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Finding My Way Eyre

by Adrienne - 0 Comment(s)

I admit that when I first saw Jane it was the cover that initially caught my attention, and that this was the first "Jane Eyre" book I ever read. Not that my friends had not been recommending the book ever since, oh — Grade 9! They did, I just... never got around to it. So when this beautiful moody cover caught my eye, I decided to make a go of it. This retelling by April Lindner, is set in NY with an art school dropout who becomes a nanny and falls for... a famous rock star. I was not disappointed. The book is great! Emma the BookAngel has even made a soundtrack for the book! Hot on its heels, I was putting holds on Catherine, Lindner's remake of Wuthering Heights. Also set in modern NY, this time with the daughter of the owner of a very famous night club as ‘Catherine’!

Then, it just so happened that the graphic novel remake of Jane Eyre landed in my lap. So I read that next, super curious to compare Jane to its original without delay. From my experiences with Manga Shakespeare I knew that reading the graphic novel is a great way to introduce oneself to a classic right away. No fuss, no problem, no big time commitment and no trouble understanding what's going on. I highly recommend it for all your Shakespeare assignments — plus any other classics you are asked to read for English class. Not because the originals aren't great, but rather because they ARE. It's great to have something on hand that can clarify what is going on, allowing you to focus on appreciating the book rather than struggling through it.

So finally yes, I actually read Jane Eyre after all these years. First off, for all the fashionistas out there I want to mention that the version that I read was a Couture edition by Penguin Classics — with cover and images designed by fashion designer Ruben Toledo = perfectly moody graphics!

Classics are classics for a reason and are generally good ground for expounding upon; they become a post-modernist's delightful playground (think Mash-Ups). I admit however that some classics are so stuffy that it's almost impossible to penetrate through their dense or obscure language and receive their enlightening rays of nectar and fruits of insight. Jane Eyre is, refreshingly, not, especially if read with a poetic eye and a philosopher's heart. There were words I was unfamiliar with but I found this antipathetically refreshing — welcome nectar to a vocabulary that has been thirsting for expansion. One learns to write by reading. One gleans semi-archaic vocabulary by reading semi-archaic tomes. (ha,ha).

Jane Eyre is moody and romantic. It arouses a passion of spirit, a storminess of temperament which, like the novel itself, is quite satisfying in its quietude. Jane herself is like that calm before the storm... Mr. Rochester the storm... Jane again, like the rain that pours down quenching your thirst with the ether of sweet negative electricity that bathes the air after lightning.

Jane Eyre contains phrases such as, "Her soul sat on her lips and language flowed", and thoughts such as "Then, my sole relief was to walk along the corridor of the third storey, backwards, and forwards, safe in the silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell on whatever bright visions rose before it... to open my inward ear to a tale that never ended — a tale my imagination created, and narrated continuously; quickened with all of  incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired and had not in my actual existence."

Jane is a formidable character. At the end of the book I found myself wishing I had read it when I was in Grade 9! Through tumultuous and harrowing experiences she has such a sense of her own self worth, and is so grounded; it would have been welcome food back then. I'll warn you though, that the book is a bit preachy in the last few pages. That said, the rest of the books is so fabulous that's it's worth that little bit at the end. I encourage you to read and enjoy!

Other Eyre remakes to check out include Jane Airhead, A Breath of Eyre, and Wish you Were Eyre. For more advanced adult books, check out Mrs. Rochester, Death of a Schoolgirl, Jane Slayre, and Adele : Jane Eyre's hidden story — a highly interesting remake of Jane Eyre told from Mr. Rochester's ward's perspective.

If you want to find out more about the life of the author (Charlotte Bronte), I recommend the following books as well: Becoming Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre: Portrait of a Life, & Governess: The lives and Times of The Real Jane Eyres. There are also a bunch of renditions of Jane Eyre on DVD to check out. (I've heard the 1986 version is great.) Comments and feedback on your favourite are welcome!

Dystopian Popularity Continued...

by Adrienne - 5 Comment(s)

So here we continue our dystopian saga, discussing why these current YA novels are so popular... from a Social Studies perspective. Try this analysis on one of your teachers to see what their reaction is!

Divergent by Veronica Roth, calls this into question; what are the most important human character traits to uphold in order to eradicate evil from human nature? Which would you choose: Intelligence, honesty, selflessness, amiability or bravery? Partially inspired by Roth's study of exposure therapy, Divergent questions the very definition of bravery. How do you define bravery? What do you think it means to be brave? Can one character trait exist in isolation or do they always act in multiple possible combinations? What is your utopia? Can utopia be universal? Or is one's person's heaven always another person's hell? What happens in a utopia when people are non-conforming? At what point/what causes a utopian ideology to become dystopian? Real life examples would be communism under Mao or Democracy under Bush.

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has left both Matched and Wither trailing in its wake. All three deal with genetics, i.e. matching and slavery. Lack of choice is prevalent. Think Star Trek laced with a hint of The Giver by Lois Lowry. If you add undertones of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a book which I first read when I was 16, you begin to get the picture.

It's rare that I read a YA novel that I immediately want to re-read just to absorb all the poetry of the prose; it's that beautiful! Plus there is so much symbolism embedded into the book that you can tell Ally Condie used to be a High School English teacher. YA novels are often all about action and suspense. Matched, moving along at an ever quickening clip, certainly leaves you breathlessly wanting more at the end. Poetry is however, central to the book. It highlights the power of art to have political influence and be a strong force to fight against the apathy prevalent in coercive societies. There's a reason books/music/art get burned/banned. Matched underscores the power of choice; why it's important to have and why it might be beneficial not to. Implicit is that choice, held either in our own hands or societies, carries with it the ability to make both mistakes and successes. We can cause ourselves and others, both joy and sorrow along the way. Ultimately Matched takes a stance that human dignity; requires it. Otherwise we can all become so en-thralled...

The Hunger Games deals with many themes including survival, loyalty, slavery, and class privilege. It is this book that originally inspired this blog. Going out to schools in Calgary to do presentations for the library I came across many Junior High Social and Language Arts teachers who were using The Hunger Games for a novel study. It's a great book with so many leads for humanities discussions. In this way it follows The Giver by Lois Lowry, a book which is often used in schools as well.Both of these books have been banned in various places but that just gives credence to the fact that they deal with serious issues!

What struck me most about the Hunger Games is how closely it mimics a reality TV show, such as Survivor. The book thus deftly comments on our cultures obsession with entertainment; our need for vicarious living and ever more potent adrenaline boosters. And I admit I was drawn in, fully entertained, gripped by all the action suspense, romance and yes... suffering. This is in combination with a strong female character we can wholly sympathize with. Vicarious living at its finest! We are supposedly far above the Romans in our taste for civilized entertainment. But are we? Movies are simulated; reality TV shows "volunteered" for, and the news? Reality relayed at 6 'O clock each evening full of... human suffering.

For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHICS:

The Dystopian Timeline to The Hunger Games

If You Liked “The Hunger Games”…

Here's why one fellow YYC teen thinks dystopian novels are so popular these days. Warning: this may be a downer.

Soooo... anyone up for writing the next UTOPIA? We could certainly use some positive societal visioning. Any budding writers out there? Check out this Cartoon version of Thoreau at Walden. We'd LOVE to hear your voices in TEENSCREATE!

Why are there Adults in the Teen Section?

by Jackie - 1 Comment(s)

Look out! Those teen books you bring home from the library may not be patiently waiting for you to get around to reading them… someone in your house may be secretly scanning those pages when you’re not around. Who would want to read your teen books? The new research shows that it could be your parents!

Image of Adult reading Hunger Games

Adults are big consumers of teen fiction. The newest stats say that adults aged 30-44 years old are the predominant demographic buying up YA titles. But why????

There’s the obvious reason: tons of movies are based on teen fiction. If you loved the movie, why not read the book and see what’s lost in translation. (i.e. Twilight, Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower).

Adult reading Twilight

Then there are the less obvious reasons:

  • Once you grow out of those teen years and become an adult, everything changes! Adults like to “escape” back to their teen years and reminisce about their own first crush, first kiss, and first colossal mistake. Drama is delivered in high doses, which makes for some really good book plots.

  • YA authors are championing some of the most creative writing in modern day publishing. According to this article, YA authors know that in order to get their books read, they have to compete with Facebook, smartphones, over-stuffed extra-curriculars schedules, and iPods – what they write has to suck readers in before the next distraction comes along. Those are high stakes.

So, if you find a parent reading your books, should you give them a scolding? Nah. Let them enjoy the book in peace. Besides, there are always thousands more YA titles to choose from!