The Books That Made Me Me – Mahj

*Make sure you come back this afternoon readers. We have a long awaited post from Team AOW, and you are not going to want to miss it*

Ha!  I can hear all you book nerds cackling with glee.  Even I’m rubbing my hands together.  Oh my, are you in for a treat this fine Thursday morning, my lovelies.  The fantastic Mahj has written us a Books post, but WITH A TWIST.  You all like twists.  Mahj has kept her list exclusively to teen fiction.  And oh, what a list it is. 

All links to the AOW Book Store.  I defy you not to have bought this list by the end.  And it’s about MORE THAN TWILIGHT.  Joy and rapture!  Over to you, Mahj: 

Why I love young Adult Fiction Now by Mahj

I think me and women of a similar age can agree that we pretty much all read the same books growing up. From early beginnings with Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, moving onto the Sweet Valley series, screeching to a halt in amazement with Judy Blume and papping ourselves silly with Point Horror. We’ve all been there.

I’m still here, there. Kind of. I seem to be having a love affair with Young Adult Fiction (that’s the proper name like). I mean, I still read “grown-up” books (that’s not the proper name), but looking at all the books I’ve asked for, for birthday and Christmas presents in the past few years, they have all bordered on the young adult side of things – except for Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton The Marriage of the Century. Which by the way, is an awesome read.

The fact of the matter is, young adult fiction these days is pretty brilliant. And so readable. And seems to deal with more issues than it did when we were that age. Or maybe it’s because the issues have changed?

Anyway, I thought I’d put together a list for you all to try and explain myself (possible spoilers ahoy!):

Twilight series

Well this one is hardly  a shocker and was really the start of my foray back into YA. And I won’t lie to you, I was obsessed. I ignored Martin for about 4 weeks whilst I devoured the whole series. And as far as Edward Cullen goes. Swoon. (I really feel that I should mention that the swoon is for the character and not for Robert Pattinson who currently resembles some hobo). This is how love should be, I thought to myself. All consuming and filled with feathers and secret islands and werewolf best friends. It really took me back to being a teenager and having that first big crush/love. It reminded me of how it used to be when you were that age.

Some months later, I look back on my Twihard days with pink-faced shame. And isn’t retrospect a wonderful thing? It allowed me to see how not only deeply flawed the story was, but the characters as well. Aside from Bella being possibly the most moronic character ever dreamt up (let’s face it, she is no Katniss Everdeen) the story as whole resembles a bit block of Leerdammer with all the holes it has with logic and just general sense.

I won’t detail here the absolute rage black-outs I suffer when someone (namely a Twihard) tries to compare Twilight with Harry Potter*. Needless to say, I don’t stand for it.

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Oh my word. I was given these as a gift Xmas 2010. I saved them especially for my honeymoon in July 2011 as I’d heard very good things about them. They did not disappoint. I blew through the whole series in about 4 days. I was gripped. And not by the smushy storyline between Katniss and Peeta. Oh no. It was never about that for me. It was the fighting back. The rebellion. Seeing President Snow get what he truly deserved. But it was never without a cost. Without sacrifice and tragedy.

I would literally fist pump the air when Katniss did something in an act of rebellion. When she was sticking it to the Capital.

The Hunger Games for me was about overcoming obstacles and desperation. Bitterness and despair. And that made it freakin awesome.  The annual murdering of children, not so much.

Oh and if you haven’t already: watch the film people – Lenny Kravitz wears gold eyeliner!

Incarceron and Sapphique

These are a 2-part series whose review I randomly stumbled across on a blog. Essentially the storyline involves a vast prison (imagine whole cities, seas, that kind of thing) that has been sealed for centuries and a boy within it, whose convinced he came from outside it. And outside the prison there is a girl, trapped in a 17th Century society in a place run by computers.  Sounds a bit silly now that I’ve written it out but it’s not, I promise.

Like The Hunger Games, it isn’t all sweetness and light. It’s dark and dangerous and paints a really alternative and frightening reality.

Oh and it totally has an Evil Queen. For reals.

The Book Thief

This was such a beautifully written book. Rich in detail and takes place in Germany during the start of the Second World War. It tells the story of a young girl Liesel who goes to live with foster parents and how she learns to read, perhaps through some not so honest means but truly, it’s a beautiful tale and if you love reading and books like I do, reading this will make you eternally grateful that we live in a free society where books are such an intergral part.

Artemis Fowl

Actually perhaps this series should have been first on the list as I read these years ago, around the time I was getting into Harry Potter. Artemis Fowl  is a teenage criminal mastermind, aided by his trusty Butler. Who he actually calls Butler. It was described by the author as being “Die Hard with fairies”. Hee.  The books have a dry, oftentimes dark humour and paint a brilliant other world within ours. Oh and did I mention the fairies? I must admit that I only have the first four of the series and so another 4 of Artemis’s adventures await me.

The Jessica Darling Series (Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings and Perfect Fifths)

Well now these are a new discovery. They follow Jessica Darling, 16. Her best friend has just moved away and she is devastated. You follow her through her diary entries and emails/letters to said best friend Hope. You WERE Jessica Darling. You STILL ARE Jessica Darling. She’s not the most popular or prettiest and she is snarky to the core. She’s a brain and is completely misunderstood by her family. She doesn’t have a love life and constantly bemoans dying a virgin. She’s witty and self deprecating. You want to be her friend. And there is a boy, of course there is a boy. I won’t spoil it anymore, but whilst Twilight was all bosom-heaving and hearts pounding, Wuthering Heights-esque, the relationships in these books are real and tangible. You’ve probably had them. I know I have.

It isn’t all high school based. You follow Jessica as she graduates and goes to swanky pants Columbia. She makes mistakes (oh man, she makes BIG mistakes), but isn’t that what it’s all about? I’ll be honest, I still have the fourth and fifth books to read. I’m trying to hold out, to savour the experience. It isn’t going well.


I’ve just finished this and though it was a bit slow to start, oh my holy good God. There seems to have been a flurry of books recently, all focussed on a dystopian future (thank you Hunger Games) but this one. This one made me excited. And nervous. But bugger me if it isn’t another trilogy and now I have to WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE! To summarise, sometime in the dystopian future, when you turn 16, based on an aptitude test, you must make the choice to join one of 5 factions for the rest of your life. They are Candor (being frank, open and sincere in all that you do). Erudite (being clever and seeking knowledge all the time). Amity (being peaceful and friendly). Abnegation (to be completely selfless). And finally Dauntless (to be fearless and brave).

Our heroine is Tris. She and her family are Abnegation. At the Choosing Ceremony she chooses Dauntless which is a pretty big move and virtually unheard of. And then the real fun starts. Much like Katniss Everdeen, Tris is an unwilling heroine. But she grows and evolves in the book. And it’s so good.

And yes, there is a boy. Oh my god is there a boy. In parts said boy made my knees go weak and my stomach squirm! If you loved the Hunger Games, you will get down with Divergent. Trust.

The sequel, Insurgent, is out on the 1st May. I have it on pre-order I’m that desperate to know what happens next.

*Now Harry Potter I don’t class as YA at all. Far more than the above books (I think anyway), has it had a reaching effect with so many age groups reading it and loving it as I do. And probably a lot of you also. I’m quite protective over ol’ Harry (see above for rage blackouts) and writing about the series would probably require a separate post all of its own. Suffice it to say, I don’t feel that there could be another series that would compare. I will forever be a JK Rowling fangirl for writing the books. And yes, her new book is also on pre-order at Amazon!

Mahj xoxo


Categories: Books, Books That Made Me Me
47 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Katielase
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Divergent just went on my honeymoon reading list. Damn you, Amazon one-click ordering!!

    I love this post! I’m certain teen fiction was never this good when I was a teen. And yay Mahj for unashamedly celebrating such an underrated genre. Not in the least bit ashamed to admit I read Artemis Fowl in one sitting.

    Can I recommend Trudi Canavan? I think she qualifies as YA fiction, The Magician’s Guild, The Novice and The High Lord are Un. Put. Down. Able. I mean, read through the night until its 5am good. She’s written a follow-up trilogy, too. I have the final book on pre-order and (no jokes) have it in my diary so I can read it uninterrupted in one sitting. I actually did this with the Hunger Games too, after Anna K warned me I’d not be able to stop.

    K x

    • Katielase
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      As Insurgent is now out, I’ve ordered that too. NO WILLPOWER!

      K x

      • Mahj
        Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        And here I was thinking I was the only one who wrote down book release dates in my diary! And I will tell anyone that will listen about Divergent and Insurgent. They kept me gripped in a Hunger Games way but god damnit if the 3rd book isn’t out till next yr!
        Thank you also for the recommendation – im adding it to my Amazon Wish List as we speak!


    • Steff
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Trudi Canavan is FAB!! If you liked the Magicians Guild you should totally pick up the Priestess of the White. x

      • Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        I’ve read that trilogy as well Steff! Couldn’t put that down either, I think I love her books because I love the female leads in them all, in fact (don’t lynch me) I think Susanne Collins could have learnt from Trudi Canavan at writing a slightly reluctant yet awesome teen heroine. I want to be Sonea even more than I want to be Katniss Everdeen.

        K x

        • Steff
          Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

          For shizz!

          • Becca
            Posted May 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            Finished insurgent. God damn it third book

  2. Fee
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    This is fabulous! I wholeheartedly agree on the Twilight and Hunger Games front and shall be trying out the rest!

    I would defo recommend Keren David for YA fiction that delves into the adult world fantastically well from a YA perspective – I discovered her because my best friend is her editor and couldn’t put her books down.

    • Mahj
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Your best friend is an editor?! That’s like the best job EVER!


      • Fee
        Posted May 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        I know! She loves it and I reap the benefits in the form of free books- hurrah!

  3. Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    OK so now I want to read ALL of these… I actually borrowed all of the Hunger Games trilogy from a friend yesterday so now I’m thinking I might have to cancel all our weekend plans to allow all-day reading to occur! Husband will be thrilled I’m sure.

    I’m loving the sound of Divergent in particular – one to add to the wish list me thinks.

    Thanks for the inspiration Mahj!


  4. Becca
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    The Hunger Games literally changed my LIFE. I wore my hair in plaits for WEEKS.

    Team Gale. Always. The film? Anyone know when it comes out on DVD as will need to take the week off work.

    I also look back on my Twihard days with some embarrassment. I bought the last film on DVD and haven’t finished it because Bella Swan irritates me so much.

    If you’re interested I also have the whole Sweet Valley University series. I had to order the last ones from the US because they didn’t publish them here **oh the shame**. Anyway….if we have girl twins I am definitely calling them Jessica and Elizabeth. You kind of HAVE to don’t you?

    • Becca
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Also…buying Divergent now and reading on way to work


      • Mahj
        Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        Yippeeeee! Let me know what you think! xoxo

    • Mahj
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Hee, I too had all the SVU books at one point. I was gutted when Elizabeth and Todd broke up, surely they were supposed to be together forever and ever?!
      Have you read the last one that was released last year – Sweet Valley Confidential?! You shd read it. Its so bad its good!


    • Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      I often wear my hair in a plait but now when I do it somehow makes me channel my inner Katniss. Plaits = fearlessness.

      • Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        I always have to wear a plait in the lab because my damn hair is so long, I like to think it signifies that I’m secretly bad-ass and could handle a bow and arrow.

        K x

    • Helena
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Gah, Sweet Valley High – that’s just screwed up my internal jukebox for the day, thanks to the (disappointing) TV series – “Look right down in a crowded hall, you see a beauty standing. Is she really everywhere or herrr reflection? Sweeet vallleey sweet valley hiiggh” (Sorry).

      • Helena
        Posted May 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        I did love them though and have also had the thought about naming girl twins Jessica and Elizabeth!

  5. Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Jessica Darling looks amazing- checking out the online library catalogue for my area as we speak. Do I care that im depriving some hormonal adolescent of their reading material? No i do not. Great list Mahj :)

    • Mahj
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      I love all the books on my list Penski, but the Jessica Darling series is well worth a read. She is so relatable, esp her life experiences! You’l love it and possibly snort with laughter in places like I did!


      • Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        Okay think these are going to have to go on the wish list!

        K x

  6. Zan
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Fab list… fully confirming the fact that we’re a reading family and it’s a wonder we get anything done some days :)

    An now v. excited about Divergent, Incarceron and Sapphique – they’re on the list!

    • Mahj
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Good job you can borrow them all from me this wkend! xoxo

  7. Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Ah, the joys of YA! I remember being so excited when I was allowed books from that section in our local library. Thanks to Mahj I now have my summer reading list sorted. I had a very similar experience with Twilight. A friend introduced me to the first book while I was abroad and I ended up squeezing the other three into my measly Ryanair luggage allowance because I couldn’t bear to ‘run out’! It was the equivalent of a teenage crush- falling hard and then later on looking back on it with a little bit of regret.! I’m just glad Twilight wasn’t around when I was actually a “Young Adult”. My sister and I agree that Edward would have proved an unmatchable ideal for our visions of love and romance and boys in general :)

    • Mahj
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Yeap, everything about my Twilight experience screams teenage to me. And yeap, Edward Cullen would have spoiled me for life if I’d read these when I was a teenager!


  8. Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Damn you Mahj! My kindle is already packed with must reads, (I can’t keep up with myself – I too blame 1 click and those nights when I can’t get to sleep but don’t want to get into another chapter and end up reading waaay too late I browse the top 100 kindle lists instead, oops!) and will shortly been even more crammed! I feel exactly the same as you about Twilight (oh Bella, get a grip!), Hunger Games and Harry Potter but haven’t read ANY of the others!

    Have you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet? If not you have to! It sounds like you would definitely love it!! It was the Blook Club book this month, is YA and we ALL loved it and the main character especially with her blue hair and experience with ‘inessential penises’. Brilliant!!

    • Roz
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      ‘Inessential penises’ sound intriguing Bex!! I really want to read this one too. Although I should clarify it was on my list before I read your comment.

    • Posted May 24, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I was just about to come on and recommend Daughter of Smoke and Bone! Best YA book I have read by a country mile. I defy any of you not to love it.

  9. Steff
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    What is it about this genre that just renders you unable to function in day to day life?! I was round at my friends the other day and her mum was holed up in the bedroom reading the Hunger Games because she was GRIPPED!

    Love it – fab list. My mum has just finished Divergence on my 15 year old niece’s recommendation, I may need to pinch it next… in fact my lovely niece is so fast at reading things I just can’t keep up with her recommendations!

    I just finished Lets Pretend this never happened by Jenny Lawson (she of The Bloggess fame) so I’m now on the hunt for something else – good timing!

    • Steff
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Also, just to mention, Lets Pretend this Never Happened is balls to the wall funny. Don’t read while the other half is watching TV though, apparently giggling is distracting nevermind loud hearty guffawing.

    • Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Oooh I want to read this – thanks for reminding me!

      • Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        Yes, that’s on my Must Buy list too. I’ve heard many good things!

        K x

        • Steff
          Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

          Do it – do it now, you will laugh your socks off!!

        • Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

          Oh, me too…timely reminder, thanks :)

  10. Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Will definitely be ordering Divergent and looking at those Jessica Darling books!

    Am I the only one that couldn’t stand Twilight? I found it really badly written, Bella was annoying as hell, and the message was so potentially damaging! (I love you and I want to kill you – uh, right)

    • Steff
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      I’ve never read any of the Twilight series… or seen the films. Something just didn’t appeal to me about them.

    • Mahj
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Oh they are for sure. I got sucked in. Don’t judge me *hangs head in Twihard shame*


    • Clare
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      I am just starting the third Twilight book (yes, I’m a little late to this party but I needed to read it to see what the big deal was) and oh my goodness do I have a post brewing inside me on that very point Amy.

      • Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        To be fair, I only read the first one but I had no desire to continue after that.

        And there are some great things out there on t’interweb drawing comparisons between Bella and both Hermione and Katniss.

        • Posted May 24, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Yeah, I can’t get on with female heroines who aren’t at least a little bit feisty/bad-ass. I haven’t been able to read Twilight for this reason!

          K x

  11. Roz
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Mahj you had me at hello! I am a massive fan of the TBTMMM series but never before have a related to a post as much as yours. I too was consumed with Twilight (did anyone read Midnight Sun? It a unfinished draft of Twilight from Edward’s perspective instead of Bella’s) and Edward and look back now and snigger! I agree that if I had read that book as a very impressionable teenager no boy would have cut the mustard.

    I was recently given The Book Thief from a friend and planned on starting it next but I really want to buy all of the Jessica Darling series and start them!! Oh and Divergent :D

    • Mahj
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Omg! I read Midnight Sun (in the midst of my Twihard phase). Haven’t read it since but I doubt I’ll feel the same way about it now.
      The Book Thief is a beautiful read. You’ll want to be Jessica Darling and Divergent. Omg.


  12. Leeanne
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Brill post, I always read teen fiction as part of my job and actually prefer it to adult fiction now. Everyone should try the chaos walking series by Patrick Ness. Takes a while tiger used to the style of writing but it’s a great book. Also the declaration by Gemma Malley is a great read. I’m on maternity leave from my job at the moment ad haven’t had a chance to keep up with new releases or read anything which for a school librarian has been tough.

  13. Lorna
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Can I recommend the blog to you all? I LOVE my teenage fiction (I am a die-hard meg cabot and sarah dessen fan) and these ladies as funny, snarky and perpetually drunk. You haven’t had a real hangover until you’ve played the twilight drinking games…

    Awesome books mahj!

    • Mahj
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Eek! I’ve only just discovered this site but it makes me laugh till I cry!


  14. Posted May 24, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Mahj! (Although my bank balance is going to hate you). I have to disagree on one thing though. Harry Potter is YA, in fact I think the first couple of books actually might be straight up children’s books. Doesn’t mean they’re not great though.

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