Shelf Discovery Ch 5: You Heard It Here First: Very Afterschool Specials

For the summer, I’m reading along with the books Lizzie Skurnick wrote about in her reading memoir, Shelf Discovery. Chapter 5 is a small group of books that each had a PROBLEM: Deenie (scoliosis); Don’t Hurt Laurie! (child abuse); Are You in the House Alone? (acquaintance rape); Go Ask Alice (drugs); and It’s Not the End of the World (divorce). Though dated now, many of these were surprising at the time, and a title list could go on longer: there was the anorexia one, the satan-worshipping one, the mental illness one with the turtle on the cover, and even The Wave, which actually got made into an after-school special. Skurnick thinks their appeal was simple:

to imagine one’s own capacity to respond to the same situation, given the shot.

I liked revisiting these books well enough, but didn’t love any of them this time around, though I don’t remember loving them then, either, just devouring them, and any I could get my hands on. Prostitution? Runaways? Heroin addiction? While I didn’t love the books, I must have loved the vicarious thrill of reading about all these things.

I wanted to re-read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, one of my favorite young-adult books of recent years, and one that would fit nicely as a modern counterpart in this chapter. Alas, Don’t Hurt Laurie!, Deenie, and Go Ask Alice (alas, indeed) were what I had time to read, and the reviews are coming.

What book(s) did you read this week? What was your draw to these PROBLEM novels then, and is there any draw still, now? (more links to come).

Previous weeks:

Chapter 5

Chapter 4

Chapter 3

Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Remember: keep up the comments! Lizzie Skurnick has promised a signed copy of her book to one of you reading along (random drawing at end) with possible other goodies!

5 Responses to “Shelf Discovery Ch 5: You Heard It Here First: Very Afterschool Specials”

  1. Amy Says:

    “Go Ask Alice (alas, indeed)”

    I’m still sputtering over this one.

  2. Patricia Says:

    I read Are You in the House Alone? I know this could have happened in my small mid-west hometown. I think it could still happen. I am pretty sure the sheriff is married to the football coach’s sister. And I think the wife of the football coach is related to the mayor. Small towns.

  3. shannon Says:

    holy cow, Speak! i discovered this book earlier this year and was BLOWN AWAY!
    i loved the main character’s voice: i thought veronica mars had cornered the market for the cynical-yet-sensitive teen - but this book existed long before that show came around.
    can’t believe the book is 13 years old - it feels fresh and current.

  4. girldetective Says:

    Shannon, have you read Frank Portman’s King Dork? It’s up with Speak, IMO, with the strong first-person YA voice.

  5. Alice@Supratentorial Says:

    I skipped this week because none of the books were that appealing to me. I didn’t think of Speak when I read the chapter but that would fit perfectly, and is a much better book than these in my opinion.