In an effort to get my "grade level" seniors to actually read a book, I’m breaking the classes into four groups of four to five kids and assigning each group a different novel. The novels are The Hobbit, Nineteen Eighty-four, and despite being an American author, My Sister’s Keeper. The fourth book was going to be Frankenstein, but it’s written on a 12th grade level, and is therefore too complicated for seniors. With Mary Shelly out, I went to Wuthering Heights, but that’s written on an 11th grade level, and not a single kid was interested in Heathcliff and Catherine’s tragic story. So I went and spent my own money on copies of Agatha Christy’s Murder on the Orient Express. Hopefully that’ll work. It’s at a 5th grade reading level. I’ve never read a Christy book, and my usual source of lesson plans has nothing, but I think I can fake it.
My Sister’s Keeper, on the other hand, is something I got through a grant intended for my Advanced Placement Literature students. I’d never read a Jodi Picoult novel, either, but went with this one on the advise of another teacher to replace Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs, which the kids really, really hate. I’ve been reading My Sister’s Keeper … and I hate it! There are six point-of-view characters, and all of them are dealing with deep, emotional problems. The kid suing her parents does not think or talk like a kid. The mother is totally unbelievable. And the fireman’s son being an arsonist is just soooo predictable. It’s an easy enough read, but I have to force myself to pick it up. You probably know my thoughts on Twilight, and the kids love that, so I’m sure they’ll eat this drivel up, too. In fact, I had to pass out the books to my AP classes to get pictures as part of my thank-you package to DonorsChoose.org. Afterward, I had to literally pull the books out of the hands of some of the girls who wanted to read it instead of The Grapes of Wrath. Picoult over Steinbeck? It’s almost blasphemy.
In audiobooks, I recently finished listening to American Gods, which I loved. I then wanted to get another big epic novel, but couldn’t find anything in the fantasy/horror genre on Audible.com. So I got Wallace Stegner’s Big Rock Candy Mountain because it sounded a little like East of Eden. It’s basically another chick book. Young girls marries violent, sometimes abusive, sometimes loving man who drags her and the kids all over the West, rubbing a kid’s face in his own crap, smacking them around, gambling with their money, etc. I’m about 16 hours into it and it’s boring.
When I bought those Christy books yesterday at Half Price Books I also picked up a copy of Terry C. Johnston’s Carry the Wind in hopes it will be a manly read.
And finally, Kim and I went to see The Rite yesterday. I was a little nervous because of the bad reviews it was getting, but we both really liked it. It isn’t as over-the-top as The Exorcist, but it has a pretty similar plot with a priest (or almost priest) who loses his faith and rediscovers it through a confrontation with a demon. It’s a slow, quiet character study with some jump-scares and nice psychological drama. I definitely recommend it.