As a child I wasn’t a fan of reading. I liked learning and used my imagination to create stories, but I rarely enjoyed reading on my own. Other than the times I read for school or the rare moments when I read the book of Job to my sister before bed, I preferred my siblings or my mom to read the Disney Little Golden Books to me. As I learned to read in school, I started reading sporadically, one notable book being an anthology of short stories about a mouse named Christopher Churchmouse. The first book that kept me engaged and excited was a chapter book my third grade teacher read to my class after recess. It was a coming of age story about a duck who lived with his family on a farm. I never found out what happened in the end because I was sick the day my teacher finished the book.
My journey towards becoming an avid reader didn’t start until my fourth grade teacher assigned the class to write book reports on a book of our choice. I had no idea what to read, so Ashley, one of my older sisters, lent me Meet Josefina by Valerie Tripp, an American Girl story that our oldest sister, Jennifer, bought her. That was the first moment I truly connected with a character in a story. Even though Josefina is a Mexican girl living in the 1820’s, I related to her, seeing that we were both nine-year-olds with older sisters and an aunt whom we learn a lot from. I also learned a lot about Mexican culture from this series, which I finished the following summer.
Every week my fifth grade teacher took my class to the school library, and she required us to check out a book every time. At first I checked out books from the Felicity American Girl series, usually the same book for a few weeks. I would often get discouraged when my teacher ridiculed me for doing so. I was a slow reader. Why would she expect a fifth grader to read an almost one hundred page book in a week? I tried to read a book from her shelf in the classroom: The Message in the Haunted Mansion from the Nancy Drew series. I hated it. I don’t even think I got past fifty pages. It moved so slow and I had to pay attention to tiny details that I knew I wouldn’t remember. I thought I’d never be able to enjoy reading again.
But Jennifer helped me out of that slump. One night, while flipping through a catalog of African-American literature, she handed me the booklet and told me to pick a book. The cover had a picture of a young girl wearing a butterfly t-shirt, leaning forward, her elbows propped up on her knees, an ear-to-ear smile on her face. I pointed to the picture and told my sister that was the book that I wanted. It was True Friends from the Carmen Browne series by Stephanie Perry Moore. Jennifer bought me that and the second book, Sweet Honesty. I fell in love with reading all over again. Like with the Josefina series, I related to the main character. In this case, not only did I relate to Carmen through age and ethnicity, but her spiritual struggles and the lessons she learns also helped me in my early adolescence. I devoured those two books and I picked up the Felicity series again, along with Kit Kittredge. My brother-in-law bought me the last three books of the Carmen Browne series for Christmas that year. I borrowed the Samantha American Girl series from the library that summer.
By the time I turned twelve, I decided that I wanted to become an author. I technically had already written many books – which included illustrations of advanced stick figures that told the story, squiggles for the text, and random words that I knew how to spell at age four – and I knew that I was good at writing, but I wanted to write a book without pictures. I then realized that to become a better writer, I needed to read a lot more. This is when I began reading The Clique series by Lisi Harrison. Every series I had previously read only consisted of five to six books. The Clique has twenty books, including the prequel and five short books from the Summer Collection. Because of this series I started taking regular trips to the library and, eventually, the thrift store for forty-nine cent books.
Some other books that changed my life include A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks, the first book I read in less than a week (three days to be exact), Beastly by Alex Flinn, which made me fall in love with fairy tales and retellings, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, which solidified my love for contemporary YA. I am constantly evolving as a reader, but I will never forget all of the books that have shaped me into the person I am today.
The Clique. I’ve written quizzes which I still remember the answers to.
Carmen and Spence from the Carmen Browne series. There’s a scene in Happy Princess where Spence gives Carmen a Valentine’s Day card that says “I like you beary much”. I squealed when I read that. My first moment of pure fangirl joy.
First Bookish Outfit/Cosplay:
I used to have a red, short-sleeved peasant top and a flowy Aztec patterned skirt that I thought resembled Josefina’s outfit on the cover of Meet Josefina. Also, in early high school I bought a t-shirt from Forever 21 that said “Be Pretty” only because that’s the name of makeup company Massie works for in her Summer Collection book.
First Book Review:
I used to write quick paragraphs of how the book made me feel once I was done, but the first well thought review I wrote was for If I Stay by Gayle Foreman. I actually made notes while reading it. It was also my first half-star rated book.
Divergent by Veronica Roth. I binge “read” the first two books on a thirty day Audible trial after seeing the first movie.
First Adult Novel:
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks. It was the first of his novels that I read where the characters were full grown adults, not high school seniors.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. My freshman English class acted this out during class. I was Juliet’s nurse.
First Fantasy Novel:
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. This was technically my first retelling, but Beastly encouraged me to read fairy tales as well as retellings.
First Contemporary YA Novel:
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I listened to the audiobook before seeing the movie with my best friend. I got the DVD and two copies of the book the following Christmas.