Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Roots

I have been flying through books lately, but haven't felt that the quality has been quite what I should be reading. Most have been just fine (Oates, Erdrich), but some have been crap (Gaiman). Luckily, some have been awesome, and luckily I read three of those in the last week. Mostly because they were young adult novels and were very easy to read. But also because they were seriously, no joke, hands down, without a doubt...AWESOME. And had I read them when I was an actual young adult, I would have been even more obsessed than I am now, and that says something...

The books are "The Hunger Games," "Catching Fire," and "Mockingjay," a trilogy about a teenage girl living in a horrid post-apocalyptic society who is forced into fighting for her life in a reality TV show, and the revolution that eventually ensues... Craziness. I decided I wanted to read some young adult fiction since when I saw the most recent "Harry Potter" movie in theaters I vowed to read all the books by the time the last movie comes out in July. I think I can do it. It's written for children, come on. So I thought, while I find a way to get someone to buy me the entire HP collection (it can be used, it's cool, go buy it for me) so I don't have to wait for the next book from the library or wherever, I'll go ahead and read another YA series, because I felt like it might be good for me. And it sure as hell wasn't going to be that vampire bullshit.

Ugh, I saw one of those crappy movies with my little sister and wanted to puke, let's see, pretty much the WHOLE TIME. What a lousy, sniveling, pathetic little heroine. Quit whining over your pale sparkly boyfriend and get down with the wolf boy for Christ's sake. Thank God that "The Hunger Games" has a badass, horribly flawed young heroine who doesn't always make the right choices, kills people, reluctantly leads a revolution, does some terrible damage, and gets pretty damaged herself in the process. That's my kind of heroine! Katniss would totally kick your ass, Bella. I'm really glad I read those books and I am miserable that they're not coming out with a movie until next year. What the hell? That's ridiculous. Hurry up, Hollywood, get on this shit. Make it awesome.

So anyway, I loved these books now, and I would have loved them even more as a kid. I mean, LOVED. Why am I not 12 again? Oh wait, cuz being 12 sucked. But I digress... Anyway, I have always had this crazy fixation with dystopian societies. I blame 5th grade and "The Giver." Damn you, Lois Lowry, you ruined me. I have also always loved war stories and horrible tales of young people dying. I blame 5th grade again, for its lessons on the Civil War and our trip to Gettysburg where they showed us all the tools used in a battlefield amputation. Gross! I also blame my mom for taking me to see "Les Miserables" that same year so I became obsessed with the French Revolution as a 10-year-old. THAT IS NOT NORMAL. I also blame Anne Frank, of whom, for a short time in my young life, I believed myself to be the incarnation. That's weird. Now I am all grown up and just plain morbid.

Anyway, this post really has nothing to do with anything besides the fact that you need to give proper credit to young adult books and the power they have over young and old minds alike. The books I read as a young girl, like those of Scott O'Dell, Jean Craighead George, Katherine Paterson, etc. really shaped me as a reader and made me want to read more challenging literature. I mean, hell, I plowed through Shakespeare and Victor Hugo as a 5th grader. Did I remember much? No. Did I skip over large quantities of text? Yes. Did I expand my vocabulary immensely? Hell yes. Did I understand all those big words? Hell no. But I read them, goddammit. I read UP. And now, as an adult, I can look back and realize that it's okay to "regress" a little bit and read DOWN, to read books aimed at younger readers. They remind you of the person you were, remind you of why you are the person you've become, and they take you back to those initial questions and interests... They remind you of why you became an English major in the first place. Wait, you mean it wasn't to study the gradual flattening of dipthongs in Western Maryland dialect over four generations? It was to READ BOOKS?!? Oh my god, that's crazy. Why did I waste so much time??

So I decided that before I take on my silly Harry Potter challenge, it was time to read something respectable. And by that I mean depressing, dark, historic, and absolutely miserable. So I went to my bookshelf and after poring over a few Vonneguts and Hemingways and "Catch 22," I decided to go to the motherland of sorts, to 19th century British literature, that genre I completely disregarded in college to focus on Old English and Existentialism. So now I'm reading "Wuthering Heights." And miserable it is! Oh those Brontes, they were such lighthearted little ladies. Like me!

I'm baaaaack...