As long as adults have been reading scandalous books, kids have been stealing them away to read under the covers. Now with the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey among moms, you can bet the next generation of curious book pilferers are stealthily poring over the racier passages between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. We know from Harry Potter that nothing gives a book more allure for a kid than labeling it “forbidden,” so we asked EW staffers what “naughty” books they couldn’t stay away from when they were teens. Some popular responses were Forever by Judy Blume, Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, and Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (“prehistoric porn!”). Click through to see some of the other books that traumatized, amused, and enlightened our writers in their more impressionable years — and tell us your own in the comments!
NEXT: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER by Jennifer Lynch
Melissa Maerz: I was pretty obsessed with Twin Peaks as a junior high kid. I’d never seen anything so deeply weird and terrifying (and thus totally awesome) in my whole pre-teen life. So when this book came out, I bought it immediately — and quickly learned way too much about its late heroine Laura Palmer, who seemed to be experimenting with sex and drugs and the occult from the age of, like, 5 until she died at age 17 (because, obviously, all that bad behavior killed her! Let that be a lesson to you, rebel girls!). Suffice to say that this book is so graphic, it seriously traumatized me. Every time someone Did It in this book (and, believe me, the “It” did not conform to anyone’s usual definition of what “It” is), I wanted to go downstairs and wash my brain out with several G-rated hours of Little House on the Prairie. Even more disturbing? It was written by David Lynch’s daughter.
NEXT: The Other Side of Midnight
THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT by Sidney Sheldon
Tina Jordan: My mom belonged to the Literary Guild, which was one of those monthly book clubs, and let me tell you, some of their selections were pretty racy. Sidney Sheldon’s The Other Side of Midnight? Please. For a period of time everything I knew about sex came from that book.
NEXT: Story of the Eye
STORY OF THE EYE by Georges Bataille
Kyle Anderson: After reading about it in an interview with Dave Matthews (of all people) in Rolling Stone, I went to my local Borders to pick up a copy of Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille. It’s pretty high-minded philosophical filth, but it’s filth nonetheless. I probably shouldn’t have been reading it, even though I was 14 at the time. Luckily I could read it in plain sight, as you could convince people who didn’t know what it was that it was just a book about French philosophy (which it sort of is). The sex in it is deeply weird, and even though it’s only like 80 pages long, it took me forever to read because I had to re-read passages multiple times to try to figure out what was going on.
FOREVER by Judy Blume
Hillary Busis: Sixth grade was a big year for me. I got a lead in the school play, learned how to play tennis… and discovered that one of my favorite authors, Judy Blume, wrote books for grown-ups that were a lot more scintillating than Super Fudge. I’d steal my sister’s copies of Summer Sisters and Forever…, then read the dirty parts out loud to my friends at recess. Consequently, I will never be able to take someone named “Ralph” seriously.
NEXT: Wild Rain
WILD RAIN by Christine Feehan
Lanford Beard: There’s an amazing book called Wild Rain by Christine Feehan. Though I never actually read it (I swear I’m not lying to preserve my own dignity!), two of my friends bought it in the airport on the way to our spring break trip my senior year of college. Throughout the week, we would have campfire-style reading parties. My memory is sketchy, but I know it was set in the rainforest, and I’m pretty sure the requisite sexy guy turned into a leopard intermittently. All that’s without mentioning the liberal use of fruit during the steamier passages. I will never look at mangoes or papayas the same way again.
DISCLOSURE by Michael Crichton
Kyle Anderson: I was also a big Michael Crichton fan growing up (mostly because of Jurassic Park), and I remember being discouraged from reading Disclosure. There was even a vague controversy about the library at my middle school stocking it (some parents complained, even though I specifically remember checking out Less Than Zero from that same institution). When I finally did get to read it, I didn’t get what the big deal was, as the sex scene in that book (which, looking back now, is basically a rape) is deeply unsexy and clumsily written (in fact, Crichton’s critics were correct: That dude never understood women at all). But those passages were the holy grail for me and my more literary-minded friends.
NEXT: Thy Neighbor’s Wife
THY NEIGHBOR’S WIFE by Gay Talese
Ben Spier: As a teenager, I nipped into Lisa Alther’s novel Kinflicks and Gay Talese’s nonfiction sexploration Thy Neighbor’s Wife. No sneaking: My liberal parents left them lying around the house.