Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

After finishing The Yearling, I was determined that I would read something very light and fluffy, the mental equivalent of bolting down a bag of potato chips. I even bought a historical romance on my Kindle for that specific purpose. However, since we live in the boondocks where Amazon's Whispernet can't whisper, I wasn't able to actually download the book to the Kindle when I was ready to start reading (I'll have to take the Kindle to town to be able to do that).

As an alternative, I started a YA book I had downloaded once after seeing a review on the Teen Lit Review blog, The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner. It's historical fiction about the French Revolution, and both my daughter and I liked the sample chapters from Amazon.

I've read about five chapters now, and last night as I finished the reading for the evening, I had that unreasonably anxious feeling I get when I know the main characters are going to get into trouble. It's the feeling I had several times while reading the Harry Potter series. I want to just shake the characters and say, "Don't do that! Can't you predict that's going to cause problems down the road?"

What brought on that feeling last night is that Yann, the young boy who is the hero of the story, stole a red necklace from the story's villain when the villain didn't pay Yann and his friends for a theatrical performance. (Actually, the villain did worse than stiff them on the payment; he murdered one of the friends in an "accident.") Even as Yann is picking up the necklace and putting it in his pocket, I'm thinking, "sure, like this incredibly sharp and incredibly vile villain is not going to notice a necklace of red jewels is gone! Come on, Yann!"

OK. I know suspense is one of the things that many people enjoy while reading. But honestly, it seems to lessen my pleasure in a story if I have to constantly be looking around the corner for the characters, waiting for something bad to jump out of the dark. I think it must be a personality thing!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mission Accomplished - Finally!

Last night I finally finished reading The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings. I'm sort of ashamed to admit it, but it took me about six weeks, mostly because I've just been so busy that I go to bed too late to read (if I plan to be up and alert the next day!).

I'm glad to have read it, but after finishing it, I had the same kind of reaction that I had after reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: "what a bleak book." It's not that Jody had to kill his pet (though I'll admit I knew it was coming and wasn't looking forward to reading it); it's the attitude that ends the book. Basically, Jody has learned, "Life stinks, but if you're a man, you just go on."

Now that's a valuable lesson, truly. But as with Katniss in Mockingjay, Jody doesn't have any sense of hope at the end of the book. Since I wrote at length about that when I finished Mockingjay, I won't rehash it here. Maybe Jody's hopelessness stems from the fact that he's sort of emotionally bruised at that point, and maybe he'll find some hope after a while. But the book ends with the line, "...a boy and a yearling ran side by side, and were gone forever." That's a downer!

Part of me argues back that more of our kids need to be exposed to that kind of reality so they understand life is not all cherries. Last week, I went to Chicago with my son as his chaperone for a national choir event. It just so happened that we were there while Chicago was having its St. Patrick's Day parade, so my family made me promise to get some pictures. Despite my inherent dislike of large crowds, I went and stood in the mass of people to catch tiny glimpses of the parade through the gaps between people's heads. Anyway, the point of saying that is to say this: for the hour or so that I was standing in that crowd, I was stuck next to this group of 25-ish people who were talking quite loudly and freely the entire time. Listening to them complain about the rude people they encountered in line at Starbucks and about how fast tickets were selling out for Charlie Sheen's show in Chicago, I decided they are totally unprepared to face real problems in life. It's not just that they were complaining; I'm doing that myself right here, ha ha. It was the way they were doing it that told me these people haven't learned the lesson Jody learned in The Yearling. That group of 20-somethings* is still frolicking along in life, playing with their "yearlings." I just wonder what would happen to them if they faced "Ol' Starvation" (or even "Ol Go Without Starbucks for a Day").

Enough of that. Now I get the pleasure of deciding what to read next. I think I'm going to go for something on my Kindle. For one reason or another, I've had the Kindle for nearly 8 months now and have read only one complete book on it. I've got a couple I've downloaded and I think it's time to pick up one of them.

*In all fairness, I'm not saying this about those "darn young people." I know there are people my own age who also have the same outlook.