This month's theme is YA books that hooked us as writers.
I didn't even have to think twice for an answer: Norma Klein.
While her name might not be the first one that springs to mind for young readers in the 70's and 80's, she was amazingly prolific, with more than 40 middle grade, young adult and adult novels (you might recall Mom, the Wolfman and Me or Naomi in the Middle). While I loved her middle grade books, it was her teen books that enthralled me. They were about smart, independent girls who lived in Manhattan. They were aspiring scientists or talented artists. They made mistakes and took on issues that most young adult books were not taking on (most of the characters' parents were divorced, they dealt with unplanned pregnancies, they had sex and smoked pot, etc.) The thing I loved was that Norma's characters were never victims, they were applying to top colleges, were driven and self-directed and completely open minded. I so totally would have been their friend had I been given the chance. Her characters were modern, relevant and flawed, and I loved every single one of them.
A few years ago, when I edited the anthology Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume, I had the opportunity spend time with Judy Blume at her home on Martha's Vineyard. We talked about writing and life and so much else. I mentioned that I devoured every Norma Klein book growing up and she mentioned that they were very good friends. I got to ask all sorts of questions about Norma and her writing and learned that she wrote fast and furious. I heard about Norma as a person, as well as a writer and it made me wish that I'd had a chance to meet her as well, or at least been able to tell Norma how much she influenced me not just as a writer, but as a young woman.
I've purchased every Norma Klein book I could get my hands on (thank goodness for Amazon used books) and they sit on my bookshelf right beside the author copies of my own books. I still read Norma's books when I need to reset and remember writing that both captivated me and inspired me.
I always re-read one of her books when one of mine is published because it grounds me again on what I loved to read growing up, and it's sort of like mental sorbet. The sequel to my second book, The Book of Luke was just published, and when The Next Chapter of Luke was finished I went back to read It's OK if You Don't Love Me. Sure, it's more than 30 years old, but that's the thing about really awesome books. They're timeless.