Remember being 12 years old? Yeah, I try not to either. But what I do remember is being the kid who read all the time. I would tear through book after book – for fun! How long has it been since you’ve read for fun? In the last few years I’ve found it nearly impossible, what with all the reading I already have to do for my university courses, not to mention how busy my part-time job and homework keeps me. Pleasure reading is for breaks only.
Well, we’ve just been hit with the biggest break the world has ever seen. If you’re not a front-line worker you’ve likely got more free time than ever before. Why not pick up a book? Lucky for you, I’m one step ahead. Here is a list of seven books that will make you read with the fervor of a 12-year-old who hasn’t been burdened with unemployment or calculus.
The Long Walk – Richard Bachman (a.k.a Stephen King)
Before the Hunger Games, there was The Long Walk.
The Long Walk takes place in the not-so-distant future. Every year on the first of May, 100 teenage boys enroll in the Long Walk. If you break the rules, you get three warnings. If you exceed your limit, you’re out – for good. The walk goes on until only one boy remains, and he will win everything he could ever want – but at what price?
I’ve read dozens of King books, but this is the one I always recommend to a newcomer. I physically couldn’t put it down. The Long Walk is brilliantly existential, surprisingly emotional, with each page more harrowing than the last. Not the sunniest of reads, but trust me, you’ll be thinking about this one for days.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
I have never read a book that has made me so angry. There were several moments where the only thing that prevented me from screaming with frustration was the fact that I didn’t want to freak out my roommates. I read the last 150 pages in one sitting because I simply couldn’t put it down. I will never experience Starr’s plight. But thanks to the eloquent work of Angie Thomas, I can at least begin to understand. This is a book I think every person can benefit from reading.
The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
Listen, I did not want a sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale, nor did I think the world needed one. But did I pre-order my copy and pay to see Margaret Atwood do a live reading at my university? You bet your ass I did. No, we did not need this book, but I loved every page of it.
The Testaments picks up roughly 15 years after Offred disappears into the van at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale. There are three perspectives; a young woman who grows up in Gilead, a teenage girl who is free in Canada, and a notorious villain whose motives may not be as heinous as we once thought.
There are two downsides to this book: the first is that Margaret Atwood is a little bit out of touch with being a teenage girl, so some of those chapters didn’t sit quite right. The second is that you’ll probably have to read The Handmaid’s Tale first, and while it is a brilliant book, it is deeply depressing and very slow at times. You could always just google the synopsis – I won’t tell.
The Secret Lives of Sgt. John Wilson: A True Story of Love and Murder – Lois Simmie
I had to read this book in my grade 12 English class, and let me just say, it was WILD. Picture a classroom full of 17-year-old gremlins with various ranges of literacy, all of whom are absolutely engrossed with this novel.
Secret Lives follows the true story of a Scottish man, John Wilson, who disgraced his name and moved to Canada, leaving his wife and children behind. In 1914 he joined the Mounties, and while stationed in Saskatchewan he caught tuberculosis and fell in love with the much younger woman who nursed him through it. But it isn’t long before his wife back in Scotland sets out to find him, and what happens from then on is nothing short of tragic.
It has been over three years since I read this book, and I’ll never forget where I was when the big plot twist happened. If you like true crime or Canadian history, do yourself a favour and pick this one up.
The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis
This is a contemporary young adult book that deals with rape culture in a way I have not read in any other book.
After Alex’s sister is murdered and the killer walks free, she takes justice into her own hands. Living with what she’s done is easy but opening up to those around her – new friend Peekay and budding romance Jack – is not. As the trio navigates their senior year, tensions boil as Alex’s darker nature unfolds.
Tragic as it may be, I think you could hand this book to any young woman and she will find a character with whom she deeply relates to. It is an authentic portrayal of young-adulthood and the horrors that come along with it, while finding love in unexpected places.
Educated – Tara Westover
Educated is the true story of Tara Westover, the seventh child of survivalists in the mountains of Idaho. She never received a birth certificate and never attended school, spending her childhood working in the family junkyard. Her father forbade hospitals, so head injuries, burns, and gashes were treated with herbalism. In her teens, she bought the textbooks needed to learn the content for the ACT’s. To her shock, she passed with a mark high enough to enroll in Bringham Young University. At 17 years old, Tara Westover stepped into a classroom for the first time.
This woman is absolutely astounding. I could barely handle trigonometry after a decade of math lessons, I cannot fathom having to teach it to myself. But her journey was so traumatic, and her self-discovery is just as admirable as her brilliant mind.
A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket
Perhaps you read this series when you were actually 12. Well, I can confirm that the series is just as entertaining to read as an adult.
The series follows Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, whose parents die in a mysterious fire, leaving behind an enormous fortune for Violet to inherit when she comes of age. The siblings are sent to live with their villainous distant relative, Count Olaf, and from there, nothing but misery ensues.
Of course, the hijinks and mystery are fun for the kiddos, but there’s so much more to the series than that. The series looks at how adults are often complicit in the abuse of children, whether it’s been too scared to help, too dismissive to believe, or too proud to listen. Another overarching theme of the series is that people are not inherently good or evil, and that morality is a choice that needs to be made every day.
There are also man-eating leeches and a cult. Enough said.
Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments!