Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Books and Opinions

NPR had a fun little thing where they asked readers to vote for their favorite YA books of all time. There were tons of books on the list, but you could only vote for your top ten. I'm happy to report that nine of my top ten made the cut into the Top 100 YA books of "all time", but I must admit that I am a little bit... what's the word... suspicious of the results.

It's no surprise that Harry Potter and Hunger Games led the pack. But what bothered me was that Lord of the Flies is in the top ten. Really?? REALLY???  Who in their right minds is voting for that book aside from English teachers??  I don't remember any of us teenagers ever saying, "Wow, this is a great book, Mom, you need to read this" or any other teenager telling another teenager they should read it, and wasn't it so cool. And no, I don't recall any deep meaningful discussions about the book with parents, or anyone else. When we did discuss it in class, the teacher (my favorite English teacher ever) attempted to make the book meaningful and interesting, but it just wasn't. I read it because I had to. I analyzed it because I had to. I don't care that it is metaphoric for the Id, Ego, and Super Ego. I don't care that it shows what happens when boys are left alone on an island and how bad triumphs over good every time. Yuck.

Yes, I understand this is subjective. But people voted for Harry Potter and The Hunger Games because not only did good triumph, but there are themes and messages that people of all ages can discuss and have intelligent and interesting conversations about. The Book Thief, that book was hard to read as well, but it was beautiful and sad and I fell in love with the characters, even Death. I made a connection with the book, and it stuck.In my opinion The Book Thief should have been third on the list followed closely by The Devil's Arithmetic and For Those I Loved. And yes, those are all Holocaust novels, but they tell beautifully sad and wonderful stories. Holes should also be up there in the top of the list followed by Loser and Surviving the Applewhites. To Kill A Mockingbird needs to stay, though. That story still reverberates through me at odd times. I'll look at a tree and wonder if I have a neighbor that would hide presents in it, and what would he do to protect my children if they were in danger?

So, my question is pretty much this: Who voted for these "classics"? (Catcher in the Rye and Farenheit 451 both also made the top ten. - and while I won't complain nearly as loudly about those books because Holden Caufiled made me laugh, and Farenheit 451 has a message about burning books I go along with, but still... really? 1984 should have beat out Farenhieit 451, considering how it's appropriate to today's society.)  I know adults read YA, and I'm fairly certain the people who voted in this were mostly adults. But of the 75,000 people who voted, enough voted for Lord of the Flies??  Really?? That book was pivotal in that many of their lives that it's a must-read for everyone? I don't get it. I really don't. It's my crazy opinion, but I feel like there are so many other books that are better. Like Ender's Game, and Walk Two Moons, and maybe even the Narnia series.

I was happy to see Terry Pratchet and Tamora Pierce and John Green represented. I'm sure my brother would argue that The Last Unicorn should definitely be first on the list instead of closer to the bottom. I'm not surprised that Eregon made the cut, but am happy that it's much further down the list. (It's not one of my favorite books, I couldn't get back the prologue.) But I think Alice in Wonderland should perhaps be there. Maybe.

Well, the beauty of the system is that it's subjective. They made their top 100, but I am free to make my own list. The best thing about this list is that I have a list of books and authors to check out that I haven't read yet, which is also fun! There are quite a few on this list that I haven't read yet, so I'm looking forward to some new material.

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