T10T: Books I Wish I’d Had in My Teens

September 8, 2020

top ten tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week’s theme is a books for my younger self catch-all, so I decided to go with books I wish I’d had as a teenager! 

To sum my childhood up: I have ADHD, I’ve had multiple mental illnesses since childhood, I was always “the fat girl”, I’ve had invisible disabilities and chronic pain since I was 11-12 years old, I’m queer and struggled immensely with accepting it, I was an assault survivor from an early age (and was in abusive relationships through most of my teens), and I dared to question my beliefs in a very religious setting. 

Reading was 100% my safe place. If I wasn’t reading books or fanfiction, I was writing them. Books kept me going when few other things could. I was very privileged to see a cis white girl in almost every book I picked up, but the parallels stopped there. Today, I want to talk about 10 books that make me feel seen and would have gone so far in soothing my soul. ♥ 

32993458. sy475 Circe by Madeline Miller

Oh, the book of my heart. When I think of the book that has stayed with me most, this one immediately comes to mind every single time. Circe does cover some important and relatable experiences, such as sexual assault or feeling unwanted (and don’t even get me started on how much I adore the portrayal of motherhood!), but what I took away above all else is how Circe unapologetically became who she needed to be, who she saw in herself, despite everyone’s expectations — and because of that, she took the power they wanted so desperately to keep from her. I wish I had this as a teen, to know how brave it is to become on the outside who you’ve always been on the inside, regardless of the cost.

read my review here

30971726. sy475 How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

This story is a gem all around, but most importantly, it was the first book I ever read with on-page bisexual rep (much less by a bisexual author!). There’s a line in this book that literally stunned me and made me cry the first time I read it: “I thought that was how every girl saw other girls – this mix between beauty and awe and curiosity, a thin layer of lust just underneath. Took until I was fourteen to realize that no, the way I thought about other girls was a little different.”

read my review here

35540804Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

This wasn’t the first book I read about sexual assault, but it is easily the portrayal that had the biggest impact on me. When I read this, I think I still hadn’t fully come to terms with some things that had happened to me, and Artemisia’s words were the final straw that broke down the walls between me and letting myself accept it and begin to heal. I’m forever grateful to Joy for this story.

“Is this all I get?”

read my review here

29102896Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

This story follows the progression of an abusive relationship, told from the end, where Grace is writing letters looking back on how innocently things began and the way they slowly turned to ashes. This was one of the hardest books I have ever read or reviewed because, while I gratefully didn’t experience the parental abuse and neglect she goes through, her romantic relationship looked so familiar that I can’t help but wonder, if I’d had this book as a teen, might I have recognized those red flags a little sooner?

read my review here

39895169(Don’t) Call Me Crazy edited by Kelly Jensen

This is a YA-friendly nonfiction anthology of essays and memoir snippets about mental illnesses, ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia to dermatillomania (which I have had most of my life but didn’t have a word for until reading this book!), and when I read it, it changed my life. It made me realize that even struggles I face that I thought were so rare and singular to me, were in fact something people all over the world experience. Knowing I wasn’t alone meant everything.

read my review here

35796025To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

Among many other more serious and heavy titles on this list, To Be Honest was just such a sweet breath of fresh air. At its core, it’s another cute YA romance, but Savvy is fat and isn’t going to let anyone (even her own mother) make her feel “less than” for it. The body positivity themes in this book are just so damn delightful, and if I’d had this then, maybe I wouldn’t have so thoroughly convinced myself that I was broken, or that nobody would love me, because none of that is true.

read my review here

27366528Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

It isn’t that I love this book just because it’s part of my favorite series, or just because it features a fat main character — it’s because Seanan writes this representation better than anyone I’ve ever seen, and she allows Cora to be so much more than just her size. She’s healthy and active and fun and brave and beautiful and so much more than “just a fat girl”, and I adore her forever. I can’t fathom how much this would have meant to me then, just like it does now.

read my review here

35750270Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu

There are two things I really loved this underrated gem of a story for: the depression representation, and the abusive relationship Stella lives through. Much like Bad Romance, this is a book that I wish I’d had before I even entered the dating scene, because it so perfectly captures not only the obvious forms of abuse, but the subtler, harder to catch ones, too.

read my review here

33413915. sy475 Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

I remember going into this book expecting a light contemporary… and instead finding some of the best depression representation I’ve ever seen in my life. I saw so much of myself in Jane’s thought processes. Another thing I saw myself in, that I see so rarely in books, was Jane’s recent departure from Christianity. The immense anxiety she feels over coming to terms with her realization that it isn’t a good fit for her anymore, and how she now has to reshape her entire identity and world-view around her new beliefs? That hit so close to home and would’ve made me feel so much less alone.

read my review here

43884209Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

We started with the book of my heart, so we’re ending with one of its closest runners-up. Almost all of Talia’s books feature fat main characters; that’s something I adore, but wasn’t a brand new experience by the time I got to this one. What was brand new was Chloe’s disability representation. Despite living with disabilities and chronic pain nearly my entire life, it wasn’t until reading this book that I began to genuinely accept that — and acceptance meant beginning the process of learning to be proud of myself for my strengths instead of hating myself for my flaws. I wish I could’ve started this journey of self-love a long, long time ago, but I’m happy to be on it now.

read my review here

Are there any books you wish you’d had as a teenager? If you feel comfortable talking about them, I would love to hear it! 


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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. If I look back, the only “diverse” book that I read was The Hunger Games. That is such a shame. But with the current book community and our combined efforts to bring up diverse books with various themes, I really hope we can get the right books to the kids & teens who need them.

      Thanks for sharing your book list and thoughts 💜

    1. Having more fat rep would have been great for my teens too. Honestly if I look at pictures of my teen self now I wouldn’t even consider myself fat. I wasn’t skinny but just curvy But everyone always made me believe I was. Having more acceptance of being fat and curvy would help so many out in acceptance, especially in their teens.

    1. I would have been all in for great fat representation as well. I too used books to escape from various issues.

    1. This is such a lovely list! <3 I adore Blood, Water, Paint and Circe is fantastic, too. Even though you didn't have these books as a teenager, I'm so glad you (and so many others!) have them now. I wish I'd had The Upside of Unrequited when I was a teenager; my weight was something I struggled with, and still struggle with, and I wish I'd had more fat girls in fiction so I didn't feel like I'd never be the heroine of any story because I was 'the fat girl'.

    1. Wow, I haven’t read and heard of so many of these titles but all of them are now going on my TBR! All of these books sound so impactful and I think younger me would’ve also loved to know about these books when I was younger – especially ones with body positivity themes. I still struggle so much with that now so I think I’ll still really appreciate some of these titles. Thank you for sharing this great list 🙂

    1. This is such a good list! I had similar difficulties as a teenager, and reading was my escape too. I used to re-read books so many times the pages would literally fall out, so I have a few books that are sellotaped together. 😂

    1. I probably would have liked Chloe Brown more when I had just started reading romance, I think. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I think the style would have fit me better as a newer romance reader.

    1. I love this post!!😍 Teenage is a time of so many anxities and difficult experiences, some more than others. Thank you for being so honest about yours.
      A lot of these books would have made me feel less alone and more confident in my skin during my teens. Great list💫

    1. I haven’t read any of these, but quite a few are on my TBR. I wish I could go back in time, bring them with me, and read them as a teen.

    1. Oh gosh Destiny this whole post made me cry and want to hug you so much more. Gosh, I know I wouldn’t have had no idea of what you’ve been through, and even just you letting us have a glimpse into this just made me feel so honored to hear about it, and grateful that I know you and that I have you in my life. I am so freaking proud of you for everything that you have overcome and how you are still able to be so kind and caring and have a smile on your face. I love you Destiny and I’m just here rooting for you no matter what <3

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