Sunday, December 13, 2009

More well rounded than Bella.

Work has overtaken my life in recent weeks...I find myself leaving school after it is already dark, frantically reading drafts to give feedback and arrange small group work and. Reading endless young adult literature. Apologies for those who look to me for adult recommendations. My winter break will be dedicated to reading books at my own level. But, young adult literature still captures what draws me to literature to begin with: story. Characters who change.  Moments frozen with meaning. Life.

(If you don't know what happens at the end of the Twilight series and want to be surprised, don't read on!)

That being said, I've spent my week so far with Impossible by Nancy Werlin; a story inspired by Simon and Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair.  What starts as realistic fiction takes on fantastical faerie tale elements: a seemingly normal teenage girl, Lucy, finds that her family line has been cursed...she will be pregnant at 18 and after giving birth go mad.  The majority of the story is Lucy attempting to break this curse and is of course sprinkled with romance.

For much of the novel, I could not help but think of Bella Swan of Twilight. I read the first novel for the same reason I read all young adult literature: to know what my students are reading. But I confess outright that I got pulled into the pop candy that it is.  But, as the series went on, I became increasingly frustrated with Bella as a character: her entire life revolved around Edward and she didn't seem to have any other interests.  She lost her voice.  When Lucy falls in love with the boy next door-Zach-, I began to wonder if she, too, would be another girl in literature to completely lose her voice and passion and Zach would be another "perfect" person for teenage girls to swoon over as he saves the day.

Interestingly enough, Zach's family calls him out on his hero-complex (Ryan Atwood, anyone?), which never happened in Twilight.  Lucy pushes back a bit, too...genuinely struggling with letting someone help her. She also maintains a solid relationship with her best friend, who is also a life line for her  in the closing scenes.  She keeps her family in the loop all the way through.

In short, this is young adult literature that I would recommend to my students. But now its time to read something on my reading level:)

1 comment:

Bridget said...

I was thinking this similar concept in regards to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I have only read the first book, so the characters may change, but I found all four girls to be strong, compelling, powerful and independent. I remember when first reading the book a few years ago now, that all I wanted was for every one of my 7th grade girls to read the series and see that you can have a voice, be an individual and still fit in with characters who have different voices. We need more strong minded and crazy thoughtful heroines in our YA fiction. Saw a bumper sticker the other day that's along the same lines: "Well-behaved women seldom make history."