When I was about 13 years old, I read two books that I fell in love with and since then have read them both many, many, many times. Because of these two books specifically I decided that I needed to be a writer and so at 13, I sat in my home and typed, on a typewriter, yes it was the early 80s, I typed my first novel about a boy named, Larry Winston. Larry was snarky, sarcastic, and fully flawed with many problems.
Have any guesses which books I am talking about?
Let me tell you more about Larry. He felt like his parents didn’t love him and while I am sure they did in the backstory, in the novel itself, he was on his own, much like I was at that age. He didn’t have a lot of money and he shoplifted his clothes and scrounged up pennies to get lunch at the local taco stand next to his junior high. (Back then we called it junior high not middle grade). Larry was 13. Larry got into fights, got picked up by the cops and wanted to die. It was an intense novel to say the least.
I never attempted to get it published. It’s somewhere in my parent’s-well my stepfather’s house as my mother has since passed away from lung cancer-the disease I had given Larry’s mom too in the story.
*Did I see that coming? Not sure, but both my parents smoked.
Hey maybe someday I’ll revisit Larry and his story. I have most of it still in my head.
Do you know these books? At the time I had no idea they were either ground breaking or popular, I just knew that I LOVED them and I loved the main characters. They are:
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and to this day I still believe it has one of the strongest openings in any novel ever written by anyone in the history of writing.
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They’re nice and all – I’m not saying that – but they’re also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddamn autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out and take it easy. I mean that’s all I told D.B. about, and he’s my brother and all. He’s in Hollywood. That isn’t too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every week end. He’s going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe. He just got a Jaguar. One of those little English jobs that can do around two hundred miles an hour. It cost him damn near four thousand bucks. He’s got a lot of dough, now. He didn’t use to. He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was «‘The Secret Goldfish.’ It was about this little kid that wouldn’t let anybody look at his goldfish because he’d bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.”
I read that and I was hooked. I went to mom “Do you know about this book? It’s goddamn amazing listen to this.” Of course she did but she listened to me go on and on about it and how I had great plans to name my first child Holden.
You can read the whole first chapter if you haven’t here-but go pick up a copy, it’s really a GREAT book. http://chabrieres.pagesperso-orange.fr/texts/salinger_catcher.html
Then there was this book which deals with the social bullshit that I was dealing with at the time. It wasn’t the 50s and I wasn’t a “greaser” but that was how things were at my school. Since we left my father and our secure life and we all of a sudden didn’t have money, I was thrust into this life. Also I had (fake) red hair so everyone called me “Cherry” for Cherry Valance. You got it! The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
Here is how this book hooked me in the first paragraph.
“WHEN I STEPPED OUT into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home. I was wishing I looked like Paul Newman— he looks tough and I don’t— but I guess my own looks aren’t so bad. I have light-brown, almost-red hair and greenish-gray eyes. I wish they were more gray, because I hate most guys that have green eyes, but I have to be content with what I have. My hair is longer than a lot of boys wear theirs, squared off in back and long at the front and sides, but I am a greaser and most of my neighborhood rarely bothers to get a haircut. Besides, I look better with long hair.”
You can read more here http://theoutsidersbook.blogspot.com/2005/09/whole-book.html
I must have read that book 15 times in a row. I liked the other books she wrote as well, but this was my favorite.
I now have completed two TEEN FICTION books. One is older MG/YA and the other is definitely YA. I am actually doing a final revision on the second one. Both have male leads, both are told in the first person. I have always been drawn to books that have both. Sure I enjoy chick lit (heck, I have two chick lit novels published under a pen name), but I love my boy stories so much. I highly recommend that you read them both.
Since these, of course I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Harry Potter series (also written by a woman) and anything by Dickens-most are boy leads as well.