I occasionally receive comments and e-mails from readers who are looking for a dimly-remembered book. I know this pain! While I have been able to help in a few cases with coming up with a title and author, I want to open up the search to classic YA fans!
The following are descriptions I’ve received from readers that remain mysteries! See something you recognize? Share both ideas and sure-things in the comments!
If you have an unsolved ask that I’ve missed, let me know- I tried to collect everything I’ve received in the last 5 years!
Looking for a long-lost book? You can comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
This list will be updated as the requests are “solved”!
1.“Girl has a horse that she loves, but must leave it to go to the home for unwed mothers. And it dies. Maybe from trying to jump out of a straight stall?” Suggested title: But I Thought You Really Loved Me By Evelyn White Minshull
2. In reference to Just Friends: “at any point is it revealed that one of the characters has friends that are just in his head? I’ve been trying to think of the title of this book, but now that I see your description, I think I am mixing it up with another book from the 1980s.” Suggestion: Louly by Carol Ryrie Brink
3. We’ve ruled out Ann Landers Talks to Teenagers About Sex and Twixt Twelve and Twenty, and think it’s a male author: “Sometime between 1965 and 1968, my mother gave me a book that clearly explained sex. All text, no illustrations.” Suggested title: Girls and Sex, by Dr. Wardell B. Pomeroy
4. “I am trying to remember the name of a book that I would love to see you do. Probably published in the late 70’s early 80’s (I read it around 85/86):
It’s about a late teenaged (18/19) boy who lives in Colorado who is dying of cancer. Leukemia I think. The highlights of his life include; whining, going to Trader Vic’s for Tiki Drinks and I seem to recall fishing. He was a real hit with the ladies until the whole, ya know dying thing. But I think there is a loyal girl who stands by him. Blah, blah, blah.” Suggested title: May I Cross Your Golden River? By Paige Dixon or Eric by Doris Lund
“This YA novel is about a teenage boy (an only child) who goes to summer camp, and finds out once at camp that his parents, in exchange for external youth, have signed an agreement to sacrifice every child they have together at age 18 at this same camp. The boy had an inkling as to what was going on prior to this, as he found a photo album in his parents’ attic of their past children (although he didn’t know that they were his dead siblings at the time.) The failed sacrifice (he escaped) occurs in some sort of cave, and his parents were there, and they spoke a lot about the last child they sacrificed, a daughter named Meg, with long, curly eyelashes, who didn’t have a clue what was going on until the very end. They also had a cat clock at their house, the ones where the tail swings back and forth.” Only Child By Jesse Osburn, thanks to Lost Classics reader Majenta!
The first book wasn’t so much a continuous story as each chapter was its own little tale but with the same characters (though I think it was still a linear story). I think it took place back in early-to-mid 1900s and it was about a girl who lived in this big old house on a farm with her aunt (or great aunt – maybe grandmother?). I think there was a chapter about a big thunderstorm and ghosts; another was about a pie baking competition. The girl might have been named Emily (or not). Pretty sure this was written in the 80s.” We seemed to have reached consensus that this is Beverly Cleary’s Emily’s Runaway Imagination!
7. “I don’t remember the title or author but I think it was young adult. It was about a young couple who got married young. The book starts out with both of them telling her parents about getting married. The girl mentioned something about her sweater. I think the couple were hippies and they were living out in the woods. I don’t think she got pregnant until after the marriage. I remember she went to a class at the hospital and made a friend there. The girl had a baby boy they named feather. It is not the first part last. It was published either in the 1970s or 1980s. I think the couple in the book had problems getting along after she had the baby. If anyone can give me any help, I’d greatly appreciate it! I’m thinking I dreamed this book up and am fairly desperate to find it.”
“We read this YA novel as a class assignment in 8th grade (1975) so it was probably a Scholastic publication. Girl has a hobby of raising pet birds (canaries?) and cares for sick birds. She has a glass-enclosed birdcage for this purpose, which is the only detail I really remember. She befriends/dates a “bad boy”. I’m very vague on the plot, but I think he is accused of doing something bad, but is innocent, and she stands by him. In the last scene, at her house, they kiss and she hears a bird singing “or maybe it was my heart”. The Troublemaker By Robert McKay thanks to reader Sylvia!
9. “I’m looking for a book, I think a Whitman classic, about a figure skater who used to practice on a pond. Now her family has moved to a city with a big rink, and she is assigned a small patch of ice. Or maybe it’s the other way around.” Suggested title from Lost Classics reader Tracy: The Silver Seven by Rita Ritchie.
10. “A YA book starring three brothers named Harley, Davidson, and Mott, being raised by their dad after their mom either leaves or dies (if dies, possibly in a motorcycle accident–well, judging by her sons’ names, “she died doing something she loved”. But maybe she just rode off with someone else? I KNOW I’m not making this up. I KNOW those were the three sons’ names. I just don’t remember anything else offhand.”
11. “One starring (first-person narration) a girl known as B.J., which stands for–are you ready for this? “Baby Justine.” Suggested Title: The Hocus Pocus Dilemma
12. “Then there’s one set in a girls’ school which I remember only by a chapter starting with the headmistress or just a teacher saying that a guest lecturer “will be with us on Chuesday week.” [“a week from this Tuesday”—in an ultra-twee accent.] Suggestion: Is That You, Miss Blue? By M.E. Kerr
Updated 3/25/18: Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes.
Either this one or another one has a classmate whose parents travel while she’s tucked safely away at her school, and one day she quietly says they’re in “Barbados.” This book is not TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE by Carol Ryrie Brink–I thought it was, then I found TWO/ONE and it’s not, although it’s where I first heard of/adored the names “Chrystal” (spelled just that way) and “Cordelia.” So what is this other book or what are these other two books?”
“It was a YA or an adult book, a memoir, so I tried to be very secretive when I read this one at age 10 or so. (That would’ve been the late 90s, but the book was probably older.) It was in first person, I think, and it was the story of this girl growing up in the late 60s or 70s, and it was mostly about sex. She eventually gets pregnant, goes to college, gives birth, gives the baby up for adoption, and Begins To Move On. Things I remember vividly: Boys cornering her at a park or in the woods, getting her blouse open, and writing “SLUT” on her breasts in permanent marker. The main character marking out when she could and couldn’t have sex in a calendar. One of her friends writing something like “nothing lezzie but I love you” in her yearbook. Her getting pregnant, wanting no one to know, and taping her stomach down with duct tape (?). She gives birth, gets to see the baby girl once (even though she’s not supposed to), and mentions how weird and empty her stomach feels just after it. And then, she joins her college campus newspaper, and one of the stories they’re running when she first goes in to ask about joining is called something like “Incest: One Daughter Speaks.” The cover was maybe a buff colour, and I can sort of picture a silhouette of a woman on it, but I don’t know if I’ve got it correct.” Confirmed: Grown-Up Fast By Betsy Israel
14. “I don’t remember the title or author but I think it was young adult. It was about a young couple who got married young. The book starts out with both of them telling her parents about getting married. The girl mentioned something about her sweater. I think the couple were hippies and they were living out in the woods. I don’t think she got pregnant until after the marriage. I remember she went to a class at the hospital and made a friend there. The girl had a baby boy they named feather. It is not the first part last. It was published either in the 1970s or 1980s. I think the couple in the book had problems getting along after she had the baby. If anyone can give me any help, I’d greatly appreciate it I think the baby was lost at one point or around a lot of people. I’m positive the baby was named feather.”
“I read this paperback book in the 1970-71 school year, when I was eleven. A mother was escaping the Nazis with her three children; I don’t remember where the father was. The mother had a carriage for the baby, and I think had to store other supplies such as food and clothes in the carriage too. At one point they were on a train packed with others attempting to escape. In order to fit more people onto the train, a man tried to throw the carriage off, but the baby was still in it, and the mother had to fight to save the baby. (This scene really scared me, which is why I remember it.) At the end the family somehow made it safely to Switzerland, where they were taken in by some relatives. The book was my introduction to the horror of the Holocaust. I think it was written in the first-person by the mother, but whether it was true or fictional, I don’t know.” Ordeal by Fire by Anne Wahle and Roul Tunley
16. “I’m pretty sure this one’s from the early 2000s. It’s historical fiction set after the Vietnam war. A boy in middle school learns to play chess from a teacher who was a veteran of the war. The boy had a baby sister called Cassie who died, possibly in a car accident? He remembers she had hair like peach fuzz. I can’t remember if the teacher ends up dating his mother or something, maybe that happened? It was one of those quiet, slice-of-life-y novels that I ate up well after I was supposed to be too old for midgrade novels, and I’d like to reread it.”
17. “I am pretty sure it was a Whitman hardcover about two sisters traveling to somewhere. The older sister had just started driving and maybe they are driving an old Volkswagon? They end up staying in an old house and there was a painting on the one wall they find out later had holes where the eyes were for spying. The cover was purple-ish with possibly the painting on the front. I can’t remember what the mystery was about. There may have been a grandfather in the story too or some type of older relative.”
18. “Does anyone remember a story from a grade-school or junior-high language-arts textbook (that’s where I remember it from) about a young girl who travels the world and ends with her realizing that a comb she thought she lost is on Guam. That’s how it ends, I think: “It’s on Guam.” Does anyone remember reading anything like that? Thanks!”
19. I’ve got another anthology that I’ve been trying to track down- it was from the very late 1980s or very early 1990s and was short stories and excerpts from novels, and I want to say that it had a title like “A Child’s Treasury of Humor”. The two pieces I specifically remember are Shirley Jackson’s short story “Charles” and the chapter from Lake Wobegon Days about the Boy Scouts. It was a thick (600+ pages) oversize hardcover. Anybody remember this one?
20. I’m piecemeal tracking down the YA romance books I loved reading and rereading in the ’80s and there’s one whose title I can’t remember–it’s really stumping me! It’s about a girl whose family moves from Arizona to Minnesota, and she has a really hard time adapting to the cold and snow. She’s always complaining about how things are so much more perfect back in sunny, warm AZ, which, needless to say, doesn’t go over very well with her new classmates, who basically tell her to GTF away from them if she hates them and their state so much. I think she had a boyfriend back in AZ who she was pining for as well. Ring any bells for anyone?
21. My memories of it are pretty vague. The paperback cover featured a red-haired girl in a green dress. I believe it was about a teenager who moved to somewhere very green and mysterious, perhaps with castles…maybe Ireland? And there were always white swans on the lawn. I believe the girl’s name was Phillippa. I got it in a box of my older cousin’s stuff…in the late 1980s, so I believe it was published some time in the mid-eighties. Any help would be appreciated! Suggestion: The Fortunes of Philippa by Angela Brazil
22. I read this in 1965 and was under the impression it was pretty contemporary. The story concerns a young teenage girl whose family spends summers somewhere on the Atlantic coast. This particular summer they have an older teenage girl board with them and she’s a bit rough around the edges but is kind and wants to improve he self and her circumstances. She has a buttery soft yellow leather jacket that the younger teen admires. The older teen gets into some sort of scrape and decides to move on as she believes it to be in everyone’s best interest. She quietly leaves behind the yellow jacket as a gift to her young friend. I remember the cover depicted ocean, pier, maybe an old house, and a bit of stormy weather.
23. I’m hoping someone can help out with this one. It probably would have been published sometime in the ’60s, but possibly earlier. It’s about a brother & sister named Mary Jo & James who are accidental stowaways on a ship headed to Germany. They’re caught almost immediately & have to work for their passage – Mary Jo by peeling potatoes & James by shining shoes. The local bad girl – who I think was named Lizzie – was responsible for them being stuck on the ship in the first place. Mary Jo & James have been hanging out with Bad Girl Lizzie because they’ve been temporarily sent to live with a (very unpleasant) neighbor due to their younger sister being sick with something – possibly scarlet fever? – & they will do anything to avoid being in the neighbor’s house. That’s about all I remember except that I think there’s something about one of the sailors from the ship coming to their house for Christmas at the end.