Monday, July 11, 2011

summer! plus: what do we really want?

Ah, the perks of living in this part of the country at this time of year. Hot sun, heavy air (am I the only soul alive who kind of likes humidity?). Humming cicadas, glinting fireflies. The vibrant, almost oppressive greenness of every living thing. As long as I remain well-equipped with bugspray, sunglasses and the occasional coating of SPF 15, I have no complaints.

It's a good thing I'm a summer baby, because we're about to move where it's even hotter, though only a hundred miles away. Funny how mountains and valleys do that, huh? Yes, yes. It's official. We bought a house, like grown-ups do. Chattanooga, here we come. Please, please, please let your restaurants be vegetarian-friendly, your proximity to Georgia less mystifying over time,* and your library as fabulous as Blount County's.

The south shore of Chattanooga in the summertime. Photo from this site.
{*When I was a kid in Kentucky, Georgia was this big, far-away place where they made Coca-Cola and had the Olympics, once. We would drive through it on our way to Florida every summer, and the majority of my opinion of the state went as such: Takes forever to get to. Takes forever to go through. And now, I'll be living, like, ten miles from the state line. This blows my mind, for some reason.}

Speaking of the South and the summertime, this past week at camp was likely the most fun I've ever had there, which, after 7 summers of working on staff and three summers of counseling, is saying A LOT. I mean, I spent one whole day dressed, to some degree, as a pirate. What's not to love about that?

Another highlight of this past week was finding myself in several conversations, both with teenagers and adults, about YA. At lunch one day, a fellow counselor mentioned something about Twilight, and how she had to attend a meeting on the basics of the story, so as to better assimilate to the people she works with in Eastern Kentucky who talk of NOTHING ELSE. I am not kidding. I asked her what she thought, and she said, essentially, "Meh, the first book was a pretty good read. About all I expected, you know, since it's just a young adult book."

Boy howdy, did the hair on my neck ever prickle at that. I said, "Hey, now. There is plenty of young adult lit that is not only better crafted than Twilight, but also better for humanity and far more important. Like The Hunger Games, for instance." And I was off. There was a girl at our table who'd read the books, too, and she nodded vigorously, smile plastered, as I talked about how awesome and integral and significant those books are. I wore my t-shirt the next day and started even more conversations.

My HG t-shirt, pretty much.
I bought it at a Borders in Chicago.
I noticed something else, too: there are a lot of teens out there who really disliked Mockingjay. One of the girls last week described it, pretty much, as "the author going crazy and killing characters for funsies." I'd heard this before, from a couple other kids, and it spurned a thought: What do teenagers really want out of the books they read? A squirmy, sick corner of my mind wants to say, "Flowers and bunnies! Cute boys and no bad things, ever!" But I know that's not true. When I was 16, that's not what I read. I was obsessed with Lord of the Rings, then. The only bunnies in that were food, and the only flower I remember was the elanor. There were no cute boys, in particular (unless you count Aragorn? Faramir?), and plenty of bad things.
I don't know what it is. I won't claim that Mockingjay was an enjoyable and fun romp through literature, by any means, but it was very good. Perhaps I am just a cold heart, but if you've been reading a series about rebellion and war, what do you really expect to find at the end of it?

Anywho, I suppose that's all for today's soap-box. What do you think kids really want to read? Or, heck, adults, too. What do any of us really want in a book? Personally, as much as I enjoy light fare and humor, I think I love the difficult stories more. Should I not? It makes me sad to think that some folks only want a fair-weather friend out of what they read.  I need both sides of the coin.


  1. I usually like bittersweet endings -- they're the ones that seem to stick with me the longest. And I love your Hunger Games shirt!

  2. I loved Hunger Games, but I also loved the Twilight series. I really just want a good read. For me, it doesn't need to shout an important message, or take a certain stand, it just has to lead me through a journey that holds my interest with intriguing characters and a unique plot. A splash of romance never hurts either.
    Congrats on the home; may your new library satisfy your every reading desire!

  3. Yay for your new home! I hope the transition goes well, but you have some good friends there to fall back on. I'm going to be travelling through mid-August (post-LeConte). Will you be there yet?

    Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE humidity... Love it!

    And I personally think that Mockingjay got a little to political in the end... I mean, I loved the series, couldn't put it down... HAD to know what happened to Katniss at the end... and that's what I look for in a book. Compelling characters. Yep... that's a scattered comment... but there you go!


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