Shelf Discovery

Shelf Discovery

by Lizzie Skurnick

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation, smart reviews for modern readers on Sirius XM Book Radio. The book is Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick.

Want to make some instant friends on line at the grocery store or on the bus? Shout out “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” I promise you, you’ll find you’re part of a sorority of women readers. They’ll want to talk about how Judy Blume made getting their periods a little less mortifying, about their lifelong love affair with Calvin from A Wrinkle in Time (the first print boy I ever noticed who wasn’t an elf or an alien), and how everyone, no matter how snottily highbrow, read every single lurid page of Flowers in the Attic.  We read those books with an intensity I don’t think we can reach anymore — I can still work up a head of steam over something I’ve really enjoyed, and I’ve even full-on sobbed over the fate of a character (I loved Oy, don’t judge)…but maybe my brain has hardened since my teen years, I can’t think of a book I’ve read recently that remains reliably in the mental spotlight like Harriet the Spy, for instance. (I loved Harriet — she was mean, sneaky, judgmental, and she took excellent notes.) My own childhood memories have blurred and run into my memories of what I absorbed — I can see myself in the Met after hours with Claudia, I swear I was there.

Weren’t you?

The combination of high drama and heroines our own age was irresistible. And no matter what was going on in our own lives, at least we weren’t abandoned by our tribe and living in a cave, or locked in the attic with our brother, God forbid — no offense Eryc — or sent to a boarding school to be ultimately dropped off a cliff. So we learned about friendship and magic and independence. On the other hand, maybe our parents were divorcing. Maybe our best friend had an eating disorder. Maybe we had been molested. Those books we read and learned how to live, and to feel a little less like a grotesque freak. Wait, that was just me?

Shelf Discovery is divided into sections like Girls on the Verge, She Comes by it Supernaturally, and I Can’t Believe They Let Us Read This. Lizzie has some able assistance from writers like Meg Cabot and Laura Lippman, and between them they write short reviews of books you loved, along with a few you’ll barely remember (and even a couple you’ve never heard of) with affection for even the most obvious stinkers. I know I’m going to try and track a few titles down, I think you probably will also. (I might finally get around to Jacob Have I Loved.)

Lizzie Skurnick is a contributor to, and it was her online column about those books we used to pass around that led her to write Shelf Discovery, The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. She’s a fine writer and an awesome babe, and part of that wonderful club of women who were girls who loved to read.

Find Lizzie at

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