Summary: Boy has to survive in the wild after his plane crashes.
How it changed you: All of a sudden, planes are scary. And if yours crashes, and you happen to survive, people might not find you.
Summary: A girl with horrible parents is a voracious reader and also has magic mind powers.
How it changed you: If Matilda can get a beautiful, kind lady to adopt her and take her away from her stupid parents, you can too, right?
3. The Giver
Summary: In a world where no one feels pain, one boy is designated the next “Receiver of Memory,” meaning he has to experience and keep all ancient memories.
How it changed you: The world sucks.
4. Charlotte’s Web
Summary: A runt pig named Wilbur stands out and gains wisdom thanks to his friend, Charlotte, a spider who is really good at spinning webs.
How it changed you: Our time with our loved ones is too short. Why do we have to die?
5. In the Night Kitchen
Summary: Picture book about a boy’s dream in a surreal bakery-city-place-thing.
How it changed you: The boy enters his dream naked. And you have naked dreams. Wait, being naked is weird and embarrassing.
6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Summary: Picture book in which a caterpillar munches his way through various foods.
How it changed you: How can you ever be satisfied now?
7. The Red Badge of Courage
Summary: A teenage soldier enters battle in the Civil War and is half-terrified, half yearning to be wounded (to sport a “red badge of courage”) so he doesn’t look lame.
How it changed you: Made you feel lucky you weren’t fighting in a war. But it also just made you really, really sad. For real, this is a pretty graphic novel for 7th graders.
8. Tuck Everlasting
Summary: The story of an immortal family and their relationship with a girl, Winnie, who is faced with the decision of choosing immortality or a life with death.
How it changed you: Just FYI, you’re gonna die. It’s OK.
9. Anne of Green Gables
Summary: The tale of a spirited orphan who is sent to live with a family on a farm and the adventures she has there.
How it changed you: Anne taught you to love yourself, even if you were a bit of a wreck.
10. Love You Forever
Summary: Picture book about a mom who sings the following to her kid through the various stages of his life: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” But then the MOM gets old and he cradles HER to sleep and says this.
How it changed you: How are you not sobbing already? Parents aren’t allowed to get old and die and stuff! WTF?
11. Where the Wild Things Are
Summary: A boy pissed off at his mom escapes his bedroom into a jungle of wild animals.
How it changed you: You didn’t exactly know what that feeling was before, but now you can place it — you’re pissed at your mom. No one understands you.
12. A Wrinkle in Time
Summary: Meg, a teenage outsider, goes on a journey through space and time to save her dad.
How it changed you: You were like, “Whoa, SPACE and TIME, you guys.”
Summary: An 18-year-old badass has to fight a magic evil to save her people and her father.
How it changed you: Sabriel was a BAMF who was tough and courageous. So be more like her, already. Don’t let that 4th grade loser take your place in the lunch line again.
14. Bridge to Terabithia
Summary: Two friends, a boy and a girl, escape life at their secret spot in the woods, creating their own imaginary kingdom. Except then one of them dies and it’s really sad.
How it changed you: So you’re a weirdo. But there’s a place for you in the world. Also: Death. Jesus Christ.