1) Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Greene: It's been years since I read this, but it is a powerful work - a young girl hides a German POW, deals with an abusive father, racism, and all the drama of being a teenager in 1940's South.
2) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith: Another one that I haven't read in a while, but also a coming of age during difficult circumstances novel - the main character grows up in Depression-era New York in a tenement and deals with poverty and other heavy issues. I really need to lighten this up, huh?
3) The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster: I do not like math, but this fantasy novel about a world of mathematic principles (it's kind of hard to explain) is very funny and fun to read.
4) The Mozart Season, Virginia Euwer Wolff: This novel about a young violin prodigy struggling to be herself, please her parents, and deal with the identity issues arising from being half-Jewish, half-Gentile didn't receive great reviews, but I loved it and checked it out from the library multiple times.
5) Just as Long as We're Together, Judy Blume: Blume is a nearly ubiquitous feature of teen girl reading lists, and I read them all. This was my favorite.
There are more, of course. I'm beginning to see patterns in my reading from younger years. Why was I so enamoured with these heavy coming-of-age novels? There were abusive parents, poverty, death, identity issues, on and on. And I know the adult equivalents of these - you know, the books that read "Sarah thinks her life is perfect until a tragic accident and her husband's death causes her to re-examine the life she loves and to consider the possibilities...." I put these back down in a hurry - why is teen angst appealing, but adult angst is just depressing? Thoughts? Anyone? It's a problem. With the young adult novels, I would pick up anything on the shelf at the library and read it. Now with books for grown-ups, I scan the back, read the first paragraph, ponder and debate and still generally end up hating everything I get from the library. It has gotten so bad that I hardly read fiction at all - there is so much drivel out there. And it is all so depressing. The "good" books, the ones that win Pulitzers and National Book Awards are generally boring and depressing and bleak. The "popular" books are just awful and depressing and maudlin - Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, yikes.
I would like to grow up, but the young adult books are much more satisfying.