This week I’ve dedicated my posts to series – why I’m burned out on them and why my students can’t get enough.
I might need to revise my post from Tuesday, April 24. I’m not burned out on series. I repeat – the series lives!
As a middle school teacher, I reserve the right to change my mind. I’ve changed my mind. Looking for the May Schmidt’s Pick, I grabbed Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl off a pile of books in my office. I had just finished Fear by Michael Grant and wasn’t too keen on starting another series – especially a series that a) hasn’t been finished yet and b) consists of 500+ page books. But I knew this isn’t really about me, it’s about my students and providing them with access to books they’ll actually read so they may actually beat the odds and read more than 1 book after high school. Literacy is important to me. That’s no shock to anyone who knows me, so if I have to “take one for the team” to keep the kids reading, I’ll do it.
From the first pages of Beautiful Creatures, I was sucked in. The novel topping out at 563 pages in the paperback version is certainly going to be a hit with my young adult readers. I was a bit worried about the page length, but then I’ve watched them lug around plenty of books of this length. What I realize is that if the student loves the story, the length of the book isn’t that important.
Beautiful Creatures could be classified as a Gothic novel. Weather is certainly an element in the novel – freak storms, dark days, heavy rains – it creates a creepy effect on the reader. The main character(s) live in antebellum homes, although I guess technically only one is antebellum since the Union burned every building in town except one in Sherman’s March towards the sea. However, the buildings are old and spooky. The setting is the first thing to grab my attention.
Then there are the characters. While the minor characters are pretty flat and stereotypical – the mean girls, the jocks, the band kids – the main characters are certainly dynamic. And even more importantly, Ethan, one of the protagonists, has good character. We talk to our students about not being a bystander, and Ethan actual steps up and isn’t a bystander. It’s an admirable character in my book.
There’s the normal high school drama, but underneath the layers of high school drama is the world that teens love reading about – vampires, witches, wizards, shapeshifters, etc. The fantasy element will grab a huge percentage of my readers. But there’s also a story within a story, which brings in some historical fiction. Part of this story goes back to the Civil War, and past and present intermingle in the book. Then there are the elements of paranormal romance. Characters are able to communicate telepathically, and they can predict the future. To classify this one novel as one genre becomes a bit difficult.
What’s most important is that I – jaded serial reader that I am – couldn’t put this book down. I poured through it. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series Beautiful Darkness. I just ordered the third book, Beautiful Chaos, and I know I’ll be waiting anxiously for the fourth book to be published <sigh>.
I can’t wait until Tuesday, May 1 when I get to book talk this book as the Schmidt’s Pick for May. I’ve been trying to decide what will get them hooked – perhaps a book trailer, perhaps reading the first few pages… We’ll see. But the countdown to May 1 is on – oh, and did I tell you that Insurgent by Veronica Roth, the second book in the Divergent trilogy, will be released that day as well? And yes, I have a copy pre-ordered. I guess I’m not completely down on series after all.
Until next time… See YA!