Forever Scarred: Traumatizing Moments from YA Novels

Like Joey Tribbiani, we believe that some books belong in the freezer. If you aren’t a Friends fanatic, that’s a reference to the episode where Joey kept The Shining in the freezer because it was too scary. When he and Rachel do a book exchange, we learn that it isn’t just overtly gory fiction that makes you want to freeze away your feelings:

Whether gross, creepy, or just plain sad, these are some moments in YA fiction that had us reaching for the icebox:

The One Where Dobby Dies

I admittedly was very late to the Harry Potter game. Like, I didn’t start reading the series until the seventh book came out. I blame my parents. Anyways, as I was reading the books from the beginning, I would discuss my thoughts and feelings about what was happening to my friend who had read them already. In particular, I remember being so incredibly annoyed and mad at Dobby. Inherently, I disliked him for his affiliation with the Malfoys, but also I couldn’t stand the way he spoke in third person. “Listen to Dobby!” “Bad Dobby!” “Dobby is fed up with this Malfoy bullshit!” As I continued reading, he began to have a soft spot in my heart and soon became one of my favorite characters. So when he was killed by Bellatrix’s knife after essentially saving HP, I was absolutely gutted. He was devoted and loyal to Harry, and passed away in the most heroic way. I had to stop reading because I was so stunned and also the tears were clouding my eyes and prohibiting my ability to read.

Hazel’s ‘Fake’ Eulogy for Augustus


“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

The Hunger Games in General

Like a lot of other people, I like and appreciate the world Suzanne Collins created, it’s easy to forget just how troubling the premise is. Before the first movie came out, I was explaining to someone (a mother of three) what the books are about. It wasn’t until then, when I was saying it outloud to someone who has kids that I realized just how effed up it must be that we get entertainment out of these books, in particular the first one. As a parent, she must have been picturing what it would be like if her kids were put in that situation, when you have no choice but to watch your kid fight to the death in a televised sport. I know the series is more than this, but, still. How messed up.

Stacey McGill’s Diabetes Pee

Everything I know about diabetes I learned from Ann M. Martin. But the most traumatizing lesson was when Stacy hadn’t yet been diagnosed, and she wet the bed at a sleepover because diabetes makes you pee a lot. This led to her losing her best New York City friend. The diabetes also caused Stacey’s divorced parents to fight all the time and to bring her to some sort of quack doctor. When she tries to play it cool and not tell her BSC friends about the diabetes, they assume she has a shady secret. AND when everyone is tucking into Claudia’s food hoarder snacks, the narrator always explains that they have saltines or something for Stacey. Basically if you get diabetes you will pee everywhere and your life will be ruined, is what I learned. For more BSC thoughts, see our The Baby-Sitters Club: The Musical — Excerpts From The Libretto.

Jonas’s Dad Kills Babies

Ah, The Giver. Probably one of my favorite YA books of all time. Except for that part where Jonas’s usually-chill dad is seen cooing at an adorable little baby then shooting it up with death drugs because it was a twin, which was against the rules. Then Jonas learns that the baby who has been hanging out with his family is also on death row so he escapes into the wilderness with it. Damn.

You Might Get Cancer. Love, Lurlene McDaniel

Remember Lurlene McDaniel? She wrote treacly, vaguely Christian books about teens with terminal illness. She covered all manner of diseases but I knew her best from the Dawn Rochelle books, which were about a 1980s teen who has leukemia. McDaniel probably did a lot to teach the youths that kids living with disease are just like us. But it’s almost like she did a little TOO good a job because as someone who bruises easily and is prone to violent, cascading nosebleeds, I definitely spent my junior high years being like “you know who had these problems? Dawn ‘Leukemia’ Rochelle.” Most traumatic moment: when Dawn’s friend and hospital roomie died and Dawn got her Bible with that one part of Ecclesiastes underlined.

Open-Air Mating In The Alien Zoo

Our high school was notorious for ridiculous eight-book-long summer reading lists, where most of the books were 400-page tomes set on the British moors. But Junior Year, they assigned at least one “hip,” “modern” book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that these disgusting slimy aliens abducted the main character and he had to live in a human zoo. They brought a porn star in and the two of them, like …. mated. In front of the disgusting terrible aliens. Who were cheering, maybe? It was horrible.

Those Disgusting Button Eyes

Coraline discovers Other Mother and Other Father, who are alternate-universe parents who have button eyes. Then Coraline, a human person, is supposed to sew buttons over her own eyes to “match.” And THEN she meets ghost children onto whom the Other Mother had sewn button eyes. Nah.





Camp Cookies + Sangria: Revisiting The Baby-Sitters Club Movie

For many girls (and boys) of our generation, the Baby-Sitters Club played a huge part in our childhood. Of course there were the beloved books, the TV show, and in 1995 came the feature film. I was particularly fond of said film, and it was one of my absolute favorites. So much so that I practically wore out my VHS tape – that’s right kids, a VHS tape because this was before DVDs existed. In fact I was so fond of the movie that when my friends wanted to borrow my copy, I was paranoid they wouldn’t give it back that I created a fake library card, forcing them to write their name and sign the tape in and out up the return. That story again: I was a huge nerd.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it takes place over the course of the summer, and the BSC decides to make some extra money by holding a summer day camp for the kids in the backyard of Mary Anne’s house. As a nine year old watching the movie, the BSC summer camp seemed like paradise. As I previously mentioned, I only went to summer camp once, for one week only. If you’re wondering what I did all the other weeks of summer – the answer is… I guess I spent a lot of time at home? Sometimes going to my parents’ office? Oh I did go to a day camp for a few years at the Christian school my friend went too. I forgot I did that. NEWAYZ, the point is that as an only child, the thought of hanging out with other people at a summer camp in a back yard seemed really cool.

I decided to watch the BSC movie for the first time in a number of years (on Netflix Instant! My VHS player is out of order), and looking back on it from an adult’s perspective – this summer camp doesn’t look like a kid’s idea of heaven – it looks like hell. Not only that, but it seems so unrealistic that parents would let their kids go to some ramshackle youth gathering with teen girls in charge. So naturally, I had a few thoughts about this. Here are just a few:

Before we start, here’s a song to get you in the mood/bring you back to 1995:

I’d like to start off by saying it’s weird watching this movie on Netflix because the quality is so clear. I’m used to seeing VHS quality, you know when it just felt like you’re watching a movie from the 90s. Even the 90s clothing kind of looks like they’re in style because it’s so clear. Also, hipsters.

Kristy: “I don’t mean to brag or anything, but we’re famous here in Stoneybrook. Everybody knows us. That’s because everybody uses us.” {maybe you should reevaluate the company you keep, Kristy}

Kristy, the leader of the BSC, pitches this day camp idea and all I can think of is HOW ARE THESE KIDS GOING TO RUN A SUMMER CAMP LEGALLY?? Like do they have to get a permit to run a business in a backyard? Good thing Mary Anne’s dad is a lawyer and has them sign a contract.

Stacey: “Do you guys think I should have told him?”
Everyone: “Who?”
Stacey: “Luca! He doesn’t know I have diabetes.”

The 17 year old you’re crushing on doesn’t know you’re 13, but the diabetes is your first concern? REALLY?!

Poor Marla Sokoloff, always typecast as the bitch. You may remember her for her work as Gia, the smoking girl who befriends Stephanie Judith Tanner in Full House. Here, she is seen wearing an outfit that makes me think she was inspired by Cher Horowitz, and in a diner on a Friday, because these kids are still in middle school.

The girls figure that if they charge $250 per camper and get at least 30 campbers they can make  $7,500! To which Jessi suggest, “We can get a fax machine!”

You know you’re old when you sympathize more with the curmudgeonly old neighbor (played by Ellen Burstyn) than the tweens running a summer camp for kids.

I mean look at the types of children that attend this camp though. Why all the band-aids on his face???

“You can tell somebody when you’re ticked off. I mean we can’t let men get away with everything.” {AHEAD OF ITS TIME}

Ok so mouse pancakes are one of those random things that stuck out to me in the movie even after all these years. It was Kristy’s (deadbeat) dad’s signature dish and he called them mouse pancakes because they were shaped like mice. In my head when I remember this, it was always a vague image… however, this is what they actually look like.

Also, Kristy’s stupid dad pretty much lived in the same bright yellow Volgswagen van Abigail Breslin was in as a toddler in a tiara. Kristy should’ve never trusted him. 

Oh hey Ellen Burstyn threatens to reject their permit and the girls freak out because they don’t have one. I guess I forgot they ran into this problem. PERMITS ARE IMPORTANT PEOPLE.

Dawn: “Did we even have a country back then?”
Mallory: “No, but we had a lot of diphtheria. What? I’m writing a novel about the first nurse in America.” {you WOULD}

Claudia had to go to summer school and she has to pass the final test or else she’s screwed. The girls make a rap for her to help her remember all the information she needs to know in order to pass the test.

Listen. There is no way Claudia could’ve passed based on the rap song her friends performed her ONE time. Also the lyrics don’t provide any useful information. They literally keep saying “the brain the brain the center of the chain”. HOW DOES THIS HELP HER WITH MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS?

Kristy’s mom: “Look at nana’s tomatoes. They’re huge! This year she’s singing them showtunes. They’re a lot bigger than when she was singing them church songs.” {and ironically 100% more gay}

Stacey and Claudia go to New York City with Luca and his friends to a teen club – but the problem is that they need to be 16 – and Luca still doesn’t know she’s 13. At least by this point he knows she’s diabetic. Obviously they can’t get in, but more importantly – remember TEEN CLUBS?? ARE THOSE STILL A THING?

Also, remember when we were so reliant on phones to contact people? I mean Kristy couldn’t get a hold of her father at the hotel he was staying at because he checked out and didn’t have a cell phone. Also he’s a douche because he said he would meet her at the carnival and left her a note instead, and the BSC had to get Luca to drive them to go find Kristy. Again, this all would’ve been much easier with cell phones.

One more thing about Luca – still a creep! What 17 year old guy hangs out with 13 year olds for fun? He also tells Stacey that he’ll be back next summer (he’s from Germany) and she says, “I’ll be 14” and then he kisses her. HELLO THAT’S EVEN WORSE HE’LL BE 18 AND BARELY LEGAL.

that haircut doe

In the end, they barely make a profit from the camp. The greenhouse they renovated to make an office for the club ended up going to curmudgeonly Ellen Burstyn and they’re all friends again. All is right in the world of Stoneybrook. And despite the fact I don’t think a day camp is cool anymore and Ellen Burstyn is probably me in 20 years, this movie is still library card worthy.