Do you have any haunting memories of reading these books (or are they still nagging at you today)? I know that my days reading HatchetÂ were some of the mostÂ frustratingÂ of my life. Mostly because I was a twelve year old girl and I liked fantasy; I would have rather read the dictionary than Hatchet. The Golden CompassÂ definitely still sticks with me, but in a good way. And I totally have nightmares sometimes about Lord of the Flies.
Hatchet, Gary Paulsen
In this novel, Brianâs plane crashes, leaving him alone in the wilderness with only his hatchet to rely on, staying alive on his wits and this one archaic tool. Okay, we learned some survival skills, but we canât evenÂ bringÂ hatchets on planes anymore. We canât even bring Swiss army knives! We bought a Swiss army knife after reading this book and then realized it totally wouldnât help in a plane crash situation! This book just reinforced our feeling that we would probably die if stranded in the wilderness for 54 days. Sigh.
Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
Look, as far as weâre concerned, this book is not appropriate for children. Your humble author read it in the third grade, when the teachers realized I was bored stiff with the picture books they were prescribing to the rest of the class. I fell out of my chair crying. Spoiler alert, but at the end, the one dog dies, and then the other dog dies ofÂ sadness. That is just the worst thing I had ever heard. It still might be.
The Giver, Lois Lowry
The ending of this book has been plaguing us for oh, almost two decades now. The premise is startling enough â a world without color, emotion, or any free will â and we still think of the stern lesson in âlanguage precisionâ Jonas received whenever we whine that weâre âstarving,â but the ending is what keeps us up at night. The way we see it, there are only two possibilities: either Jonas finds the non-dystopian world of his dreams, filled with soft light and warm food, or itâs a death hallucination. Sadly, we sort of think itâs the latter.
Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
Itâs bad enough when animals die in books, but this was probably the first book we read where a kid â a kid our age â died too. Plus, Paterson took so much care to make her awesome before she killed her off. Lesson learned: stay away from rope swings at all costs. Especially if youâre an atheist.
Loganâs Run, William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
Another book centered around a futuristic dystopian society, this one ageist to the point where they have it all set up so you happily go to your death as soon as you hit age 21 and the little shiny crystal in your hand turns black. Â Needless to say, this book has only gotten more profound (well, sort of) as weâve gotten older, but we remember being horrified by it even at a young age, examining our palms and eyeing our parents and teachers with mistrust whenever they asked us to go anywhere. We would not be summarily executed on our birthdays. No, sir.
Lizard Music, Daniel Pinkwater
Pinkwater is pretty much the weirdest, and your intrepid authorâs father enjoyed pressing his books into her hands just to see what faces sheâd make. In this one, Victor, home alone for two weeks, sees some giant lizards playing in a band on late-night TV. Turns out no one knows anything about them except the Chicken Man, who leads Victor on a absurd, hilarious, wild lizard chase to an invisible island. This had us both hooked on and terrified of television for years.
The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
So letâs get this straight: there is a woman kidnapping children to do sick experiments on them â separating them from their souls, essentially â and then we find out itâs our heroineâsÂ mom? Thatâs just not right. Also, we want our own personal daemons, stat. No, that teddy bear wonât do, Mom. What is this, more torture?
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
We probably donât have to explain to you why these books were so scarring, but letâs put it this way: more than one of our friends has a story about how, when she finished the final book, she fell to the ground crying, wailing that she had to die, or sheâd never get to Narnia. Sure, we donât think that anymore (we get it, itâs a Christian allegory), but you canât deny itâs a pretty messed up message to send to a kid.
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Like everyone else (probably), this book had looking at our classmates with distrust when we read it in school. Ever since weâve been plagued by the question â what would we do? Would our animal instincts take over? Would we hunt pigs? Would we hunt Piggy? We just donât know, but this book terrified us.
White Fang, Jack London
New GirlâsÂ Schmidt isnât the only one whose life choices have been informed by the end of Londonâs classic. True, weâve never personally âWhite Fangedâ anyone, but we canât say weâve never thought about it. Itâs kill or be killed, after all.