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Monday, December 16, 2013

Basking in Literature

This weekend I had a truly phenomenal experience. My eleven-year-old son just read Holes in his advanced English class. He told me that he really wanted to watch the movie together. Being the good Mommy that I am, I said, "Sure, honey." The truth was, I remembered this movie from when my older children were his age. At the time, it hadn't caught my interest. It seemed kind of depressing. A bunch of kids forced to dig holes in the hot desert with poison lizards. Not really my thing. So I was surprised when I studied for my Middle School English Praxis exam this summer to learn that Holes, published in 1998, is now recommended young adult literature for school English curriculum.

As it turned out, Holes is a complex, deep, and thought-provoking story. It actually has three separate but related plot lines set in three different times and places that all tie together gorgeously by the end. The writer used so much circularity and continuity to demonstrate the hand of destiny at work that I was completely blown away. And he tossed in delightful, well-crafted touches throughout.

Even better, though, was enjoying this literary marvel through my child's eyes. As we watched the movie, he often paused to give me back story or explain the the plot or tell me about the historical significance of things going on in the story. I could tell how excellent his English teacher is and that my son's mind had been completely engaged in comprehending and critiquing the book on many different levels. He understood the historical significance, the sociological significance, the literary structure, the symbols, and more. He grew through the relationships in the story and his own relationship with the characters. Most importantly, he learned to understand and appreciate literature to a degree he never had before. I sat there thrilled as I watched him basking in the literature. In the pure unadulterated power of story.

Maybe that's why I'm so excited about writing for teens. Teens don't just want fluffy, entertainment reading. They read to learn about the world, to discover new experiences, and to be challenged. They don't mind complex plots or complicated vocabulary. They are willing to engage a tough story and come away changed. For them, literature is one of the many means by which they mature and grow into an adult understanding of the world. They are excited about this, and I'm excited for them!

When is the last time you completely basked in literature? What sort of stories cause you true delight?

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