Thursday, January 17, 2008


So, I'm in London, and I haven't blogged about it, and people are going to be disappointed after today because any reference to London will be strictly coincidental. Sorry!

But I read a lot over Christmas break. And I kinda want to go through what I discovered.

First two books I read: Sequels to the LDS novel
Charley, namely Sam and Adam's Story. Would have been a waste of time except they both read in about two hours each. I don't find Jack Weyland to be that gifted of a writer (I really, really don't, yikes), but I do enjoy reading literature about my unique religious culture. We are a nutty bunch sometimes. And even with Weyland's less-than-engaging writing style, it is nice to read about LDS culture without a filter or an encyclopedic narrative of terms and aspects of LDS life. And sometimes you need to read something so culturally "Mormon" to remind yourself that the culture is not the same as the gospel. Good thing, too.
Next two books I read: the rest of Pretties left over from my summer reading, and Specials, the last two books of the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. It's hard for me to critique too much because I'm not extremely well-versed in YA science fiction, but I enjoyed them well enough. I thought that as a male writer, he did a good job writing inside a female protagonist's head. As a teacher, I thought that the series could pull well into discussion about dystopia, current environmental concerns, the nature and changeability of love, etc.

And then I read two more books: Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, both by John Green, of whom I first became aware through the ever entertaining vlog, Brotherhood 2.0. I have to acknowledge that Green can write. Boy, can he write. And where Westerfeld's characters are a little inaccessible due to the futuristic time period, not to mention the fact that everyone has brain lesions and is anatomically reconfigured, I thought of dozens of people I knew in high school when I read Green's teenagers. Language was kind of intense, and though I suppose it's realistic, I don't think it's totally admirable, and I also knew plenty of people growing up who didn't feel the need to drop a vulgarity into every sentence. Still, I laughed, I cried... Green writes very well and is as funny on paper as he is on video.

I read another book my youngest sister brought home from school: So B. It. Wept. What a beautiful, mature story made carefully available to young readers. I highly recommend it, also a quick read.

And the grand finale, to trump them all: I just finished The Book Thief last night on the bus ride home from a day trip to Canterbury, Rye, and Beachy Head (there, gratuitous reference to England). I cried in front of everyone. It's a fairly sizable work for a YA book, over 500 pages with small font, but it reads quickly. It is divided into 10 parts with five or seven vignettes per part that follow a young girl, Leisel, from age 9 to age 14, and her experience living as a displaced child of Communist parents with German foster parents in Nazi Germany with a Jew in the basement. What I appreciated most about this book was its treatment of life for the average German during the war. I feel like general sentiments either highlight this so-called ignorance of Germans that anything like Auschwitz or Dachau was happening, or the belief that everyone living in Germany became a hardcore Nazi. Not so with Leisel and her foster family. I highly value the look into their neighborhood as people struggle to decide which of two evil paths to follow. Another favorite aspect of the book: narrated by Death, and a personified Death that I've never encountered before.

The Book Thief is important. And it's enjoyable. This type of book makes Green's angsty high schoolers seem pretty lame. I'm of the opinion that teenagers today are a bit too self-obsessed. I can verify this because I was myself, although I think not so bad as others. Relative comfort and opportunity has made my generation and the generation behind me soft, weak, and selfish. I'm sorry but I really do believe that. Even on my trip here, I'm surrounded by 39 girls my age, and a good part of them complain about everything and obsess about shopping. I'm sorry, but there are bigger issues in the world, and aspects of life that will be much, much more important than rain in London (hello!), homework on a semester abroad (hello?!?), and $90 leather boots from Top Shop (ugh). So bravo to Markus Zusak. A beautiful piece of literature that I think will become a lifetime book for me.

1 comment:

Simini said...

I would have to agree about our generation... which is why Book's like Green's are successful- Many people (the average teen, I guess) want to read books with characters they relate too- so perhaps a book about a girl struggling in Nazi Germany is not of much interest or value to many teens. Which doesn't make it right or admirable but I think it's probably the truth.

But The Book Theif sounds wonderful and I'll look forward to reading it someday.

And you know, I spent the entire weekend reading a couple books about a girl who becomes a sailor/pirate and has many adventures. And I thoroughly enjoyed every page. So what I do I know?