Adventures in Reading

Fiction: Mexican High by Liza Monroy

Liza Monroy’s Mexico City is the story of Mila and her senior year of high school in Mexico City. Her mother works for the American government and Mila has spent her life moving from one metropolis to the next. It’s a period of transition and growth for Mila, but all happening in the dangerous and unfettered environment of Mexico City’s wealthiest social circles.

In many ways, Mexican High is a teen girl novel a la Clique and Gossip Girls (or at least what I’ve heard about them). However, the reader cannot so easily write off Mexican High because Monroy not only explores the glitzy yet darker side of teen life, but also represents the repercussions of lifestyle choices including drugs and sex. Additionally, Mexican High is a well-researched book about Mexico’s history, geography, culture and politics. Though Monroy has set her story in an abundant world of wealth, a theme runs throughout the book comparing this ostentatious lifestyle to the enormous group of working poor and the impoverished that also call Mexico City home.

This is a good book for anyone wanting a light read or for any teenager interested in reading a little more adult-like literature.

Conclusion: Returned to library.


Revisted Reviews: Lord of the Flies by William Goulding

I first read Lord of the Flies in high school and recall being the only person in class who actually enjoyed the book (and also the only one who disliked Frankenstein – in retrospect it seems many of my literary tastes were opposed by my peers!). I picked it up off of my shelf a few days ago (cracked binding, faded glue, all the pages falling out, and thus demanding a rubber band) and finally reread it: I still like it.

It’s the story of a group of English boys trapped on a deserted island. In an attempt to be rescued, the boys begin to cultivate their own civilization with structure and orders. This all to quickly falls apart. Lord of the Flies is a short masterpiece of children’s lives mirroring the adult sphere and, like so many other books

lodged in the annuals of high school literature, too often is read at an age when a person is most likely to lack the understanding of the full implications of the novel. A splendid read and I really ought to look into what else Goulding has written.

When I reached the conclusion of Lord of the Flies, with the brief though beautifully direct description of the battleships on the horizon, I had to wonder if I had ever actually finished reading the book. I wonder what exactly should students read in high school (as I regularly feel a book is too demanding for many high school students), but I am beginning to think that we simply expect students to read far too much. For whatever reason, many high schools seem to want to just plow through as many books as possible.

School Reading

On my recent Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights post, there were some great comments about rereading a book as well as assigned reading from high school. After witnessing a few seasons of summer and fall assigned readings from the store side, it never fails to amaze me exactly why so many young people would never pick up a book on their own. (Hell, at least from overhearing conversations it sounds like few of them even read assigned materials.)

Personally, I have felt that too often so called literary “classics” are foisted on students entirely unprepared for the material. This can be because of the complexity of a book, unfamiliarity with the genre, teachers working within a curriculum they’re not interested in. Of course I have had people disagree with me and often these are fellow readers who fell in love with literary classics in high school.

So, some reminiscing was done in the post’s comments and I obtained a master copy of grade 4 through 12’s school summer reading list (a compilation that has grown over the past few years). I went through the titles that I had read and was quite surprised at what high school students were assigned. In fact, the majority of the books that I had also read I had not read until I was in college and many of those in my free time:

A Room of One’s Own, All Quiet on the Western Front, And Then There Were None, Angela’s Ashes, Anna Karenina, Autobiography of Malcolm X, Billy Budd, Brave New World, Candide, Catcher in the Rye, Death of a Salesman, Esio Trot, Fahrenheit 451, Frankenstein, From the Mixed Up Files…, Giver, Grapes of Wrath, Hatchet, Heart of Darkness, How To Eat Fried Worms, Jungle, Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Little Women, 1984, O Pioneers, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Pride & Prejudice, Scarlet Letter, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Tuesdays with Morrie, and Where the Red Fern Grows.

Two books that were assigned in high school were Frankenstein and Grapes of Wrath. The previous one I abhorred and have not been able to bring myself to rereading it quite yet and the latter I think was far too much for my high school brain to really wrap around. Looking back though, some assigned reading that I did enjoy in high school that did not appear on this list includes (and a surprising number of plays):

Notes on a School for Scandal, Song of Solomon, The Stranger, The Rhinoceros, No Exit, Wuthering Heights, Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, and here my mind starts to become a little too foggy to remember. Granted, some of these books appear on fall assigned reading lists but the hundreds of books on the summer reading list are mostly foreign to me.

So while I don’t think Frankenstein was the ruination of my literary pursuits, I really don’t think I was at all partial to reading until I took a great books course in college while I was an anthropology major. The point of the course was to explore and challenge capital “L” literature and I fondly remember reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned.