Lying in my childhood bedroom worrying and watching early 2010s culture resurge on TikTok has put me in a very unique mental state. For the first time in my life, I have genuine nostalgia for my middle school years. Honestly, I’d probably get braces again and bring back Crocs and socks if it meant I didn’t have to live through whatever the unholy roulette wheel that is 2020 lands on next.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling. We could all use a little comfort right now, and maybe there’s some solace in looking back a few years. Remember the books that got you through the tribulations of 6, 7 and 8th grade? Never have we been in greater need of them. Here are the ones I found the most value in revisiting.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Remember this one? Fifth-grade you probably thought this PG version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods was hilarious and captivating. Well, that’s because it is. Yes, the 2010 film adaptation is heinous, but Rick Riordan is going to redeem himself on Disney+, so I’m willing to forgive and forget. Anyways, diving back into the mythological world of Camp Half-Blood is just pure fun. The pantheon of characters in this series is iconic on its own: Blackjack, the snarky pegasus; Thalia, the punk-rock daughter of Zeus; and Grover, the satyr obsessed with enchiladas – and that’s just skimming the surface. This series is definitely legendary.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky’s classic coming-of-age story is definitely one of the most mature books on this list (realistic portrayals of mental health and drug use don’t typically find their way into YA fiction). Still, it’s fantastic. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cry again, you’ll stare at the pages in horrified disbelief and then you’ll call your best friend, sobbing, and tell them how much you miss them. It may only be 200ish pages, but this book is heavy. Yet, once you start to open up Charlie’s letters again, you’ll remember why it’s worth it.
Pspspsps. It’s Watership Down but with cats. What more could you want?
My family has like twenty of these in our basement, truth be told. My siblings and I definitely went through a phase. But the writing is good, the whole gritty supernatural vibe was really interesting and the characters were lovable, but tough – Firepaw, the main cat, was my favorite. The map in the inside cover was always cool to stare at, too. All in all, this was a chapter in my life that I wouldn’t mind coming back to.
I’m sure you saw this one coming. J.K. Rowling’s magical masterpiece, which (in my opinion) might be the origin of most modern YA archetypes, was a fixture in many of our childhoods and has had a huge ripple effect in pop culture. And it’s a hella good read, too.
If you’re like me, a return to Hogwarts is long overdue. I started re-reading these at the start of Spring Quarter, and it’s one of the best things I can recommend for someone in need of comfort in these difficult times. You’ll be astonished by all of the little details you forgot or missed out on the first time around (there’s so much foreshadowing oh my god). And you can refamiliarize yourself with all of the elements that you never stopped loving. The gothic landscapes are strikingly beautiful, the wizarding community is fascinating, Luna Lovegood is still an icon and the Defense Against the Dark Arts post still has insane turnover. And yes, Cedric Diggory is exactly as hot as you remember.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
If you read these when you were a kid, you probably listen to Father John Misty now. While Lemony Snicket’s books may seem gratuitously pessimistic from the outside, they’re actually full of delicious humor wrapped up in a gripping, bittersweet plot. The amazingly faithful and visually rich Netflix adaptation is also definitely worth sitting through, although Neil Patrick Harris’s comically bad disguises definitely steal the show.
None of the stories tried to sugarcoat things for you, and yet the Baudelaire children always found the light at the end of the tunnel. In a year that seems itself like a series of unfortunate events, there’s a little bit of comfort in reliving their story.