The First “Grown-Up” Book I Read

When you’re a child who loves to read, there’s a lot of pride in being able to read what your parents are reading. It is a rite of passage to read a “grown-up” book. While I technically read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck in late middle school, I didn’t really understand them until much later. It is a bit of a joke to consider them my first “grown-up” books, as I was just reading, not comprehending.

I’d have to go with another title as my very first “grown-up” read.

It’s Mary Higgin’s Clark’s Where Are the Children?

where are the children

It was a terrifying book for a girl my age. I can’t remember my exact age, but I was probably between sixth and seventh grade. Maybe that makes me a little too young to have been reading this book, but my mother always read Clark’s formulaic fiction, so I wanted to read it too.

I continued to reach for Clark’s books throughout my adolescence. One night, while I was in high school, I stayed up late reading one of these thriller novels. (They’re no Stephen King, but they were scary to me.) I also happened to have my own telephone in my bedroom. Just as I was getting drowsy and just as I read about the eery and unexpected ring of a telephone in the novel, my own phone rang. I jumped and couldn’t go to sleep for a while after that.

Just a few years ago, Clark visited our local library as a guest speaker.  The turnout for her appearance was so large, that it took place at one of the biggest high school auditoriums in the area, instead of in one of the library’s meeting rooms.  It was a treat to hear her speak about her craft and to recount how she had turned to writing as a young mother and widow.  Her ability to write ended up being a successful and lucrative career for her.  I enjoyed her novels as a young person, and although I don’t read them now, I respect her work and I look back with fondness on the memories I have of losing myself in her books.

What was your first “grown-up” novel?