Welcome back to Four Book Friday, a continuing series where writers and readers tell us about four books that changed their life! This week’s post comes from Katy Upperman, a YA writer and blogger and book lover. Read on for the four books that have inspired her.
Blubber by Judy Blume – While Just as Long as We’re Together is my favorite Judy Blume book (I read the copy I had as a kid so many times the spine split in two), Blubber had the biggest impact on me as a person and, later, as a writer. It was my first glimpse into the ugliness of preadolescence and it scared the crap out of me. It also gave me a greater capacity for empathy, and an early understanding of the scathingly brutal crowd mentality that exists among girls. Blubber is a dark book, and its instances of bullying are, at times, painful to read. No character is purely good or evil, which is refreshing and incredibly authentic. Blubber does not speak down to its audience, nor does it try too hard to impart a lesson. Even reading as a child, I understood these things, and I appreciated them.
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney – This is the only YA novel I remember reading when I was an actual young adult. It stuck with me for years, until I finally bought a copy as an adult and reread it. Upon my second reading more than ten years later, the very same story element resonated with me: the romance. Sure, I was curious about Janie and what might’ve happened to her all those years ago, what with the milk carton and all, but what really kept me reading, flipping pages at an alarming rate, was her romance with boy-next-door Reeve. I recall the tiniest details about their relationship – Janie and Reeve in the autumn leaves, her feeding him cake, him taking care of her after she wanders deliriously into one of his classes. Admittedly, The Face on the Milk Carton is steeped in melodrama (wasn’t there a Lifetime movie inspired by it?), but it is the book that sparked my everlasting love of YA romance.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman – I read Twilight in my mid-twenties and thought: I could probably write a book this good. Shortly after, I started reading novels by Sarah Dessen, which made me think: I’d really like to write novels as fantastic as these. Then I read If I Stay (0ver the course of an afternoon) and I was so affected, so torn apart, all I could think was: I must to learn to write books that pack an emotional punch like this one. If I Stay one of the few books I’ve reread, and I still recommend it often. It’s the novel that made me long to write, to craft a story that might impact a reader as profoundly as this one impacted me. The tragedy, the romance, the desperation – it’s all so perfectly, enviably executed. It remains an inspiration to this day.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – Another rare reread, and another constantly recommended novel. I’m not sure why I picked this book up, initially. It’s not my regular fare, but something about the summary’s description of the unlikely friendship between the main characters Mariam and Laila spoke to me, as did the volatile Afghan setting. I read A Thousand Splendid Suns shortly after my daughter was born, and, as a new mom, it shredded me. I have never read a more evocative story, and I have never felt so strongly about characters and their futures. Khaled Hosseini’s storytelling is so rich and courageous; anytime I thought things couldn’t possibly get worse for these characters, they inevitably did. And then there’s this twist… This surprise toward the end that made me want to weep. I love when that happens.
Katy Upperman writes young adult stories about cool girls, cute boys, and steamy kisses. She’s represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. Katy recommends books with the Bookanista and blogs at YA Confidential. Once a fifth grade teacher, she’s now an Army wife, happy mama, passionate reader, and country music fanatic. She lives close to the ocean, loves long runs and warm weather, and she’s addicted to Jelly Bellies. Find her on Twitter.
Want more Four Book Friday? Here are more posts in the series:
- Krista Van Dolzer on To Kill a Mockingbird, Lois Lowry, Stargirl and the power of introverts
- Hannah Thompson on Rumble Fish, Harry Potter, Chris Crutcher, and John Green.
- Clarissa Hadge on A Wrinkle In Time, Tamora Pierce, North to Freedom, and Mi Revalueshanary Fren
- Mackenzi Lee on Laini Taylor, One Day, The Thief Lord, and a book about a man and his steam shovel