The 5 Craziest Books for (Screwing Up) Young Adults

Critics say the Twilight novels are nothing more than porn for tweens. And more than just prematurely stirring loins, the relationship between Edward the 104-year-old high school student and Bella the clingy, awkward teen is about as healthy as a two-pack-a-day habit. Of heroin.

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Heroin comes in packs, right?

Even though Edward's dropping red flags like an overworked official at a Tony Stewart sprint, his overbearing and controlling nature, coupled with his jealous rages, are taken as signs of love and commitment by Bella. The concern that the series idealizes abusive relationships and promotes sexism is understandable, but Twilight's not the only example of questionable content created for impressionable youth. There's a long standing tradition of trashy "young adult" novels filling the minds of prepubescents with lusty thoughts and ambiguous moral messages.

#5. Steffie Can't Come Out to Play: Prostitution Is Glamorous

What would happen if you decided to run away from home at the age of 14? According to Steffie Can't Come Out to Play, some pretty cool stuff. Tired of life in a podunk town, Steffie takes off to pursue a modeling career in New York City, where she feels the only things that can possibly hold her back are her giant boobs. This was a simpler time, well before Kate Upton came along and finally proved that there could be a market for such a thing.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
Game changer.

But before she can even test out this seemingly misguided hypothesis, Steffie abruptly switches vocational gears after she meets Favor, the handsome pimp hanging out at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Favor, who's described as "beautiful" and looking like he "stepped out of a fashion magazine," wastes no time in giving the impressionable Steffie the Pretty Woman treatment. Bubble baths in his luxurious penthouse apartment, dining at upscale restaurants, expensive jewelry, and of course, being decked out in the coolest clothes imaginable are just a taste of what The Life has to offer.

The Horrible Message:

For a cautionary tale about running away from home and ending up a hooker, the book spends an awful lot of time talking about the awesome fashions you get to wear while street walking, and not much about the gross sex you have to have with random strangers. In fact, they never even use the word "sex," or describe it in any recognizable way. When Steffie, a virgin, turns her first trick, the full description of her introduction to sexual intercourse / having sex for money reads, "It was like being underwater, where you don't hear anything, you don't feel anything." Because evidently, sex is like playing Marco Polo in a backyard pool.

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It's cheating if you open your eyes.

That's it. Boning is never mentioned again. Soon, 14-year-old Steffie is making money hand over fist doing that underwater thing -- which I'm now thinking of as "dong snorkeling." She's got a NYC apartment, great clothes, and wads of cash. She's living the life. But sadly for Steffie, the fairy tale only lasts a couple of months. Steffie's heart is broken when Favor decides to cut her loose because her young age is becoming a hassle with the cops. Kicked to the curb with just her ugly original clothes (gross), a dejected Steffie finds herself on a bus heading back home to her previous boring existence.

Aigars Reinholds/iStock/Getty Images
How's an impressionable teen supposed to make money in a place like this?

Thanks to an elementary school policy of letting advanced readers check out books from the middle school, nine-year-old me read Steffie Can't Come out to Play back in the fourth grade. As I imagine most of the other young girls who read the book did, I daydreamed of running away to the Big City to become a prostitute. It sounded like a pretty cool adventure.

#4. Flowers in the Attic: If Your Parents Suck, Banging Your Sister Will Help

If there were a Pulitzer Prize for Disturbing Young Adult Literature, Flowers in the Attic would dominate the shortlist. Reading a copy of the first book in the popular Dollanganger series as it passed desk under desk was a rite of passage for many 12-year-old girls. But in case that particular milestone eluded you: in a nutshell, the Dollangangers are the family straight out of Hitler's ultimate wet dream -- blonde, blue-eyed, and totally fucked up sexually.

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Creeps!

Parents Christopher and Corrine, plus four kids (Chris, Cathy, Carrie and Cory), were an insanely good-looking and happy family with an unhealthy obsession for names that begin with "C," until Christopher's tragic death left them destitute. Desperate and out of options, Corrine reaches out to her wealthy estranged parents for help. The reason for their initial falling out isn't completely revealed in the first book, but let's just say that the Dollanganger kids are lucky that none of them were born with an extra finger or toe, or possibly a prehensile tail. Grandma reluctantly agrees to move the family into her mansion, on the stipulation the grandkids remain locked in the attic until Grandpa, who doesn't know of their existence, passes away. They end up living there for three years.

Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty
Sometimes, death is a gift.

Free from the shackles of kids underfoot, suddenly swinging single Corrine leaves her children at the mercy of their puritanical grandmother. Grandma makes infrequent visits to the attic, mostly to make the sure that the budding sexuality of the two eldest, Chris and Cathy, isn't getting out of control. Because "fool me once ..." Her curious method to keep passions cooled is to grab a bullwhip and have Cathy and Chris strip down to their underwear so she can whip them in front of each other. After a harsh beating leaves their flesh pulsing and raw, Grandma hands Chris a pair of scissors and orders him to cut off Cathy's gorgeous long blonde hair, or else all four children will face starvation. He refuses, so the next night, Grandma pours hot tar on Cathy's hair while she sleeps, and later begins to feed them arsenic-laced donuts. You know ... your basic grandma stuff.

The Horrible Message:

As you can imagine, the stress of being locked in an attic amidst the throes of puberty with your super hot sister/brother starts to weigh on the siblings. That, along with jealousy and Grandma's bizarre BDSM-type punishments, finally pushes Chris over the edge, and he rapes his sister. But don't worry -- Chris totally apologizes, and Cathy forgives him, because she was actually pretty into it. Don't judge them; they were attic kids. Their romantic relationship now consummated, the siblings and their eventual progeny continue their perverse misadventures of sadomasochistic family hookups throughout the next four Dollanganger books.

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Hide them all from your kids today!

It appears the public has a pretty strong appetite for incestual teen banging. Flowers in the Attic has been made into a movie twice, most recently on the Lifetime Channel with Heather Graham as the kooky, selfish mom and Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka as sister/temptress Cathy. After the success of the Lifetime movie, two new book installments of the Dollanganger Series were put in the works: Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth and Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger are ready to warp the minds of a fresh crop of horny tweenagers.

#3. Heavy Number: If a Chick is Attractive, She Must Be a Sociopathic Sexpot

Don't let the catchy cover art fool you. Heavy Number has very little to do with a hot, fun-loving teen girl, and more to do with a convoluted kidnapping plot that ends in a murderous rampage. From the back cover blurb: "She call the plays ... Her lovers dig the ways ... A sixteen-year-old sexpot pushes four young studs into a HEAVY NUMBER." Which I guess is code for something? I didn't get a special spy ring with the book, so I haven't solved it yet.

For no discernible reason, 16-year-old Shannon uses her apparently irresistible sex appeal to get the adult men in her life to do completely ridiculous things. After quasi-kidnapping Steve, the twenty-something son of a wealthy Beverly Hills businessman, Shannon torments his family by mailing them dead body parts stolen from a morgue. Bored while waiting for the ransom money (which she doesn't want anyway), Shannon spends her time banging Steve and the other three accomplices in between bouts of killing mice with a samurai sword (which also doubles as her sex toy). And I just realized that I wrote those words in a totally non-joke form.

arnau2098/iStock/Getty Images
Using this as a sex toy is no joke.

The kidnapping plot ultimately fails, but not before Steve's mom drops dead of a heart attack after receiving what she thinks is her son's severed finger in the mail. Since Steve was never really kidnapped, but rather with Shannon of his own horny volition, it looks like the evil teen isn't going to face any consequences. But Steve and his dad are determined to see that this young vixen won't go unpunished. The climax involves Shannon wielding her sword like a maniac, slicing open anything that comes in her path. It's like Kill Bill, except somehow way, way darker.

The Horrible Message:

Reading Heavy Number, you get the feeling that the author has no clue what a 16-year-old girl is really like, so it's no surprise that the author was actually a forty-something-year-old man. And after getting to the parts where Shannon masturbates with the business end of a sword and fantasizes about screwing an imaginary dude with no arms or legs whom she calls Lump Man, you get the feeling he has no idea what a normal, well-adjusted human being is like, either. Shannon's driven by motives that aren't exactly clear beyond "she's hot, so of course she's crazy." This book basically posits that attractive girls are by their very nature evil, horny sociopaths.

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Diana Cook

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