As a kid, you could catch me breaking the house rules late at night. No, I wasn't sneaking out. I was reading beneath the covers with the help of my trusty mini-flashlight. Staying up too late to read the latest '90s book you shouldn't have read as a kid but definitely did anyways was my favorite nighttime activity as a kid. Between my bibliophile mother who left her books lying around the house and my older sister whose books were easy to snatch, getting my hands on books that were a little too mature for me was definitely a little too easy. And although I may have been reading a bit ahead of my age curve, I don't regret any of the mature reads I got my hands on back in the '90s.
The library was my sanctuary as a kid, whether I was checking out every volume of Sweet Valley High from the library or I was hiding away in the cool, air-conditioned stacks at the nearest Barnes and Noble, I could almost always be found curled up with a book. Often times, with a book that may have been a little too racy, extreme, or adult for my age. (I was mature for my age! I swear!) From cigarettes to sex and everything in between, these are the books from the '90s you probably shouldn't have read as a kid.
1'Bridget Jones's Diary' by Helen Fielding
A classic heroine of the '90s and beyond, Bridget Jones's Diary was too enticing for a chubby young tween like me not to read in one fell swoop. I loved this book way back then, and I love it now. As a chronic unattainable goal maker, Bridget resonated with me in a big way, even if I was a little too young to understand the dynamics of her smug married friends.
2'Girl With A Pearl Earring' by Tracy Chevalier
A fictional account of the famed painter Johannes Vermeer, Girl With A Pearl Earring tells the fictional tale of 16-year-old Griet who sits for the painter after a series of events lead her to his home. Filled with incredible history and a handful of adult themes like lust, adultery, and grief, this book made for an especially poignant coming of age novel for me, though I imagine I would understand it even further as an adult now.
3'Memoirs Of A Geisha' by Arthur Golden
An incredible work of literary art, Memoirs of a Geisha opened my eyes to amazing cultural differences, and the history of Geishas. Touching on the transformation of a young woman from a poor fishing village into one of the most celebrated Geishas in history, I snagged this tale of sexual worth off of my sister's shelf a few years before I probably should have.
4'The Virgin Suicides' by Jeffrey Eugenides
After The Virgin Suicides was turned into a film, I had to read the book. Telling the tale of the Lisbon sisters, who grew up in a suburb of Detroit and committed suicide one by one over the course of a year, Eugenides paints a fairly adult tale of suburban life, and the consequences of fatal melancholy.
5'She's Come Undone' by Wally Lamb
Heartbreaking and comical at the same time, She's Come Undone tells the tale of 13-year-old Dolores Price. Coming into her own, sassy, loud-mouthed, and struggling Dolores takes readers on an unforgettable journey as she gives herself one last shot before she drowns in her own life.
6'Girl, Interrupted' by Susanna Kaysen
7'Where The Heart Is' by Billie Letts
Novalee Nation is 17 years old, seven months pregnant, and has just been stranded at a Wal-Mart by her boyfriend with only $7.77 in her pocket. Where The Heart Is tells the tale of what happens to Novalee after she's left in the middle of nowhere, with no one but herself to rely on.
8'California Diaries' Series by Ann M. Martin
What happens when you take a beloved Baby-Sitters Club character and move her out to Los Angeles? An edgy young-adult series called the California Diaries, that's what. Telling the stories of five teenage girls as they come to terms with growing up and leaving their childhoods behind, the books dabbled in darker material than The Baby-Sitters Club did, and reading them felt a little bit scandalous.
9'Forever' by Judy Blume
Forever was one of those books that caused controversy wherever it went, which meant I had to read it. Blume's groundbreaking novel about teenage love and sexuality is a must read for any teen, even if I read it as a pre-teen.
10'Go Ask Alice' by Anonymous
Another controversial book that was all the rage (in more ways than one) in the '90s, Go Ask Alice was published anonymously , which made it even more scandalous. A harrowing tale of a young girl's descent into the world of drugs, this book stands the test of time.
11'Dicey's Song' by Cynthia Voigt
One of three novels about the Tillerman family, Dicey's Song tells Dicey's story, about being the eldest of four children who were abandoned in a parking lot by their unstable mother. Dicey grows up quickly because she has to, in order to take care of her siblings and find a way for them to make it out of their extreme circumstances together. Struggling with finding herself after years of being the caretaker, Dicey's tale is one about what happens to someone when they abandon their childhood too quickly.