would rather forget. While I would rather pictures of me in my mall goth phase stay hidden, I am not entirely sure that the teenage feeling of being unsure and in limbo is all that distant from my life at university. My theory is that we’re teenagers forever because nobody really ever knows what the f*ck they are doing. We are all perpetually figuring ourselves out. That being said, I don’t think that it would be remiss to recommend some of the books that made me (and still do) feel a little less alone in my confusion. 

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

I fell in love with this book as sensitive teen who grappled with how to separate my own feelings from those around me. I was desperately taken by the beauty of empathy, but also emotionally exhausted by the alienation that comes with internalizing feelings that were not my own.  This internal struggle is captured so poignantly in this book. The book is centred on Rose who discovers on her eighth birthday that she can taste the feelings of others in the food of those who cook for her. She brings magical realism into the suburbia of LA and in turn teaches us to see the magic in the seemingly mundane. She can taste the “adultery “in a supper meal and the clenched-up anger in a bite of the cookie, but even her special taste can never truly know the inner worlds of others. There is a scene in the book where Rose is caught by a security guard in front of a vending machine saying thank you prayers to whoever conspired to make Oreos. She finds solace in factory manufactured foods which don’t carry heavy emotional weight. This scene always stays with me. Rose is a weird and sensitive kid, and getting lost in her world made feel less weird about my own weirdness. 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

John Green was right when he said that this book reminded him of what it is like to be young and in love. This book is the embodiment of love. It is every meme emblazoned with the words “the feels” across it. It is your heartbeat feeling as if an electric pulse has been sent through it when you listen to “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens.  Park is a black clothing cladded, comic reading misfit. Eleanor is a dorky and emotionally messy redhead from a haphazard home. The book takes you back to what feels like not only to fall in love, but to become so immersed in another person that you want to share your whole world with them. It is about how love and friendship can be your solace in the more gross aspects of life, or as Park puts it “yesterdays happen”. Ooof! I love this book, and as the foremost expert on love in literature you should take my word and read it. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

You probably know of this book through the movie. To be honest, I hadn’t seen the movie till my first year of university, but I read the book a total of ten times when I was thirteen and apart from Harry Potter, I think this book invigorated my love of reading. I read it at a time when as an introverted teen stepping out of my sheltered, lonely world for the first time and being so in awe of the new experiences that sometimes I was too scared to participate in. I covered all my journals with quotes from the book and read by dad the famous poem that Charlie reads Patrick at Christmas. He wrote it off as teen angst… I was angry because this book validated a lot of teens’ feelings of uncertainty and separation from those around them. And teen feelings are valid and real, okay. It follows shy and sensitive Charlie in his freshman year of high school as he gets taken in by older students Sam and Patrick. Charlie figures out things about himself through falling for them and going along with their escapades. I have too many teary and complicated emotions about this book to do it justice, but it really made think about “really being here” within a world that is very easy to feel distant from during the teenage years.

I am currently in my third year completing a Bachelor of arts in English and Philosophy . A ravenclaw fangirl who likes podcasts , everything potter & philosophy. In love with love , Lorde , romcoms ,cuddling my baby sister and getting lost in conversation with my friends.
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