Wow. First Monday back at the YA 5. Check out these new digs! And all of last week's spooktacular fun! I hope everyone has their ear to the ground, as the giveaways are still open for a few more days! Mad props to Georgia for organizing the fab madness!
It's been a hot summer here in Texas. Throughout the sweltering weeks fellow Austinite and YA-5-er K.A. Holt and I have occasionally peeled ourselves off of our respective sofas and meandered to a coffee shop where we "work" on "writing" and exchange critique and argue about what makes a good apocalypse. This week she and her kids even turned me into a unicorn with her fancy iPhone app.
Of course, this leads to book comparisons and the eventual recommendation of titles. Such as THE ROAD. Kari made me read it. She said it was for my own good. And I finished it about ten minutes ago and of course it was wonderful and I'm so glad I read it (even if I whined the whole time) and by the end of the book I was just completely engrossed.
Now I know this isn't a YA title. Cormac McCarthy writes for adults. But THE ROAD is often assigned to high school English classes, here in Austin, and while I was reading, I kept wondering a) OMG if I am struggling to read the first fifty pages of this book, how does a high school kid who also has to do, like, calculus and chemistry and stuff get through it? and b) if I am so engrossed by this book as an adult, would I have been into it enough as a teen to actually read it for class?
Let's face it: assigned reading bears the burden of being assigned. You HAVE to read it to make the grade, and if you're anything like me, you feel that anything you HAVE to do isn't fun. I mean, I'm supposedly a grown-up, and if someone tells me I HAVE to get dressed I'm going to sit around in my pajamas for hours just to show them I don't HAVE to do anything.Maybe I should have my grown-up card revoked.
Anyway, a) yes, teenagers are ridiculously smart. So smart that there's no doubt that they can read THE ROAD and other literary books with tough topics and big words (Cormac McCarthy uses a lot of words that I have to look up). But how do they find the time? This book took me WEEKS to read, and I don't have French homework or soccer practice. So, I would like to give props to the Texas teens who read this book as part of their curriculum. You are heroes.
And b) confession time: I only did about 10% of my assigned reading. And knowing that my former English teacher Mrs. Ryder sometimes reads my posts I AM SORRY REALLY I AM but sophomore year I still read most of the stuff. I mean I loved LORD OF THE FLIES and I memorized that solioquy from MACBETH and I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS is still one of my favorite books ever, so, cut me some slack. Mrs. Ryder, I bet I read more of your assignments than my dad did when he was in your class, okay? Okay.
But by senior year I was drowning in college applications and a boyfriend from another school (didn't so much mind that bit...) and the last thing I needed in my life was Herman Melville. I know some of you out there read MOBY DICK and cherish it and are making voodoo dolls of me right now. And maybe you aren't the type of person who gets an assignment and thinks that someone is trying to kill your spirit. Heck no I wasn't going to watch APOCALYPSE NOW in class. I was going to take a nap. And I can't even remember if I "read" THE GRAPES OF WRATH or THE GREAT GATSBY and the only reason I get those books confused is that the two English classes were assigned them at the same time and my BFF was in the other class. I did read THE SCARLET LETTER that year, though. Do I get points?
I am a horrible influence. I'm kind of bad at this whole role model thing. Woops.
Anyway, I have to wonder, if I'd been assigned THE ROAD in high school -- and part of me wants to call up my old high school and find out what they're reading these days...creepy? -- would I have read it? Or would it have become a book that, to this day, I can't pick up and enjoy (SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, for example) because it was once one of those dreadfully assigned novels.
How do you all feel about assigned reading? August is almost here and y'all are probably getting ready to cram several weeks worth of summer assignments into a blessed few days while hooked up to an IV drip of cola hoping not to nod out. Because, you know, that's how I got through THE THINGS THEY CARRIED. I hear it's a good book. Maybe I'll pick it up and actually read it for pleasure someday.