I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals.This year my goal was to read more and more importantly, note down some thoughts on each text. So far, it’s been incredibly easy not only because I have a list of adventure and travel texts that I want to read which is three A4 pages long, but my mam asked for help sorting through the piles of literature available for her students. The topic being alternative futures and technology (one of my favourites), I couldn’t really say no. And so, in the next few weeks you can expect a few thoughts on a whole host of teenage fiction once I have organised my notes into logical essays for your reading ease.
These are not university essays, and so my commitment to referencing the text, building quotations into sentences, and carefully working through a logical argument will be half-hearted. I will, however, be inserting many opinions. I’ll think back to texts we worked though in school and university, the different approaches we had to analysing them and the styles and themes that really impressed me. And then I’ll go through the stages of pseudo-analysis which I do for mam in order to help her chose a text or texts for her class. So that you know what you’ve let yourself in for, here is a quick run-down of the process.
When my Mam asks for my opinion, I try to broadly outline the content for her. First, I’ll summarize the plot and the characters. Then I describe how much and in which ways I think it matches her teaching requirements. Is it the correct level of English? Is in engaging? Are there some pages which can be taken out and subjected to deep analysis?
Following that comes I focus on themes. Does it touch on the right topics for discussion? Does it reflect back something in the world familiar to people growing up here, now? Does it have a relevance which they might see in a new light later on in life?
And finally, the easiest, but the one I try and keep separate from the others, at least until mam asks for it- did I enjoy it? Do I think it was worth the read? Did I read because wanted to, or because I am not very good at stopping any text unfinished? Did it make me think?
The texts which I read, in no particular order, are as follows:
Maze Runner by James Dashner
Maze Runner is a kind of rewriting of the Lord of the Flies, a modern tale of survival in an inhospitable environment, with boys suddenly responsible for developing and maintaining their own social order. Perhaps the central reason why the internal conflict and barbarism described in Lord of the Flies does not resurface in Maze Runner is because the boys face the common threat of the forces outside the centre of the Maze. After the protagonist arrives in the Maze things suddenly stop running as they usually do; a girl is sent into the maze, the supplies stop coming, even the progression of night into day ends. This leaves the characters with one final choice- attempt an escape or die.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent: Beatrice (Tris) lives in a society split into five groups, which each assumes specific tasks and is supposed to incorporate specific human characteristics: selflessness, intelligence, truthfulness, daring and peacefulness. At 16 all children in this society participate in a right of passage, in which they take a simulation-based test to determine which “faction” they are most suited to, and a public ceremony in which they swear their allegiance to a group of their choice. Beatrice soon discovers that there is no set path in life- her test results are inconclusive, marking her out as “Divergent” and as a threat to the revolutionary forces within the city who, unbeknown to anyone else, can use chemical solutions and sophisticated programs to control large parts of the population.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Marcus would rather write programs and explore San Francisco in a digital scavenger hunt than be at school, a preference which leads him to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when terrorists attack the city. Assumed to be complicit, he is detained in an unknown location, considered missing by his parents, and treated cruelly by the government’s Department of Homeland Security. Once released, his every move is monitored, his mobile devices bugged. Paradoxically, it is the reduction of freedoms which leads Marcus to action, swearing to fight back with the final aim of revealing the cruel methods used and locating his missing best friend, Darryl. Using his hacker skills he builds a network and mobilises a teenage resistance force who undermine the government’s attempts at control through confusing data streams and organising large parties. Finally enlisting the support of adults when he discovers that his best friend is still being forcibly detained, he works with a journalist to uncover and publicise the atrocities committed in the name of terrorist defence, bring back his best friend, and end the government’s restrictions on personal liberties.
Proxy by Alex London
Syd lives in the slums of town as a proxy- a person who receives payment for his education and well-being as long as he also accepts the burden of punishment for the actions of his “Patron” Knox. Although Syd’s life has often been brutal as Knox gets into trouble time and time again, the book opens as Syd suddenly finds himself at risk of his life when Knox’s attempts to impress a girl gets her killed. During an attempted escape, Syd finds and identifies Knox, discovers that the girl, Marie, is not actually dead and that the code in his blood is the last hope of a resistance fight for which his parents gave their lives. The three miss-matched heroes flee the city for their own reasons, but the journey they take brings them together and teaches them about their society, the power of choices, sacrifice and friendship.
Matched by Ally Condie
“Matched” is the first of a three-part series which plays in a society which trains each individual in the task which they show the most promise and removes as many choices as possible. Meals are planned, activities are organised and even your life partner is chosen for you. At this ceremony, young protagonist Cassia finds out that she is set to be married to her lifelong best friend. Although unusual, all would have continued as normal if not for a later glitch in the system, when she is shown not one, but two boy’s faces, and told both are her match. Suddenly she begins to look for time to learn more about her second match, Ky, who was removed from the selection pool through a crime committed by his parents. As she is drawn further into the system and comes ever closer to receiving her final work placement, she also grows closer and closer to the Ky and begins to question the wisdom of society and the choices they make for her.