Interesting. Every month in our Teen Book Club, we have two book choices. The students nominate the book choices, we vote on them, and then we select two books so that the students have a variety of topics, reading levels, and controversial elements. We always have at least one safe choice so parents don't have to worry about the content.
This past month, one of our book choices was Emma by Jane Austen. I, as the instructor of book club, was the only person to actually read Emma. Once the students took a good look at the book, they realized it was longer than they'd anticipated, the language was challenging, and the action was a little slower than what they are accustomed to considering modern YA book choices.
Well. I read it none-the-less. My previous experiences with Jane Austen include only Pride and Prejudice so I had little experience with the author's works, and for about the first one hundred pages of Emma, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The book focuses on Emma, of course, a young woman who fancies herself a match maker and tries to get her friends paired up. She is quite choosy, though, concerning who should be with whom and soon talks her friend Harriet into turning down a young man who really would have been a good choice.
And that was when the book became interesting. Yes, it took me about a hundred pages to get interested in Emma. But when I realized that she was actually not a reliable narrator, that her point of view was skewed, that the author was giving the reader all sorts of clues belying Emma's understanding of situations around her, that was when I began to see the power and strength of the writing. The book is not simply about wealthy people making sure they do not marry below themselves; it is about the reader understanding the truth of the situation when even the main character is unable to.
So. I had this discussion with myself and then went on to discuss our other book choice for book club. Hopefully some of the students will pick it up in the future.
I'm always so happy when the teen book club is underway once again. I miss it! I miss the enthusiasm of the readers, I miss the new books they bring to the table, I miss the discussions and disagreements; and now we have selected our books for second semester so we can move forward once again.
And the book selections are:
Emma by Jane Austin
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Gone by Michael Grant
The Circle of Law by Lia London
Bound by Kira Saito
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Guardians of the Galaxy
Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Maze Runner by James Dashner
One of my book attendees has been with the club for three years now and he is a huge proponent of the classics. His suggestions this time were accepted in droves, which usually doesn't happen, so we've got a few classics in our list. Mixing up the classics with the contemporary YA texts is a really fascinating combination and brings about discussions that feel relevant and appropriate.
Examples: What makes something a classic? Why do classics stand the test of time when some YA books don't? Considering current popular YA fiction, which books might wind up as classics and which books will move toward obscurity?
Such great discussions...and may the new season of book club begin.
I have had a few jobs in my life that I didn't enjoy: detassling corn, working in a small motor parts factory, framing pictures, serving food, and rejecting bad eggs in an egg factory. Today, I take part in a book club for teens and I love every minute of it.