I’ve Got Troubled Thoughts and The Self Esteem To Match

I’ve just recently read the Divergent series after much derring-do and puttings-off.

No. I just really wanted to use those words, however incorrectly they might have been used.

What I wanted to say is that I put off reading it because I didn’t want to.

But as books naturally have the power to draw me in, I found myself coming back again and again to the bookshelf in my Grade 8 class which contained Veronica Roth’s first book Divergent, the copy of which owned by my student who put it on the shelf so that others may read it if interested. Last week, I gave in to the urge and peeked and read a few pages while my students worked on their essays.

I ended up borrowing the book and taking it home.

This weekend, I discovered that we actually had two of the books in the series, and that Allegiant, the last in the series, was leaked online. I wanted to read the third after finishing book 2, Insurgent, but seeing as how that was impossible unless I downloaded the leaked file, I had to wait.

And  boy oh boy these questions festered in my head. They still do.

Most of the questions dealt with the themes about the book, about dystopia, about control, about revolutions and choices and freedom and what they all meant to me NOW. I admit I am still shaken and confused, and I acknowledge it. I have to if I need to get on with my life, but now, what shakes me more is why, as an adult, I find myself inexplicably drawn to these stories meant for teenagers.

This article about the history of young adult literature sheds some light, but it explains the fascination of teens with the genre, not that of the adults’. It mentions that teens until adults aged 29 (my age) are the ones reading this genre the most, and I find that curious. Why do people my age read it? Why not read the books meant for OUR age group? Books written by authors such as Camus, Austen, Melville, Woolf, Nabokov and the like? I’m not saying they’re not read, but why aren’t they the ones we seek out?

“Teens wanted things that were real, that they connected with,” Levithan said. “It doesn’t have to reflect reality directly. They love ‘The Hunger Games’ not because it’s real in that it happens, but the emotions there are real, and it’s very relatable.”

That’s what the article says. The teens connect with the emotions in the book, not necessarily with the events, but why, again, not read some of the more realistic stories? Why gravitate towards the fantastic, the supernatural, the dystopic? Is it because that while the emotions are real, the circumstances bringing them about are not and are therefore easier to process and absorb? I doubt it’s ever been easy for everyone to deal with Anne Frank’s diary or of Nabokov’s Lolita or Cormier’s The Chocolate War, and, in hindsight, that’s probably why they’re not as popular as, say, Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. These “realistic” books hit too close to home; they force readers to face the reality of the world they’re in instead of providing the escape that fiction promises its readers.

So here I am, troubled by two things: one, that I see my current world as heading in the direction of the dystopic societies I read in YA literature, and two, that I still have trouble facing the “difficult” literature.


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