Maybe it’s because my youth was a tad, shall we say, “misspent” – but nothing makes me feel young again like reading about young people and their crazy families. It’s like a do-over, seeing other normal people go through their teens and twenties. Would I have made the same judgments, moves, mistakes?
Here are a few of my favorite books that make me feel young again:
In The Most Fun We’ve Ever Had (Doubleday) by Claire Lombardo, we get to see the youthful adventures and indiscretions of an entire family and their friends. I especially enjoyed the plot lines involving the sisters. (And I came away feeling pretty good about all the ways I didn’t lie, cheat or steal from my sister over the years.) You’ve probably heard a lot of praise about this book, but one thing I need to emphasize is that it feels really young and buoyant, not a stuffy family saga set in the past.
Carousel Beach (Forge Books) by Orly Konig offers a similar multi-generational glimpse into the mistakes of the women in a family. The young women are so real and flawed you may actually yell at them as you read, plus it’s set at the beach — perfect place for page-turning suspense, plot, and peril. This book will make you feel like a kid again — a kid who misses her grandma really, really badly.
The recently released bestseller The Dutch House (Harper) by Ann Patchett is about how a brother and sister are attached to their first home, and its memories throughout their complicated, tragic lives. Reading it, I had profound memories of being a kid and loving my own house and all its flaws — I could almost hear my mother’s voice calling me home through the woods.
Normal People (Hogarth) by Sally Rooney is about two awkward kids who meet in high school and fall in and out of love and friendship over the years despite differences in their backgrounds. Reading it put me so vividly inside the world of youth, I felt like I could feel my book bag cutting into my shoulder — and could smell that rubbery sneaker aroma of the gymnasium all over again.
Of course, the world of Young Adult and New Adult fiction offers lots of glimpses into youth culture. And Fallout Girl (Blue Crow) by Katie Rose Guest Pryal does not disappoint. Miranda’s reaction to her mother’s death is to jump on a plane and tell no one where she is going. That’s something we all wanted to do when we were twenty, right? The fact that she goes to L.A., that complex town where dreams are crushed, well, I was just waiting for her to stumble again. Call me a masochist, but I loved this book because Miranda was as foolish as I was, but a lot more brave. A youthful do-over if there ever was one.
There’s nothing like a young protagonist and their siblings and family to make you remember your own wacky family of origin — and to make you feel better about your own life choices. So I keep picking up books with young lead characters and keep reliving my own youth — every time I crack open the spine.
Which one are you looking to pick up? Tell BookTrib below!