Books I Didn’t Think I’d Want to Read, Then Ended Up Reading, And Actually Loved
Have you ever seen a book at the library, or a used bookstore, or a friend’s house that totally did not look like something you would enjoy reading, and then someone convinced you to give it a try, and you ended up loving it? Yeah, me too. It’s awful, too, because they’re usually the kind of books that have titles or covers cheesy enough to make you wince. And when a friend spies you holding it, you have to rush out in one big breath, “Okay, I know this book looks totally lame but it’s actually pretty good, once you get past the first three chapters and it actually has a really cool ending and it might have made me cry, but it was also kind of funny, and just ignore the silly title and borrow it, okay?” I’ve done that before. Just so you all know.
Okay, so I think I’ll go ahead and further humiliate myself by sharing a few books that totally did not look like titles I’d actually want to read, but ended up reading anyway, and actually loved. Usually it was a friend who would convince me to read them, or a really great review by someone I trust. Whatever the case, here they are. You read, and I’ll stand over here cringing in embarrassment.
Just One Wish, by Janette Rallison
Seventeen-year-old Annika Truman will do anything to fulfill her little brother’s only wish before his frightening cancer surgery. The trouble is, he wants a certain superstar actor to pay him a visit. Annika has only a few days to drive to California and convince the celebrity to come home with her. On a seemingly impossible adventure that includes paparazzi, bows and arrows, and one enormous snake, Annika learns a few lessons about family, love, and having her own wishes granted.
Sounds lame, right? That is exactly what I thought! (We think so similarly, random readers) But one of my good friends was just raving about how good this book was, so I ended up checking it out from the library. It ended up being so good. Okay, so the whole superstar love interest thing was really lame, and I kind of skimmed those sections. But the relationship between Annika and her little brother was so sweet. Usually sibling-dying-of-cancer stories all sort of feel the same and they really depress me, but this one was different. Special. You should just read it and see if you agree.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1867. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.
Okay, so I was really scared to read this book, because I usually shy away from things involving witchcraft. (I may be one of the 1% of people alive who still has never seen/read Harry Potter) But believe it or not, reading this book was actually a school assignment way back in sixth or seventh grade (best homework ever!), so I really had no choice. Long story short, I loved it. It was my favorite book ever for several years (until another school assignment introduced me to the masterpiece that is Gone with the Wind), and I still love, love, love it. You’ve probably read it, but in case (like me), you never realized this gem existed, let me assure you that you will fall in love with this story. It’s not about witchcraft at all, but rather a story of friendship, compassion, and staying true to yourself.
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale
Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.
I first read this book in 2007, the year it came out. I was eleven or twelve, and I was in this weird phase where I went and read all of the Newberry Medal and Honor books. I totally cringed at the idea of this one. Princess Academy? I was so over princess and Barbie dolls, thank you very much! But it was on the list, and I was completely dedicated, so I read it. It quickly became one of my new favorite books. I’ve read it three or four times since then, and I still love it every time. The story’s really simple and sweet, which is good because I love simple storylines. I’m not big into action, drama, and conflict. Shannon Hale is just a brilliant writer, though. She made me love this story, when other authors may have made me gag.
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
When an eccentric millionaire dies mysteriously, sixteen very unlikely people are gathered together for the reading of the will…and what a will it is!
Whoever decided that we should never judge a book by its cover was obviously not a teenage girl. Because I feel like I always judge books by their covers. Don’t care if that’s right or not, but it’s true. And I hate the cover to this book. Always have. Why? Because it’s boring, and doesn’t really seem to have much to do with the book. But, whatever. I’m going on a rant. Anyway, this book was another title on my Newberry Medal and Honor list. Wasn’t excited about reading it at all. But you know what? I really, really liked this book. I don’t know if I’d use the word “love”, and I don’t know if I’d want to read it more than once or twice a decade, but it’s still pretty good. I think the appeal of this book is that it’s not mushy, sappy, romantic, or girly. It’s just a solid interesting, quirky mystery. The non-gushy side of my personality loves that. I feel the same about And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. Anyone else read that book?
Heartbeat, by Sharon Creech
Run run run.
That’s what twelve-year-old Annie loves to do. When she’s barefoot and running, she can hear her heart beating . . . thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP. It’s a rhythm that makes sense in a year when everything’s shifting: Her mother is pregnant, her grandfather is forgetful, and her best friend, Max, is always moody. Everything changes over time, just like the apple Annie’s been assigned to draw. But as she watches and listens, Annie begins to understand the many rhythms of life, and how she fits within them.
This is a poem book. As in, the whole thing is written as one long poem, not prose. Which may be up some people’s alley, but it was never up mine. No, siree. But a librarian suggested I read this when I was ten or eleven, and I ended up really connecting to it. It was one of the first books that opened my eyes to the idea that I don’t necessarily have to write about a plot. With a hero and a bad guy and a quest or goal or aim. Sometimes the best books are just about people, and what they think or feel. That idea has been invaluable in the way I write and form my stories, and I think this book was one of the first times I realized someone could write a book like that. And, by the end, I didn’t mind the poetry.
So that’s my round-up. I’m sure there’s several more titles that I could include, and I’ll probably think of them all as soon as I post this, but I think that’s it for now.
So what about you? Have you ever been skeptical or embarrassed to read a book, and then ended up loving it?