I just finished reading John Green’s “The Fault In Our Stars” at the recommendation of Jeremy, whom I refer to as my cousin because we share the same last name. And it’s not a common last name.
Jeremy is using this book as part of his high school English curriculum and it’s a sharp deviation from the books I was told to read during my four years of high school, such as:
“Night,” Elie Wiesel
“Native Son,” Richard Wright
“The Glass Menagerie,” Tennessee Williams
“A Farewell To Arms,” Ernest Hemingway
… to name a few.
Though I cried and cried when Catherine died in “A Farewell to Arms,” it wasn’t a novel I clamored to read again. Nor were the “classics” that were listed on our syllabus each semester.
I can think of one book from all of the assigned high school English classes that I absolutely loved.
Not J.D. Salinger’s “A Catcher in the Rye.” Not Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” – though both had the intrigue and life lessons.
It was “A Separate Peace,” by John Knowles.
Because there were elements I could relate to.
Friendship, loss, going through the same experience together, growing apart, growing up. Rivalries – at one point Phineas and Gene became frenemies, which changes the course of their friendships – and their lives.
John Knowles told the plight of the teenager, even though it was 1942. It was more relatable than going down the Mississippi River on a raft or punishing a woman for committing adultery.
Anyhow, it got me to thinking: we need to incorporate more YA fiction into the educational curriculum … because this is what students relate to. There was a really good piece in last week’s editions Washington Post about the graphic novel as an educational tool and the author’s premise came down to this: don’t rule out a book just because it’s not of “the norm.”