When I was in about Year 8 I was handed a wrinkled, worn, dog-eared little treasure that had been passed from sweaty hand to sweaty teenage hand. It had been at the centre of many circles, read out by guffaws and surrounded by screeching girls.
It was Puberty Blues, by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey.
At the age of 13, I saw it as a shocking, scandalous story of sex and surfie chicks, drugs and drongo boys. It was titillating and dangerous and irresistable. The book – of it own accord – fell open at the page where Debbie is dragged into a bedroom at a party to have sex with her awful boyfriend, but despite a liberal use of ‘vaso’ he just can’t get in. The scene rendered me hysterical with laughter on the surface, but horrified and sickened inside.
(It was a clever move by Channel 10 to include the lives of Debbie and Sue’s parents in their recent TV series – an acknowledgement that the giggling girls who first read the book are now parents seeing it from a very different perspective.)
Meanwhile, my sister was earning massive cache by passing around the Little Red School Book, that she secreted into school in a brown paper lunch bag. This subversive little tome offered an education about sex, drugs and alcohol so liberal (masturbation was discussed and marijuana was called "pot") that it horrified Margaret Thatcher, was denounced as sacrilegious by the Pope and banned in many countries. My sister traded it around for years and I always believed it got her the votes needed to become a prefect.
My dad read a rude book in secret. He used to giggle behind a paper while we played sport. One day we discovered he wasn't laughing about Gough Whitlam; he'd stolen mum's copy of Erica Jong's Fear of Flying and was cackling away at her fantasies about a "zipless fuck".
When Fifty Shades of Grey burst upon the scene like a gushing orgasm, it was a hidden pleasure. Coinciding with the spread of the ebook and the Kindle, it could be safely read without anyone being the wiser. I often wonder if this took away some of the exquisite naughtiness that comes with reading forbidden fruit.
I asked around to find and here are some of the books many of us read in secret; under the covers with torches one ear cocked for a step on the stair, or secreted within our homework, or high up in our cubby houses away from prying eyes.
1. Forever by Judy Blume
We were hooked by the first page "Sybil Davison has a genius IQ and has been laid by at least six different guys”. It was a story for young girls because it was about a girl deciding to lose her virginity to her boyfriend. It was explicit, it had talk about those two words we whispered ("the Pill"), and it had homosexuality. We read it knowing we were losing our innocence without having to actually do so, although I don't remember realising that the character Artie was gay.
Many Forever fans also read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, skipping the search for faith and focusing on the stuff about periods and buying her first bra.
2. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews
Now, I didn't read this series and I'm rather glad. Featuring a mother who locks her children up in an attic for many years poisoning them with donuts, it contains incest and super creepiness. A friend who loved it says the series was probably akin to the recent Twilight Series "but with incest instead of vampires". Give me Vampires any day (although I do admit sneaking off to see Blue Lagoon where Brooke Shields fell in love and had a baby with her cousin after being shipwrecked on an island with him for many years).