My Reading Journey

So i was doing my daily journey through the blogs that I follow and I came to one of my favorites, no rx The Perpetual Page Turner, there run by the lovely and awesome, Jamie. Her most recent blog entry talks about her Reading History (which you can read here) and the different books that shaped her life.

I loved it. It was so cute, and it was nostalgic and it really brought to my mind my own reading history.

See, the one thing I’ve noticed in my journeys as a reader, as a writer, and as a blogger is that so many people that I’ve met have that “moment” or that “one book/book series” that just does IT for them. It brings them into the world of reading. You have no idea how many times I’ve heard, “Harry Potter/Percy Jackson/Mortal Instruments/Divergent/Hunger Games/John Green/Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants/etc got me into reading”. Which I think is absolutely wonderful and is a testament to how wonderful YA literature can be.

And I get that question a lot. “What book got you into reading?” because people know how insane I am with books and reading. And I always feel really perplexed when I get that question. Like…”Um, Green Eggs and Ham? Go Dog Go? The Polar Express? Chicka Chicka Boom Boom?”

Because, the thing is, reading has exploded over the past decade, and I do think that it is in LARGE part to do with the young adult literature boom. So many people are picking up these books, loving them and becoming readers, and picking up more  YA books.

But for me? I’ve ALWAYS been a reader. I can’t pinpoint a moment in which I discovered reading because its long before my memory can remember. I’ve been reading since I was a small child, three, maybe four years old. Reading has always, always, always been a part of my life. I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t reading. But I am seriously curious about the different books that I’ve read through out my life and so this is where I talk about my reading journey.

Thanks Jamie for an awesome post, and I hope you don’t mind that I’m borrowing it!

Childhood (3-10 years old)

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In my childhood days, I spent most of my time reading probably what most kids read: LOTS of Doctor Seuss, lots of Berenstein Bears, lots of Shel Silverstein. However, those books got really easy and really “boring” super fast. So I was already moving on to chapter books, formula books, by the time I was about five or six and I stuck with those for quite a many years. I’m talking Baby-Sitter’s Club, Pony Pals, Boxcar Children and the various Sweet Valley series (Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Jr HighSweet Valley College). I ate these books up SO fast, and they probably were way below my potential but I could read a couple Baby-Sitters Club books a day and I loved that. I also read a lot of Judy Blume books in those days too.

I also realize now that reading all those Sweet Valley Books as a nine-year-old was probably unbelievably inappropriate. The high school and university series TOTALLY has sex in it and I was so cavalier about it, when I was a child. Interesting.

But those were the books I loved as a kid. They weren’t challenging and they were easy reads and I could bust through those books so fast, making me seem like a better reader than I probably was because I wasn’t challenging myself!

Preteen/Middle School (10-14 years old)

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I was 10 years old when I discovered Harry Potter, and this seriously changed my life in so many ways, I couldn’t even begin to write about it. That is a whole ‘nother blog post. But it changed the way I read books. Books didn’t have to be short, and they could be so different and interesting and challenging and wonderful. Harry Potter was the first book that I read that wasn’t a formula book, really, and I just loved it. I ate that up so fast and it was the first step I took into a whole different world.

Also when I was in middle school, I discovered both Sarah Dessen and Meg Cabot, both of whom are still some of my absolute favorite authors. This is where I discovered YA literature, and this is why I’m still obsessed with YA and I”m writing this blog. A friend of mine gave me Dessen’s Someone Like You and I loved it so much and went out and bought That Summer, Keeping the Moon and Dreamland and I’ve bought every book since then on the day its come out. For Meg Cabot, I went and saw the movie The Princess Diaries and realized it was a book. Then I read the book and realized how much better it was than the movie and I’ve consumed every single Meg Cabot book to come out since then.

This was the beginning of my foray into young adult literature. I had dipped a toe in, in the contemporary world of YA lit. I think this is also when I sort of discovered that I liked to write too, at about 10 years old. I think that’s when I realized that I liked the way these YA authors wrote, so relatable and so real, like you were stepping into the messy minds of teenagers.

High School (15-18 years old)

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This is what I am going to call my exploring years. I read a LOT during high school, and a lot of that was classics because of school. And I’ll tell you: Shakespeare? Steinbeck? I get they were great guys and all and changed literature and all that…but ugh, ugh, ugh. I can’t read either one without wanting to drown myself.

But I did discover a lot of classics I did like. I loved The Great Gatsby. Gone with the Wind. Poisonwood Bible (okay, which isn’t a classic, but is a great book). Brave New World. Huckleberry Finn. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD! (Hey, I named my dog Scout for a reason).

This was also the time that I was really getting into fantasy, especially young adult fantasy. It hadn’t QUITE broken out yet but it was definitely getting there. I had consumed the Lord of the Rings books with fervor, because I just loved the movies so much. (I had read The Hobbit as a kid). I was still reading Harry Potter like crazy, and I had discovered two of my still favorite authors, Tamora Pierce and Libba Bray. Tamora Pierce introduced me to a world of pure fantasy and it still is one of my absolute favorite fictional worlds to be in. Libba Bray gave me the sort of urban fantasy that I didn’t really know existed. I didn’t know that you could read fantasy books in a world you recognized, even if it was a Victorian England you never actually lived there. This is where I think my obsession with the supernatural, the fantasy, and all that started. I was full on 100% obsessed with Harry Potter and my reading habits were growing and growing by the minute.

I will also say that it was during this time that I discovered Twilight. Now as much as I don’t think its a well written book and all that, it was also very instrumental into the books that I enjoy now.

Young Adult (19-now)

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And this is where the trouble started :) This is where all the build up, all the YA I’d been obsessed with like Sarah Dessen, and Meg Cabot, Tamora Pierce, Libba Bray, Harry Potter just escalated.

Now, as you guys now, I read YA by the stacks and stacks of books. I consume YA so fast and so easily. I have discovered The Mortal Instruments (and in turn, the Infernal Devices), Percy Jackson and The Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, Seven Realms series, The Hunger Games, Divergent, John Green, The Lux Series, the Legend trilogy, the Grisha trilogy, and so so so so so many more that I couldn’t even begin to tell you them all.

But I’ve also continued my love of contemporary YA as well, as that is what started the journey. I still love Sarah Dessen and Meg Cabot to no end. I read John Green now and David Levithan, Morgan Matson (!!!), Jessica Brody, and so many more. And this love of young adult books and what motivates me to do this blog and its what I read most of. I still read adult books but for the most part, its YA all day.

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So that’s my journey through books. Its been a long journey but an enjoyable one and I know its going to continue because my love for books only strengthens every day. I discover new authors and new books every day. I’m so grateful to my parents for pushing me so hard to read as a young child because I’ve been reading for longer than I can remember and books are magic to me, they are therapy, they are entertainment, they are escape.

So what was your reading journey? Did it start early like mine, or was there certain books or series that helped you to become a reader? As always, let me know in the comments!

And if you write a post as well, let me know and I’ll link it in this one :)

YA Literature: To Be or Not to Be

Today, symptoms I took my final examination for my children’s literature class. I know, I’m really sad about it. I am definitely going to miss this class. Its crazy how I took this class on a whim and it has been one of my favorite clases that I’ve ever taken.

But anyway, one of the questions on the final was to discuss the two different views on using young adult literature in the high school curriculum. Which got me thinking of course.

I know, more posts about young adult literature. Its something that I feel passionately about. I read a ton of young adult literature and I honestly do think that the high school curriculum could be improved by integrating contemporary young adult fiction.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: there are books in high school that I enjoyed and definitely should be read: The Joy Luck Club, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Brave New World, etc. There are a lot that I didn’t enjoy as well like Of Mice and Men (or anything John Steinbeck to be quite honest…can’t believe I share a birthday with that guy…), The Scarlet Letter…and Shakespeare. Oh god Shakespeare. No offense, Will, I understand what you did for the English language and writing and all that but no thanks.

Those books just didn’t make an impact on me at all. I didn’t learn anything and I didn’t gain anything.

Those who are against using young adult lit in schools fear that it is lowering the bar on literature standards. Young adult lit is often times used with remedial readers to help them understand themes and ideas and things like that. However, they are afraid of dumbing things down for the more sophisticated readers.

And I personally disagree with it. I feel as if these critics think we are going to be introducing books like Twilight and Hush, Hush or Gossip Girls and books of that kind of caliber. Now, I’m not hating on those books or anything; they are enjoyed by many people and they can be entertaining or whatnot but they are not of academic caliber. No way. I mean, I ADORE Cassandra Clare but I wouldn’t bring her books into the classroom, most likely. Unless I had an entire classroom of girls…anyway. These are the kinds of books that I believe critics are thinking of.

But think about this: we are in a golden age of young adult literature. Yes there is bad stuff, but there is bad stuff in regular literature as well. And there is so much GOOD young adult literature out there. Have you read John Green? Meg Cabot? Sarah Dessen? Tamora Pierce? Rick Riordan? Suzanne Collins? Libba Bray? Cinda Williams Chima? Stephen Chobsky? Deb Caletti? Morgan Matson? Kristin Cashore? Douglas Adam? I mean, I could go on and on and on. These books are written for adolescents in the voice of adolescents. These books are funny and engaging and entertaining and contemporary. They tell you great stories that are easy to understand and fun to read.

But these books aren’t superficial and just for entertainment. They touch on real issues: death, suicide, rape, abuse, relationships, sex, abandonment, family issues, friendships, coping, losing their virginity, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and more and more and more. And all of these issues and themes…are they not themes that we see in the classics that we already read?

And whether or not the classics should be read or not is not the point. The point is, its hard enough to read the classics when you’re an advanced or competent reader. Imagine how hard it is for a remedial reader, which a lot of kids in high school are. The classics are hard to understand; the language is different and difficult, the issues are outdated (although, not always), etc. In contemporary youg adult fiction, we can have some of the same situations, issues or themes but in a world that these kids can understand. In contemporary YA fiction, we can garner some interest in reading and perhaps start discussions.

Okay, and let’s face it. Kids and teenagers are reading more and more nowadays and what are they reading? Three words: Young. Adult. Literature. They’re already doing it. Go out and look, pay attention. Kids are gobbling up these books because there are so MANY CHOICES. Kids are going nuts for John Green and Suzanne Collins and all those authors. So if they’re already reading it, shouldn’t we try and get something out of it besides just the pleasure of reading the book? Turn it into a dicussion the way you would discuss something in The Great Gatsby or Hamlet. Kids can still exercise their minds, tackle complex ideas and formulate new opinions…but in a way that they can relate to.

Honest, I love young adult fiction; its what I most read. You guys obviously know this by reading my blog…and you may have noticed it from my Stop Picking On YA! post a few weeks back. I am a firm believer in it. I feel like it can accomplish so much.

One, it can get kids to read. I’ve seen it happen! I’ve seen kids pick up Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Hunger Games or John Green or whatever and they start to read…they keep reading. Kids who didn’t use to read, kids who never enjoyed it or had a desire to read…they’re suddenly reading! Who cares what they are reading? They’re reading and even if what they’re reading isn’t the most fantastically written stuff, they are still getting something out of it…and it often leads them to better written books. They are improving their reading and comprehension skills…which is wonderful because these are SO essential to being successful in your education.

Two, I feel like we can learn a lot from it. Any success I’ve had in my reading, or comprehension or even my writing skills have come from my nonstop reading. People tell you all the time: READ, READ, READ. Reading gives you better knowledge, better skills…so much. And there is so much good young adult fiction out there. Instead of using the same novels over and over again with limited success, we should try something new! Let’s discuss the theme of death, but instead of Hamlet or The Scarlet Letter, lets use The Fault in Our Stars or Hunger Games or Harry Potter. We can learn so much and accomplish so much more if we adjust to for the times.

Third, and last, the classics weren’t always accepted. I mean, a good share of them were but not always. And they had to go through all kinds of scrutiny and process to get into the high school curriculum. I mean, look at The Outsiders. That was one of the first real young adult novels and most kids read it in late middle school/early high school. And there is still controversy, so to speak, about the books that are already learned in school. There always will be. No one is ever going to completely agree…but I’d hope that we could agree on the advancement of our education…because come on, there a ton of kids out there that still lack basic reading comprehension and understanding of themes and such.

I know some of you may get tired of me defending young adult literature, or talking about young adult literature…and honestly, if that’s the way you feel, maybe this blog isn’t really meant for you. Like I said before, its something that I feel passionately about. I was lucky enough to have a natural love for reading…I’ve ALWAYS loved it and I’ve always had the ability to understand it and take away from it. Not everyone has that. And everyone should. Reading has benefitted me in so many ways: in my life, in my morals and views, in my education, in my relationships with people and on and on and on. I feel like everyone should have the chance to enjoy reading.

In the words of my queen, J.K. Rowling, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”

The books we’re using now? They aren’t working. They just aren’t. I think its about time that we start finding more options and more books…finding those right books for every kid out there. Maybe its Great Gatsby…and maybe its Looking for Alaska. Either way, that’s my plan and that’s what I think.

What about you?

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Book to Movie Transitions

Today, sildenafil my friends, I’m going to complain a little bit. I saw this picture online and it made me laugh.

And the fact is, They are not wrong. I would seriously sit through a six hour Harry Potter movie if they put more details. I definitely would. And yeah, I probably would still complain about what they left out. It just got me to thinking. How many times do we go to movies to see the adaptation of our favorite books and come out feeling disappointed? How often do we come out actually feeling satisfied?

Now, I’m not going to be the first one to say that there are no arguments…the book is always, always, always, better than the movie. Always. (Except Chronicles of Narnia but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

Example number one, Harry Potter. Now, if I sit and watch the movies, I have an enjoyable time. I like the movies. I like actually seeing Hogwarts and seeing magic and the uniforms and the classes and Quidditch and its awesome. Seeing Hogwarts gets me teary-eyed every single time. Hogwarts is my home.

But there are sooooo many things that drives me insane. I could go on for pages and pages and pages about the things that are missing. They completely left out the Marauders and the importance of them in Prisoner of Azkaban. They butcher the crap out of Goblet of Fire (don’t get me started on GoF) and they don’t even get into the story of Barty Crouch Jr. (More David Tennant on screen time? I’m down). In Half Blood Prince, where the heck are all the memories, explaining all of Voldemort’s past! Where are the explanations of what the actual Horcruxes are? And in Deathly Hallows, how bout we actually talk about the DEATHLY HALLOWS! We have that awesome animated scene of the Tale of Three Brothers, and there is no ending for the Hallows at all.

But the movies aren’t all bad. Definitely not. I love them, I waited in line for the midnight showings, cried when everyone died (except Dobby…I just don’t like Dobby) and cried my bloody eyes out when Harry uses the Resurrection stone to see James, Lily, Sirius and Lupin. WATERWORKS. The Feels!!!!

And how bout Percy Jackson? Now, I enjoy the movie; its entertaining. But damn, did they butcher The Lightning Thief. For one thing, Logan Lerman plays Percy at, what, 16? Percy should be 12. And even though Logan Lerman is a very very good looking boy, that part kind of bothered me. The girl who played Annabeth was a brunette. Poseidon didn’t claim Percy during the Capture the Flag game. There’s a lot in that movie that drives me absolutely insane. I’m not a big fan of the guy who plays Grover and Pierce Brosnan as Chiron? Ugh ugh.

Both adaptations of Meg Cabot books are HORRIBLE. Princess Diaries and Avalon High, ugh, ugh, ugh. Princess Diaries just doesn’t capture Meg’s voice. Those books are written in diary form and its all about Mia’s voice and how she sees the world around her. Its so funny and sarcastic and amazing and the movie just doesn’t capture that at all. And they marry her off to some random dude, when all us Cabot fans know that she is meant to be with Michael Moscovitz. Ugh. And Avalon High. There was so much wrong with that movie. The very fact that they made Allie (who’s name is supposed to be Ellie!) to be the King Arthur incarnate was just dumb as hell. She’s the Lady of the Lake, and Will is King Arthur. Read a book! Those movies I can’t even watch because of how much they were butchered.

There are movies that are okay adaptations. I liked Hunger Games, I think they followed the story pretty well and I liked most of the actors. I wasn’t really feeling Lenny Kravitz as Cinna but he was great as Cinna. Woody Haralson nailed it on the head with Haymitch. I even liked the three leads for Katniss, Gale and Peeta. Elizabeth Banks for Effie. Not stoked on Donald Sutherland for President Snow but it worked. But I think they failed to capture the characters themselves. We didn’t get to see Katniss and the kind of stubbornness she had and the love she felt for Prim, the frustration with her mother, her debts to Peeta and Gale. The importance of the Mockingjay was forgotten. But the movie was good. I think they got enough of it to make it very enjoyable.

But then there’s Howl’s Moving Castle. Howl’s is soooo much different from the book, oh my goodness. But the movie captures the essence of the book and its an amazing movie. It captures that connection between Howl and Sophie and it captures the magical essence to it. This is a great example of an adaptation.

I also find the more classic movies to be really good adaptations. To Kill a Mockingbird is an AMAZING transition and definitely one of my favorites. Every time I watch that movie…ohmyRowling. Its so fantastic. I mean, my dog’s name is Scout for a reason. Gregory Peck captures the very essence of that novel. He IS that movie.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Gone with the Wind, which is a great movie. Gone with the Wind is an extremely long book and it would be so insanely hard to get everything that’s in that book in the movie. It would be impossible. But they got all the important things and they captured the essence of the film. That was the most important. Vivian Leigh made a great Scarlett O’Hara and Clark Gable is one fine looking Rhett Butler.

I’m nervous about the upcoming movie adaptations. I’m a little nervous about The Hobbit (though, come on, Peter Jackson killed it with Lord of the Rings…GREAT movies), The Great Gatsby, Percy Jackson’s Sea of Monsters, and the Mortal Instruments’ City of Bones. I’m sure some of them will be good and some of them will be bad. But I’ll go out and see every single one of them.

I guess my point is, the more movies that are made, the more we’re going to get angry and frustrated and have complaints. We’re always going to find something wrong with it. We’re never going to be happy with a movie adaptation of a book, never. But here’s the thing, that’s almost a good thing. Sure, we can go to the movies and enjoy it. But we’re always going to want to come home and reread that book that made us happy beyond belief. We’re going to want to experience things they way the author meant them too.

So I like movies, and I like movie adaptions and I’ll continue to go see them. And trust me, I’ll continue to find things wrong with them. But I guess that’s what makes books so awesome. There’s just nothing better than escaping into a book.

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