If you were to Google “Middle School Required Reading” (like I did about two minutes ago), you would come across a list filled with some awesome books. Books like Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman and The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. You know, books with actual merit.
Not like the books I read when I was in middle school.
Because who reads when they’re in middle school?
No, when I was in middle school – and we’re talking early ’90s, here – I wasn’t into books. I was an obsessed, Book-It-loving reader back in elementary school, but once I hit middle school, books weren’t that important to me anymore. I had more important things to worry about, like taping songs off the radio and wearing scrunchies in my hair (and sometimes around my wrist).
But if you think I didn’t do any reading, well, then you’d be wrong. Oh, there was reading. It just happened to come in the form of a magazine. Two magazines, actually, with the names YM and Seventeen. And they were the most important reading material out there there for a 12-year old.
YM magazine was started in 1932 (yeah, I was surprised, too) and is second only to Seventeen in being the oldest girls’ magazine. I started reading YM in 1991, and loved it so much that I managed to get my parents to get me a subscription. It had really good articles about boys and beauty (because what 12-year-old doesn’t need to know about crap like that?), and there was always some kind of cool celebrity on the cover (see above pic). My favorite part of the magazine was, of course, the very last page, which featured super short stories of utter embarrassment called Say Anything. Because who doesn’t like to laugh at other girls’ misery? I think every girl reading it learned to never wear white jeans during that time of the month.
Wait, there’s a BEST OF???
While YM had the great articles, funny stories, and cute guys, Seventeen had the fashion. If you wanted to know what kind of clothes you should shop for before you entered eighth grade, you looked in Seventeen magazine. Occasionally they had some good articles about the random celebrity, or a good article about the dangers of eating disorders, but it was really about the clothes and the models.
Can I just say that I read this particular issue so many times that it fell apart? And that I wanted this particular dress soooo bad?
Seventeen had way better covers than YM, and apparently a much bigger following, because unlike YM, Seventeen magazine is still being published today. Once in a while when I’m at Target or a bookstore and walking through the magazine section, I pick up Seventeen and page through it. I can see while young teens like it, but for some reason they were way better back in the early ’90s.
This was my Bible the month leading up to eighth grade.
So I suppose you’re thinking that the only things I read back in middle school were girls’ fashion magazine. Well, again, you’d be wrong. There was one author, one series of books that I got my hands on. When my mom decided that YM and Seventeen were “too old” for me, I was told I needed to read age-appropriate books. So what did I read?
Now, I know my mom had no idea what V.C. Andrews’s books were about. Had she known, she would have thrown as many YMs and Seventeens at me that she could. Those magazines were like Sunday School stories compared the to wonderful, awesome smut that V.C. Andrews wrote about.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, V.C. Andrews is most famous for her disturbing book Flowers in the Attic. I say “disturbing” because it involves evil grandmothers, incest, and arsenic powder sprinkled on cookies. My best friend and I used to rent the movie all the time because it was one of the few non-R-rated movies in the horror section at Video Update. The movie is creepy, but shows nothing of the incest that was written of in the book. Just a suggestive bath.
I don’t know which of my friends started it, but suddenly the book Dawn was being passed around as the “it” thing to read. It passed through my hands when I was in seventh grade, and I was immediately sucked in. It was one of those books I knew I shouldn’t be reading, but that just made me want to read it more. It was one of those books where you would call your friend at 9:00 at night to say, “Page 339”. No other words were needed. It was simply code for, “OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST READ THAT WITH MY OWN EYES, NOW YOU HAVE TO READ IT, TOO!!!!!”
Dawn was full of “Page 339s”.
Dawn was the first book in the Cutler series – V.C. Andrews series’s are always titled with Last Names – and contained three more books. My friends and I would walk to the grocery store to find the paperbacks since no one working there cared that 12-year-olds were reading smut, and we usually read them over the course of a couple of days. I’m sure none of us really knew what was going on in those books, and most of us were probably just skipping ahead until we found a word like “throb” or “bosom” anyway.
*May contain more smut than its predecessor.
So there you have it – my Middle School Required Reading list. It’s nothing to brag about it, but it’s really not that different from obsessing over vampires and werewolves while checking Facebook like the kids do today. Because it doesn’t matter what decade you’re in – teens will always be teens. And you know what that means.
Side note: In researching this blog, I discovered that a Flowers in the Attic drinking game exists in this world. Life is fun.
Happy reading (and drinking!)