First of all, let me apologize for the “lateness” of this post… My brother is recently engaged and I spent most of the month of April helping my mom get ready to host their engagement party. Unfortunately, that put young-adult-novel-reading-challenges on the back burner, but that just means I got to spend all of Mothers’ Day weekend reading… and I won’t complain about that!!! So, here’s what I read this “month”…
* The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (reread) – The Hobbit is one of my all-time favorite books and holds a very special place in my heart (although my students will tell you that’s true of every book I’ve ever read!). One of the reasons I will always treasure this book is because it was also my dad’s favorite book. My dad and I typically have a lot in common, but my interest in reading was always somewhat foreign to him – until I was assigned this book in my middle school English class. I knew I would love it, as soon as I heard how much he had loved it! (It was the same with listening to Aerosmith…)
The Hobbit is a classic journey tale – complete with an main character who begins the story as an underdog: under appreciated by those around him, including himself. Inevitably, through the course of his unlikely adventure, he winds up proving his worth tenfold and discovering things within himself that, of course, had been there all along and only required dire circumstances in order to discover. The story takes place in Middle Earth, a fantasy land that is home to all manners of mythical beings – elves, dwarves, wizards, trolls, and the titular hobbit. This hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is a creature of comfort and takes great pride in living a life full of routine and simple pleasures. That all changes the day that he is called upon to be a part of a — quest to the distant Lonely Mountain, in order to help reclaim the long-lost dwarfish treasure, stolen and still guarded by the dragon Smaug. So, along with a dozen — dwarves and a great wizard, Bilbo embarks on a long and often treacherous journey across the wild lands of Middle Earth, full of goblins, giant spiders, and many other strange creatures.
My Take: To be honest, I would have been highly skeptical of this list had it not included The Hobbit! I absolutely love this book – and the trilogy that follows – for it’s imagination. It’s one of those books that you can be easily lost in, a book that makes you want to live in this magical land and know these magical beings. Unfortunately, I think that’s a desire that is lost on our current generation. I don’t want to sound cynical, but it does seem as though the only worlds children are currently getting lost in are those controlled with a handheld device. I love my cell phone, computer, and television as much as the next person, but nothing will ever compare to the escape provided by a book like The Hobbit. Required reading for all!! 🙂
* The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (new read) – Well, I figured it was probably time for me to pick this one up, although I admit I was a little nervous because of all the hype with the movie release. What if it didn’t live up to my now exceedingly high expectations? What if all the hoopla was disproportionate after reading it for myself? What if, after hearing about how I will need a box of tissues to make it through the book, I have become too ready for the impending sadness and don’t cry? But, alas, by including this book on “the list,” TIME made my decision for me – it needed to be read. Also, for background purposes, I have a general rule to not see movies based off books unless I have already read the book, so none of my review has been tainted by the movie!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that The Fault in Our Stars is a story centered around two teenagers at different points in their journey with cancer. Augustus (“Gus”) is in remission after having lost his leg to a bout of Osteosarcoma. Hazel is in the midst of her battle with terminal thyroid and lung cancer, after experiencing a “medical miracle” that will only serve to lengthen her short lifetime. Hazel’s life expectancy may be grim, but that doesn’t keep her from falling in love with the “hot boy” she meets in her dreaded support group. What follows is the story of two teenagers who are living in a horrible juxtaposition of worlds – children by age, yet adult by circumstance. They are teenagers navigating the complicated territory that is a first love, only to have it further complicated by an unavoidable truth that is far beyond what they should have to understand so young. This story is less about the specific plot points and more about the uncountable ways that our lives intertwine with others – those who are immediate and yet others that we don’t realize.
My Take: This story is in equal parts beautiful and maddening – both aspirational and depressingly honest. There were moments when I wasn’t sure whether or not I was enjoying the book at all. It was an easy enough read, but “listening” to the existential musings of two teenagers as they ponder life, death, and their purpose on Earth was hard. Hard because I tend to dislike existential musings in general and hard because it seems cruel that children should ever be in a situation that prompts that kind of thinking. On the flip side, I wish that more people could have even a sliver of that kind of awareness, as it could serve an important purpose in our mostly self-centered society. Clearly, I am majorly conflicted about this particular title and, as such, agree with its placement on “the list.” If it can cause so much internal dialogue for just one person, imagine the possibilities in a room full of young adults who are figuring out their own place in life!
PS – I didn’t cry.