Tuesday, September 11, 2012
I Heart YA: School Time!
The I Heart YA Carnival is hosted by Suze Reese, author of the ExtraNormal series. Each Tuesday, a blog prompt will be posted about a topic related to the YA genre. Click the button to learn how to join in!
This week's prompt is: So what about you, did you ever have a story that was ruined by being given as an assignment at the wrong time? Or better yet, were you introduced to something that opened a world you'd never imagined? (That is the point, right?)
That is indeed the point! And I can realize that now. But when I was in school, assigned reading was just work to me. I had to struggle through books I wasn't really interested in (at the time), and I had to try to find complicated symbolism and clever hidden meanings within these books while my brain was rebelling with thoughts of, "Maybe there isn't anything complicated or hidden here! Maybe the author just wanted to tell a story!"
Or maybe I was just a frustrated high schooler who didn't want to do her homework. :D
Anyhoo, there is one book that I was actually excited to see on the reading list: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. I was stoked because it's historical fiction, which is right at the top of my list of favorite genres, and specifically in the 1920s, which is one of my favorite decades. What was not to love?? I knew I'd fly through it and smack it proudly at the top of my "favorite books ever!" list.
For whatever reason, I just could NOT get through this book. The characters did nothing for me. The plot did nothing for me. The love-at-first-sentence that I was so looking forward to experiencing was just not there. At all. I fought my way through the assignments and then tossed that book in the back of my closet. To this day, when I see this version at a bookstore, I shudder a little.
I know I need to reread this book because it's an American classic and so many people love it. My taste in books has matured a bit since high school, so I'm sure I would either be able to better appreciate it now or more adequately determine why I didn't like it.
But amid the stacks of books that were either over my head or not within my genres of choice or just not right for me at the time, I did find a few gems.
One was Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. The story itself is of course a favorite for lots of readers, but I got this book in No Fear Shakespeare format, which totally brought Shakespeare alive for me. Up until then, Shakespeare was just some ancient dude spouting out poetry in a version of English that I could not comprehend to save my life. No Fear Shakespeare has the original Old English on one side of the page and a modern English translation on the other. Reading Shakespeare this way, I could finally appreciate his storytelling, his wit, and his complete mastery of the art of writing. From then on, all of his works went straight to my heart instead of over my head.
The other was Lois Lowry's The Giver. To this day, I really can't
explain what it was about this book that drew me in so completely. It was my first dystopic book, so maybe it was the excitement of finding a new genre, even thought at the time I didn't recognize it as dystopic - to me, it was just a really interesting "other world" type setting with a really intriguing plot. Maybe it was Lowry's writing - very clear and crisp and yet so evocative at the same time. Whatever the reason, I was completely hooked. Yes, it was assigned reading, but I was reading it for pleasure. I'd desperately tear through a few pages anytime I had free time, rather than reluctantly dragging it out when I'd rather be doing a thousand other things like I did with all the other required reading. And I read that book over and over and over again. I still re-read it. It's beautiful.