There's a reason books written by underage authors get attention: everyone has a book in them, but that book usually takes a while to come out. The list of authors who began publishing when they were middle aged — or even elderly — is miles long, but trying to find writers who wrote before they turned 25 is a needle-and-haystack kind of job. Narrow the list down further — to only women writers, say — and the task becomes nearly impossible.
Nearly impossible, and yet, the first item on the #BustleReads Challenge for 2016 tasks you with reading a book written by a woman under the age of 25. Before you go off thinking I'm some kind of sadist, hear me out: yes, this task is über-limited, but there are more than a few books for you to choose from. Some writers, such as the fabulous Helen Oyeyemi and Jane Austen, wrote several books before they turned 25. In many cases, including Austen's, those books were not published until many years later. However, because they were written before the author's 25th birthday, they count for the #BustleReads task.
As always, this list is not exhaustive. Please share your recommendations for books written by women under 25 on Twitter using the #BustleReads hashtag. Happy reading!
1. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
Helen Oyeyemi's debut novel follows Jess, a precocious and imaginative 8-year-old who visits her mother's home country of Nigeria, where she makes her first real friend — a girl named TillyTilly that only she can see. The two become inseparable, but their magical friendship soon takes a dark turn.
2. Looking Back by Joyce Maynard
Joyce Maynard was 19 years old when she wrote Looking Back . If you've ever wondered what it was like to grow up as a Baby Boomer — to experience the Beatles' Ed Sullivan Show debut and practice air-raid drills in your classroom — this is the memoir you want to read.
3. Shug by Jenny Han
To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You may have pushed Jenny Han into the spotlight, but her career began with this novel, which she wrote in college. Shug follows Annemarie "Shug" Wilcox, an awkward 12-year-old, as she navigates the perils of junior high.
4. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith was 25 years old when White Teeth hit store shelves and launched her to literary stardom in 2000. This novel about an interracial friendship between two London men won several awards and was included in TIME's 2005 roundup of the 100 best English-language novels.
5. Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
Written when the author was just 17 years old, Maureen Daly's 1942 title, Seventeenth Summer , was the first-ever YA novel. It's a classic story about two teens' summer love affair.
6. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
The Bone Season centers on Paige, a clairvoyant, whose powers endanger her life. While working as a criminal mind-reader, Paige is kidnapped and locked in a secret prison-city, where her non-human captors intend to harness her abilities for their own agenda.
7. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
Cécile feels conflicted about her father's duplicitous relationships with younger women, and she tries to emulate the sophisticates he dates by practicing her budding powers of seduction on older men. But when her father starts to settle down with a woman his own age, Cécile does all she can to stop the wedding.
8. Namedropper by Emma Forrest
From then-22-year-old author Emma Forrest comes Namedropper , a book about being young and unsupervised in the world's fastest, most-star-studded cities. If you grew up on a diet of pop culture and underground music, this novel is a must-read.
9. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey — originally titled Susan — when she was in her early 20s. It was sent off to publishers a few years later, but did not appear in print until after the author's death.
10. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Carson McCullers published this classic novel about a deaf boarder, a tomboy, and their assorted Georgia friends in 1940, when she was 23 years old.
11. P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern
After Gerry dies suddenly, his wife falls into a deep depression. When a package containing letters from her late husband arrives in the mail, Holly begins to pick up the pieces of her life and move on from grief.
12. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Written as part of a challenge to see who could pen the best horror story, Frankenstein went to print in 1818, when author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was only 20 years old.
13. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
14. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Helen Keller published her classic autobiography, The Story of My Life , in 1903. She was 23 years old at the time, but was already somewhat of a celebrity. When she graduated Radcliffe College the following year, Keller "became the first person with deafblindness to receive a bachelor of arts degree," according to the Perkins School for the Blind.
15. In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
I remember reading this vampire YA novel when I was a kid, but I didn't know until recently that its author was only 15 years old when Delacorte published it in 1999.
16. The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi
Yes, Helen Oyeyemi has two books on this list, and I'm super-jealous. She published her second novel, The Opposite House , when she was 23 years old. This title centers on Maja, a black Cuban immigrant in London, as she unwinds questions about her ethnicity and identity while pregnant with her first child.
17. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
In 1967, then-18-year-old S.E. Hinton published The Outsiders : a Bildungsroman about two teens who go on the lam to avoid an unfair murder trial.
18. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Anne Frank will forever be one of literature's greatest losses. A 15-year-old girl's diary rarely proves worthy of study, and, although The Diary of a Young Girl certainly owes much of its success to the time and place in which it was written, it's clear that Frank would have enjoyed a successful writing career, had she survived the war.
19. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Long before she published We Should All Be Feminists , Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote Purple Hibiscus . This novel centers on teen siblings Kambili and Jaja, as their religious zealot father, Eugene, tears apart their family.
20. Property Of by Alice Hoffman
Practical Magic author Alice Hoffman was 25 years old when she published her debut novel, Property Of . It's an often-overlooked story about a young girl who falls in love with a cold-hearted gang leader.
21. Origin by Jessica Khoury
Pia has lived her entire life in a secret lab. She escapes the night she turns 17, and starts looking for answers to the question of who she really is.
22. The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
Set in the post-war Balkans, Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife follows Natalia as she pieces together clues to solve the mystery of her grandfather's death. Along the way, she picks up his personal copy of The Jungle Book, and relives the stories he used to tell her — and the one he didn't.
22. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
24. Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan
Some people might find Swordbird 's premise a little silly. You're either all "Birds with swords?" or you're all "BIRDS WITH SWORDS!" I'm in the latter camp. Then-12-year-old author Nancy Yi Fang has since published two related titles: Sword Quest and Sword Mountain .
25. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai published her memoir, I Am Malala , in 2013. Her writing career stretches back to the late 2000s, when she blogged anonymously for the BBC about life as a schoolgirl in a Taliban-controlled area.