My school librarian had a love for books and rulebook of her own on how things should run in the library. And as per her guidelines, we all had to read the books we issued, appear in front of the class in role number order and present a short summary of the book we'd borrowed.
Unlike today, we were not a tech savvy bunch. Internet was a luxury we could afford only in the computer science lab, where the usage of the computers was restricted which meant getting a decent enough summary was next to impossible. This woman would pick out series like Nancy Drew, and keep them aside for those who'd diligently checked the bookcases for one. And that was my introduction to all the adolescent novels I've read.
The Hardy Boys had the power to make me feel like a good for nothing, uncool kid.
Written by a set of ghost writers, this series was what we talked about when we talked mystery. To me, the series happened by accident in grade five. I had gone to Kerala for my summer vacations, where I was bored to death because schools had reopened there.
While wandering around the house I found a stack of these in my brother's room, and that's how I got hooked. It had such a hold, that I would look at the rubber plantations outside my house, and stupidly glorify my own capacity of deduction. This was the series you could not put down.
Nancy Drew: the teenage detective who arrived like fresh air.
She was somebody the girls needed while growing up. The old editions are no longer available and the stories have been revised. Ms. Drew now rides a convertible, rather than the roadster she had during our days.
The best part about these books was that the characters grew up with us. Nancy graduated from a roadster to a convertible (haven't gotten there yet), went on dates, had boyfriends, and more than anything, was quite unlike the 'namby pamby' female characters of the time, as one of the authors of the series points out. It was rare that we be able to spot this series in the library, they were issued the moment they were set back on the shelf. Hence, my friends and I had a pact- whoever has the book, will be sneaky enough to not put it on the shelf, and pass it on to the person who wanted to read it next. Call us selfish, but we couldn't help it.
The Famous Five, their vacations, and all the fun they had.
They are the people who made my vacations look boring, and I mean boring AF. The series revolves around a bunch of four kids and their dog, Timmy. Away at a boarding school, they come home for vacations and like nothing more than camping, hiking, biking and in the course of things run into one adventure after another.
It was such a Christopher Columbus extravaganza, that we would go looking for adventures of our own. Thi means I have dug up really deep holes in the ground, hoping to find a hidden treasure, and walked a rickety thirty year old unused railway track, hoping to make a discovery at the end of it. Oh yeah, you may laugh.
The Secret Seven, and all the love for passwords and mysteries.
Blyton, it seems, was a sucker for mysteries. The inspiration for "Yaar hum bhi apne group ka naam rakhte hain," came from this book. Revolving around how to solve cases, and starring a bunch of kids who wanted to set things right, this was all the influence and inspiration we needed.
We too had a group of eight people, we'd given ourselves a silly name (I just can't recall what) and we almost convinced one of our own to run away from home, just so we could go on a hunt for her later. And just like those planned trips to Goa, this one never happened. Man, I can't thank god enough.
Sweet Valley High, and all the wrong ideas of sisterhood.
This was pure drama. Jessica and Elizabeth set the benchmark for a lot of teenage girls. This series to teens was what Taylor Swift is today. The twins entered our lives when we were at the threshold of adolescence.
This series taught us about good and evil, about loyalties and about honesty in the most Ekta Kapoor-ish way possible and we were total suckers for it. Nothing mattered as long as Elizabeth got her justice, and things were put to right. And the outrage over Jessica's evil ways led to so many heated discussions among my friends, all backing up a fictional Elizabeth Wakefield in her ventures for justice. I mean it, Jessica was a total psychopath.
When watching television came with a stipulated time, and going out to play came with an allowance, these were the things that saved us from the pits of boredom that were our textbooks. These are books that served as a threshold for stepping into teenage from adolescence. These are the books that gave us a sense of imagination, helped us make up games to play. These are the things that made our childhood the amazing thing it was. Do I recall it all? No. But do I still hold them close? Yes, and I always will.