Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Talking about books

Since I'm on sabbatical this year I don't talk about books as much as usual. I write about them, and I talk them up when I get a chance, but I always feel as if folks are humoring me just a little bit. (I do go on...)

But today I got to talk about the Twilight books with ten seventh graders who are big fans. (Well, nine of them are; the tenth was there to keep them honest.) These were smart, funny, articulate kids. They know at some level that there are better books than Twilight, but they love the feeling of giving themselves up to a book and just wallowing for a while. They love the action, the fantasy, the mystery--but also, I think, they love the predictability. They know Bella will whine, and Edward will let her, and Jacob will smolder, and Alice will be just perfect, and that's what they want.

There's a comfort to predictability, and smart girls are not above that comfort. But they were impatient with Bella, and troubled at the idea of giving up her humanity for Edward (at least one said she wouldn't change her name for a man, so why should Bella give up even more?). One called the books "anti-feminist," though others thought Bella's effort to establish herself on equal footing with Edward was admirable--if, perhaps, impossible.

They all loved Edward. When their teacher and I expressed a mild partiality for Jacob, not one agreed with us. They love Edward's perfection. Some compared him to Ashley Wilkes, though, wondering if he was "too perfect," or "perfect, but wrong for her." At least one had gone on to read Wuthering Heights after encountering the references to it in Eclipse. None had ever seen Buffy, or read Dracula (though some might, now that I've suggested it). None professed any particular interest in vampires.

I was fascinated by our conversation, which had lots of "likes" scattered throughout (they kept count on each other!), and occasional squealing, and plenty of in-jokes. The one who had pushed Twilight on the others denied ever crying about it, though the others teased her. One girl had read the series five times (!), but claimed that she found the characters slightly flat. All knew the date the next book will be out, and the movie date, too.

I think I'll go back and talk to them about books again. It's good to hear what kids are thinking about books, and good to know there's a new generation of readers coming up. I can't wait to get them in my own classes in a few years.


  1. Twilight was such a mesmerizing read. It's my favorite of the series.

    You must have had a great time with your talk. Great article, too!

  2. thanks for the comment! I really loved talking to the girl...they were awesome and completely made my day.