Comfort Food, Comfort Books
By Krysten Lindsay Hager
We all have our favorite comfort foods we run to on a bad day (mine happens to be frozen chocolate dipped bananas), and those movies we turn to during tough times and can watch over and over again…like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which I’m fairly certain I could recite by heart. But I also have my favorite comfort books. Those are the novels I turn to when I’m having a down day and I just need to escape for a little while. Comfort books never fail to make you smile and, since you’ve read them a jillion times, never surprise you with the ending. Here are three of my favorite comfort YA/MG books.
My first comfort book is My Mother Was Never a Kid by Francine Pascal. It’s also been called, Hangin’ Out with Cici. I read this book for the first time in fifth grade. I found it at the library and the cover intrigued me because it had a vintage flair yet it was about a contemporary girl named Victoria Martin. Victoria is about to turn fourteen and feels she should be treated like an adult, but her mother still sees her as an immature kid. It doesn’t help that Victoria is a troublemaker…well, it’s more that trouble finds her and she doesn’t exactly run away from it. Her mother is about to ground her into the next year and she feels the real problem is her mother doesn’t remember what it was like to be a kid. On her way home from her cousin’s she hits her head and when she wakes up, she’s somehow been transported to a different time and meets a fun new girl, Cici, who is even more of a rebel then she is—and somehow it’s her mom…at age fourteen.
There are so many hilarious and amazing scenes in this book: Victoria going to her mom’s and seeing her grandma as a younger woman and freaking out, the scene where Cici gets caught shoplifting and pretends to be a foreign exchange student to get out of trouble, and there’s another scene that I won’t spoil, but let’s just say we see a different side of Victoria’s strict principal when he was a teen. This book is funny, entertaining, and gripping. I have read it so many times that I had to download it on my Kindle because my paper copies were all messed up. Notice I said, “Copies,” plural? Yeah, I’ve had three over the years. One copy that had so much wear that I had to replace it and then a backup because the second copy was starting to look worse for wear (I still haven’t throw it out yet). And there’s a TV movie of this you can find on youtube, but read the book first because the movie doesn’t hold a candle to the awesomeness. This is also a book Francine Pascal wrote herself unlike the Sweet Valley books she was the mastermind and creator of, but wrote the outlines and not all the novels. I actually went to a children’s writing conference a few years ago where Francine was one of the speakers. I went up to her after one of the sessions and told her how much I loved that book and how it made me want to write YA books myself. I choked up a little talking to her, which was so embarrassing, but it was one of the top five moments in my life.
My next book is Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. I read this book for the first time in the sixth grade. It was the first day of school and I was so anxious. We had a half-day and my mom picked me up and we stopped at Kmart where I saw this book. I took this book home and finished it that night. I loved the three very distinct characters and felt they each could have been friends of mine. I loved reading about the insecurities they had about starting a new school year (I wasn’t alone in that!), the weirdness of boys at that age (seriously, why did they act so weird when they liked you?), and the first school dance. I remember reading what outfit Rachel picked for their school dance and it sounded so sophisticated. I was dying to find something similar to wear…not that at age twelve I had any need for that type of outfit! The characters were so relatable and even now I find myself feeling safe when I slip back into the story. Judy Blume went on to write Rachel’s story and at one time said there would be an Alison story…I’m still waiting. Seriously, I’d be first in line to buy that book. I bought a new copy of it two years ago because my old copy was starting to get worn. This one’s a keeper.
My third choice is a more recent discovery. My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald. This was one of the first MG/YA books I bought when I moved back to the U.S. It’s about a girl, Lucy, who tries to help save her grandma’s pharmacy from closing forever. Lucy loves cosmetics and wants to be a makeup artist, so she decides to start giving makeovers at the drugstore to drum up new business and give the place a spa feeling. There’s something about the description of the family owned pharmacy that brings up warm, fuzzy feelings in me. Maybe it’s because I spent my preteen years in the makeup aisles of a small pharmacy trying to pick out the lip gloss that would, “change my life.” Seeing how Lucy tries to help her family and pursue her goals is inspiring and heartwarming. It’s a new favorite and I’d definitely recommend it.
I’m so glad I could share a couple of my comfort books with you. I am such a huge YA/MG fan and reading them inspired me to purse my lifelong goal of being an author. My own YA/MG book, True Colors, was just released this summer and it was a dream come true. Please share some of your favorite comfort novels in the comments! I’d love to learn about a new book to add to my own collection.
TRUE COLORS Landry Albright just wants to be one of the interesting girls at school who always have exciting things going on in their lives. She wants to stand out, but also wants to fit in, so she gives in when her two best friends, Ericka and Tori, push her into trying out for a teen reality show modeling competition with them. Landry goes in nervous, but impresses the judges enough to make it to the next round. However, Ericka and Tori get cut and basically "unfriend" her on Monday at school. Landry tries to make new friends, but gets caught up between wanting to be herself and conforming to who her new friends want her to be. Along the way she learns that modeling is nowhere as glamorous as it seems, how to deal with frenemies, a new crush, and that true friends see you for who you really are and like you because of it.