They say everyone has a novel in them somewhere. Some people never bother to write it down. Others wait until they’re grey and retired before even trying. Others have a go as soon as they can hold a pencil.
These books were written when the authors were teenagers, just like students at St Laurence School – and managed to score a publishing deal, whether by design or accident. Some we hold in the ILC, others you might need to look further afield for.
The Kissing Booth – Beth Reekles
It’s been all over Netflix, but The Kissing Booth was originally a book – first published on sharing site Wattpad when Reekles was 15, where it gained nineteen million reads, then a three-book publishing deal. The story of American high-schooler, Elle, her best friend, Lee, and his hot, rough-round-the-edges brother, Noah has been an instant hit on screen and on the page, and so finely written you’d never realise that Reekles actually comes from South Wales not Los Angeles.
Colin’s Fantastic Video Adventure – Kenneth Oppel
Oppel was 15 when he wrote his first book. He showed his manuscript to a family friend who just so happened to know Roald Dahl. Dahl sent it to his publisher, and the rest, as they say, is history. Oppel went on to write many other books, as well as editing children’s books and completing degrees in Cinema and English before deciding to write full time. You can find his books Half Brother, The Nest and This Dark Endeavour in the ILC.
I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
At the age of 11-12 Malala wrote a blog under a false name for the local BBC. It detailed what life was like under the occupation of the Swat region of Pakistan by the Taliban. The next summer, a New York Times documentary about her life was released and she rose to prominence. This led to an assassination attempt, in which Malala was shot in the head. Following her recovery, and still only 16, she co-authored I Am Malala, her biography. She now fights for girl’s education through the Malala Fund.
Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan
Bonjour Tristesse means “Hello Sadness” in French. This novel was such a hit in the 1950s that it was translated into various other languages, including English. Published when Sagan was 18, the short but punchy book focuses on the life of the pleasure-driven 17 year old, Cécile, while on holiday in the French Riviera, and her relationship with her boyfriend and her adulterous, playboy father.
Trouble All the Way – Sonya Harnett
Harnett, from Australia, wrote her first book when she was 13, and it was published in 1984 when she was 15. Set in Melbourne, the main character, Tim Kimpson, is bored with life, and ends up being led into trouble by his friend Max. It’s hard to find a copy of this one now, but Sonya has had a long writing career since, and is best known in the UK for Children Of The King and The Midnight Zoo – both of which we have in the ILC. Her writing career has been interesting to say the least, winning prizes and generating discussion internationally for some of the themes of her books.
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley’s life was one of drama and surprises. She wrote Frankenstein – a classic that has spawned huge numbers of adaptations as well as being a stalwart of school and university book lists – at 18. By this time she was already married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, having eloped, taking one of her step-sisters on the trip with her. Her young life was challenging, losing her mother and gaining a step-mother, and with a half sister and two step siblings. Her house was frequented by some notable visitors, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, and she was home educated from the family’s extensive library. The rest of her life was equally interesting, full of travel and intrigue, and well worth reading into further.
Eragon – Christopher Paolini
Practically a grandfather compared to the others on this list, Eragon was published when Paolini was 19. It’s the first in his Inheritance Cycle of books, about dragons, and was later made into a film. Paolini, an American, was homeschooled, and graduated highschool three years early, through correspondence courses. He publicised his series of books by visiting schools and libraries dressed in full medieval gear, and he also illustrated the first editions front cover!
The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank
When she started writing, at the age of 13, Frank never intended her diary for publication. Then the situation in Holland in 1942 took over, and she and her Jewish family went into hiding from the Nazis. Frank continued to document her life and emotions in hiding for more than two years, until the family’s betrayal and capture. Her father published her diary after the Second World War as part-memorial and part-commentary on Jewish life under the Nazi regime.