Tuesday, April 3, 2012


My post about "The Hunger Games" and the dystopian novel trend, brought some interesting replies. One reminded me of a curious theme I was introduced to during a stint as a volunteer at the local middle school library when I was a young mother.

The librarian was receiving box loads of books for the upcoming semi-annual book fair. As each box was opened she'd tell me under which genre to place each title. She finally handed me a stack of books and said, "Place these over there with the other death books."

I stopped dead in my tracks, (no pun intended.) "Death books?"

She raised a cautionary eyebrow. "Yes, the death books. It's one of the most popular genres for this age group--I'm dying, my friend is dying, my mom is dying. . ."

"You're kidding?" I was appalled.

"No. it's true. These students have reached the age when they're grappling with hard things. They're realizing that bad things happen to good people. Some of them have already lost family members--grandparents, their own parents in some cases. These books help them deal with grief. They're cathartic."

I expressed concern that such a literary trend might be encouraging a generation of anti-depressant customers, but this forty-year library veteran smiled and shook her head. "They pass through it. One year I'll watch a student stock up on 'death' books, and by the time the next book fair rolls around she'll be stocking up on copies of 'The Babysitters' Club.'"

Then I remembered my own son's reaction to "The Bridge to Terabithia." It was an assigned book, but it was the first actual novel that kept him reading late into the night. One day he actually brought it to me, asking me if I had read it. I hadn't, and he suggested that I do. I hurriedly read through the book, crying through the second half, and when I thanked him for the suggestion, we shared a great moment together. His comments were very brief. "It was sad, huh?" But it was still a great moment.

Perhaps that's the appeal of these dystopian novels. Perhaps a completely broken, corrupt society makes ours appear more bright and redeemable in the end, giving relief to the readers. Who knows? But I can admit to personally finding comfort and inspiration in a wide variety of books, and warnings in others. I've read a few books that disturbed my thinking. They soured my look at life. I steer away from them and instead choose to spend my limited reading time with material that lifts my spirits, strengthens me, and adds to my war chest of positive ideas and tools. But that's me.

I'm sure you've read books whose message went deep into your soul. What were they, and how did they affect you?


  1. Oooh, great post. I remember reading Number the Stars with my 25 and 24 year-old when they were 7 and 8. Wow, talk about good, deep thought-provoking discussion at that age. I also LOVE Missing May, and Walk Two Moons. I read those as an adult. I remember loving Crime and Punishment and Wuthering Heights in high school. Now I can't read them. Too depressing.

  2. Thanks for the post, Jill. Great titles, and some great memories with those kids. Thanks so much.

  3. There are some books and series that, when you read them, they become just like old friends. Anne of Green Gables is one of those. One of my favorite authors of all time is James Michener. I love his writing style and I can just picture myself in each of the places that he writes about. My favorites of his are Mexico and Poland.

    Having said that, one of my very favorite books is The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I loved the story, the characters, and just about everything about it! I don't think I have ever cried so much while reading a book. :o)

  4. Great post. I recently read Bridge To Terabithia and I know exactly how your son felt when he read it.
    I also agree with Jill, Walk Two Moons brought me to tears by the end.
    But my favourite book that I have read so far is Mercy by Caroline B. Cooney. I recommend it to everyone and I strongly urge you to read it. You won't regret it.

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