I had to clean out my bookshelves this weekend. A bit of a tidy and straighten up, an effort to prioritise my To-Be-Read pile and choosing some books to donate to The Footpath Library. Fellow avid-readers will understand when I say that this task was both a spring clean, and a bit of a reunion. I stumbled across some old books I hadn’t cracked open for yonks (and followed the dog-ears to all my favourite places for a quick re-read). There were some characters I hadn’t visited in far too long, so I put them aside for a catch-up. And I pulled out some books I know as old and dependable, a re-read of which can pull me out of any reading-rut. And then there were those time-warp titles; those books and authors I read in my youth, that shaped my reading habits and tastes. I am talking of those young adult books I actually read as a young adult.
I’m turning 26 on Sunday, and I still read YA. I will always read YA, even though I’m no longer of the target audience and each year takes me a little further away from it, technically speaking. I sometimes get questions and bewildered expressions from people when I name-check some of my favourite books and authors – because, I suppose, as we get older we’re meant to put away “childish” things?
So I found it really interesting when I came across the Aussie YA of my young adulthood. I found it especially interesting because I've been known to occasionally grouse on how good young adult readers have it these days (have I mentioned that I’m turning 26 on Sunday? Pretty sure now’s the time when I start sentences with; “Back in my day . . . ”) But, seriously, I wish that the YA books I read now had been around when I was growing up. I wish I'd had Cath Crowley, Gayle Forman, Gabrielle Williams, A.S. King, Kirsty Eagar, Courtney Summers, Simmone Howell, Trish Doller, Fiona Wood . . . the list goes on and on.
But then I came across the books I actually had. John Marsden, Melina Marchetta, Margo Lanagan, Brigid Lowry, Scot Gardner, Maureen McCarthy, Jaclyn Moriarty, Scott Monk . . . that list too, goes on and on. I forgot about some of them. I forgot the brutal male characters Scott Monk turned into eventual heroes for me to love. I forgot that John Marsden wrote short books that packed a punch and left me wounded. I forgot that I re-read ‘Raincheck on Timbuktu’ about a million times because I was Lucy as much as I was Josie Alibrandi (and can Kirsten Murphy please write something new?). I forgot that Anna Fienberg’s ‘Borrowed Light’ has one of the most perfect openers about dying stars and the moon “like a dog on a leash.” I forgot that Paula Boock’s ‘Dare Truth or Promise’ was one of the first LGBTI books I ever read, and that the author wrote a romance, and the fact that it was about two girls was incidental (and how great is that?!).
Basically, I forgot for a long while that I had it pretty good too. And while I do love the YA books I've since discovered in my post-young-adult days, I wouldn’t change my reading history for anything. Because each one of these books (and about a hundred more that aren’t pictured) helped shape my tastes and ensured I'd keep reading YA well into adulthood and beyond. These are the books that ensnared and stuck with me, and I love them all.
This post could also be titled ‘Vintage Aussie YA’. Because when I was growing up I mostly read Australian and New Zealand YA authors – maybe I’m remembering this wrong, but there weren’t a whole lot of American and UK young adult authors on offer when I was growing up. The online bookshops have changed this, of course, and for that reason publishers are also probably more likely to buy international rights to popular overseas books. So I grew up reading some great Australian YA authors (many of whom are still writing to this day, who just getting better and better with each new release). I don’t know if the reverse is also true, and maybe a few of these titles will be complete unknowns to international readers out there. If that’s the case, then I implore you to try and find some of these vintage Aussie YA books – because they were great! Here is the list of them, from the top:
• ‘Raincheck on Timbuktu’ by Kirsten Murphy
• ‘One Dead Seagull’ by Scot Gardner
• ‘Came Back To Show You I Could Fly’ by Robin Klein
• ‘The Crush’ by Scott Monk
• ‘Raw’ by Scott Monk
• ‘So Much to Tell You’ by John Marsden
• ‘Checkers’ by John Marsden
• ‘Dear Miffy’by John Marsden
• ‘Feeling Sorry for Celia’ by Jaclyn Moriarty
• ‘Letters From the Inside’ by John Marsden
• ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ by Melina Marchetta
• ‘Ganglands’ by Maureen McCarthy
• ‘Deadly Unna?’ by Phillip Gwynne
• ‘Guitar Highway Rose’ by Brigid Lowry
• ‘Mahalia’ by Joanne Horniman
• ‘Willow Tree And Olive’ by Irini Savvides
• ‘Dare Truth or Promise’ by Paula Boock
• ‘Touching Earth Lightly’ by Margo Lanagan
• ‘Borrowed Light’ by Anna Frienberg