As a nerdy child who devoured books, I have to say there are a few I simply read too soon. Be it sex, drugs, or violence, my consumption of the following tomes sort of scarred me. I probably should have stuck with my Little House books until I was at least out of middle school.
Flowers in the Attic
I read this when I was 11 or 12, and it freaked me out on so many levels. It was bad enough that Grandmother and the self-absorbed mother locked the four Dollanger children in the attic of the Virginia mansion where Grandmother lived, but this book contained 1) consumption of human blood in an effort to survive starvation, 2) sister/brother incest between Corinne and Chris, 3) death of a child, 4) crazy abuse including whippings and chopped-off hair, and 5) poisoned cookies! This book messed with my head in a major way, and I wouldn't look at my brother (named Chris!) in the eye for a month.
Joy of Sex
I managed to get my hands on a copy of this when I was babysitting. Imagine my disgust when I viewed the drawings. The man and woman looked horrible! The guy was all hairy, the woman looked like she hadn't bathed in months. I realize now that Joy was trying to be all `70s and hippy dippy and one with nature and the body, but all it did was scare me into staying a virgin until I was in college. Apparently, they've revised the book and the pictures aren't so hairy, but I still don't think I'll be reading it.
Go Ask Alice
Before I learned this book was a conspiracy penned by a Mormon teen counselor and not actually a diary written by a drug-addled teen, this book scared the bejeesus out of me. Poor diary girl (we never learn her name) is given drugs without her knowledge, has bad trips that land her in a mental hospital, and is sexually assaulted while tripping. Yet she still manages to keep her diary. (That should have tipped me off that something wasn't quite accurate.) Scary as Hell when you're 12. Hilarious when you're 20.
Anything Ever Written by Jackie Collins
Sex, four-letter words, sex, alcoholic stupors, sex, sex, daughters of mobsters, sex, drugs, death from alcoholic stupors, etc., etc., etc....What really freaked me out was the fact that I got these books from my mother's shelf. That meant...she read them, too? Argh! Difficult to get that image out of your mind when you're 13.
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Bitch gave me a complex. Oh everything Nancy did was so perfect. Look, Nancy drives a sports car! Nancy is a strawberry blonde! Nancy is thinner than her friends Bess and George! Nancy gets Ned Nickerson! Nancy's rich and popular! I recognize Nancy Drew is a feminist icon and in many ways, I should be applauding her. But I credit Nancy Drew with my high school-era insecurities. Maybe instead of reading her too soon, I should have never read her at all.