Windows and Mirrors

After a ridiculously long hiatus, I’m back. The hiatus may seem as if I have nothing more to say about YA Lit; however, that’s quite the contrary. I’ve had so many ideas swirling through my head, it’s been hard to tie myself to one idea, sit down, and write. As I know from my writing experiences, you have to just sit down and write and not wait for inspiration to strike. For my blog project, I haven’t followed that advice. I have waited for one idea to stand out from the rest. And this morning inspiration struck.

I’m currently reading The Warlock by Michael Scott. I’ve had The Warlock sitting on my nightstand since it was released in the spring. And after pressure from my students, who are clamoring for the next book in the series, I have picked it up and started reading. And I’m not disappointed.

My students love Michael Scott and Rick Riordan. My current 7th graders have told me that I HAVE to read the Kane Chronicles (among other books). I can’t keep Percy Jackson in my library. I also can’t keep The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel in my library. In addition to being taken with mythology, they also love dystopia. They are not unlike other adolescents in the US. Dystopia is hot right now. Riordan is hot right now. I think they might even be hotter than vampires and zombies. I’ve had a number of ideas about this, and I’ve read a lot about these trends. And then this morning it hit me.

Literature can be seen as a window or a mirror. It can either reflect the world back to the reader or show the reader an entirely new world. The current love affair between my adolescents and Rick Riordan and Michael Scott’s books is that the books are a mirror to the adolescent reader. A typical theme in literature is that good triumphs over evil. A typical plot structure is good vs evil. However, in our world most people are a blend of good and bad. Good and bad fall on a continuum and are not dichotomies. It can be confusing to figure out who to follow, who to believe, and who to listen to and trust.

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel also blurs the lines between good and evil. Reading the first book in the series, it’s easy for a reader to say that Nicholas and Perenelle are good and Dee is evil. However, as the series continues that statement is not as easy to make. Characters are out for themselves. They use Josh and Sophie for personal gain. The twins struggle to figure out who to trust and who to follow. They struggle as they begin to learn to trust their own instincts, and as they face the destruction or salvation of the human race, they also are maturing and growing up.

The series is a true mirror for young adolescents. Growing up and moving through adolescence can be like maneuvering through a battlefield. Problems that adults see as trivial can feel like Notre Dame cathedral is falling down on them. The series also mirrors peer pressure and decision-making. And the beauty of the series – the books aren’t didactic. They don’t talk down to the readers. Much like Judy Blume was a hero for my generation, Scott is a hero for this generation. Blume didn’t talk down to us when she explained what it meant to grow up. How many of us returned over and over again to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Then Again Maybe I Won’t,  or Forever? Scott doesn’t talk down to this generation. While Scott and Blume write in completely different genres, Scott also mirrors life to adolescents. The world is scary and complex. He doesn’t try and gloss over the scary aspects of our world. Instead, he mirrors a scary and complex world to his readers. Additionally, he weaves in world mythology, showing us that cultures other than our own aren’t really that different from ours. And just as we find glimmers of hope in our scary world, Scott also mirrors hope back to his readers.

As I eagerly await the final book in the series, I am hoping that good does triumph over evil. I’m waiting for a happy ending. However, if the last book doesn’t have a happy ending, I won’t be disappointed because no matter how badly we may want happy endings, life doesn’t always give us them.

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