Alright , don’t judge me. I’ve just finished reading The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks. Yes, I said it, Nicholas Sparks. Before you go all crazy and start doubting my judgment as a literature teacher, let me just say that I found little to know literary value in this book. However, there is some. Was it predictable? Yes. Did it follow the same plot line as every other Nicholas Sparks book? Yes. But, was it entertaining? Yes, it was. I’ll say one thing for the guy, he’s nailed down a formula for romance novels that works. So why did I pick up this cliché chick lit book? Well, every year I try to complete the 40 book Challenge, and every year I get stuck trying to find a North Carolina author to read, and well, the book was available at the library so I checked it out.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading Nicholas Sparks before (and sadly, I’ve read my fair share), I’ll go ahead and give you the plot line of this book (and for that matter, basically every other book he’s ever written). Mysterious vagabond, Logan Thibolt (pronounced Tebow) arrives in the small North Carolina town of Hampton with his German Sheppard, Zeus. Thibolt’s arrival in Hampton causes lots of questions. First, he claims to have walked all the way from Colorado with only his dog and his backpack. Second, he has a photograph of Elizabeth, and no one knows why. Elizabeth has lived in Hampton all of her life. Elizabeth has a son, Ben, and a jealous ex-husband, Sheriff Keith Clayton, who’s continually running off any men she tries to date. Thibolt has come to Hampton in search of Elizabeth after he found her picture on his first tour in Iraq. He thinks the photograph has kept him safe and he wants to thank her. Predictably, he meets Elizabeth and they fall in love, but he doesn’t get around to telling her why he’s come to Hampton. Clayton finds out and drama brews. I won’t spoil the ending, but, if you’ve read any other Sparks’ novels you can probably figure it out.
So, this seems like the perfect time to have a discussion about archetypes, what they are, and why authors use them. Archetypes are characters that you come to know because they play the same or similar roles in every story they are in. For example, the trusted side-kick such as Batman’s Robin, and Sherlock’s Watson, play a very similar role in both stories. They are there to assist the hero and keep him or her out of trouble. They always have the hero’s back. I’m sure if you think about it, you could come up with a long list of trusty side-kick characters. That’s because that character is an archetype.
Nicholas Sparks is a big fan of using archetypes in his writing. Almost every story he writes has the mysterious or misunderstood newcomer whose arrival sparks controversy and upsets the status quo. There is also the jealous/violent ex whose presence in the story serves to provide the main conflict. Generally because said mysterious newcomer falls in love with the sweet-natured, but also internally suffering all-American girl who happens to be the ex of the jealous/violent ex character. Now, not all of Sparks’ novels use these archetypes, but enough do that it’s safe to say he likes to use them.
So, why do author’s like Sparks use archetypes in their writing? Well, to be honest, it saves the author a lot of time in the novel that might otherwise have to be used to explain these characters. As readers and consumers of stories, we’ve subconsciously started to expect these archetypes and when they show up in a story, we already know a lot about them. We don’t question the trusty side-kicks loyalty because we’ve become accustomed to this character and his/her role in the story. We inherently know that the jealous ex-boyfriend is going to be the villain because, well, he always is. Therefore, by using these archetypes in their stories, authors save a lot of time on having to explain backgrounds and plot points because they are generally understood.
So, while not necessarily a book I’d recommend to all readers, I will say that if you like Nicholas Sparks books, you’ll like this one too. While slightly predictable, and similar to other’s he’s written befo
For years, I've watched students read graphic novels and thought, I should read one of those, but never did. Well, I've finally done it. I've read my first graphic novel, and I must say, my introduction into the genre was quite pleasant. So much so, that I'll most likely read another one soon. For my first graphic novel, I chose American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. I chose this particular graphic novel for two reasons. First, it had been recommended to me by several people including a student of mine. Second, it was on the bookshelf at the library. That being said, I highly recommend this graphic novel, especially if you, like me, have never read one before.
American Born Chinese follows three story lines. The first is of young boy Jin Wang who finds himself the only Asian student in his new school and faces the xenophobia of the other students at his school. All Jin wants is to fit in and have friends. The second storyline follows the Monkey King who desperately wants to be seen as the all powerful god that he is, but everyone sees him as just a monkey. Third is Danny, an all-American basketball player with an embarrassing Chinese cousin who visits every year. His cousin causes so much social damage that Danny is forced to switch schools at the end of every school year. Believe it or not, all three strands of this story find themselves woven into one larger story, creating a very interesting plot with a universal theme.
What these three stories have in common, and why I think this story is so popular, is the theme. All three stories touch on the theme of being happy with yourself and who you are, and not trying to be something you aren't. This is such a universal theme that it was hard not to see myself in the story as I read. But how can I relate to this story? I'm not remotely similar to any of the characters. Except that I am in one way - in fact we all are. We all have times where we wish we were something that we aren't or that we had things we don't have. Whether it's longing for straighter hair, better athletic abilities, or more friends, we all can relate to wanting things we don't have. We know what's it like to be embarrassed about something too. We know that feeling of wanting to crawl under the covers and hide until everyone forgets what we've done. So, the reason this book is so relatable has nothing to do with it's characters or even what happens to them. It's that we can all empathize with how they feel. It also lets us know that we aren't alone in these feelings. (Even though we tend to think we are). And it reminds us to be happy with who we are, because there is only one me and only one you - and we're pretty cool.
I picked up the book, Looking for Alaska, because it was written by John Green. To date, I've read three John Green novels. Two have disappointed me and one is arguably the best book I've ever read. Unfortunately, this book was one of the disappointments.
So why the disappointment? Well, as I read Looking for Alaska, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had read the book already. I was sure I hadn't but the plot line just seemed so familiar. The story is told by Miles Harper, an awkward kid who's never really had many friends at his school in Florida. He convinces his parents to send him to Culver Creek boarding school in Alabama, telling them that he is searching for his Great Perhaps (and what that is - no one really knows). At boarding school he quickly befriends his roommate, Chip "The Colonel" Martin. The Colonel nicknames Miles "Pudge" (because he's so skinny) and introduces him to his friends Takumi Hikohoto and Alaska Young. Alaska is beautiful, moody, mysterious, and totally out of Pudge's league. Predictably, Pudge falls head-over-heels in love with Alaska. Toward the middle of the semester, the four friends plan a crazy prank that they carry out together in the middle of the night, and shortly thereafter, Alaska disappears leaving Pudge to spend the rest of the school year wondering what really happened to her.
So what do you think? Sound familiar? Perhaps a bit like the plot of Green's later book, Paper Towns? Both books deal with a sort of awkward/nerdy boy falling for a beautiful, moody, and mysterious girl who is way out of his league but who he is friends with. Both novels have a night full of pranks in which said nerdy boy and mysterious hot girl pull off the pranks together - creating a bond between the two characters. And BOTH novels deal with said hot girl disappearing out of nowhere after which said nerdy boy pines over her disappearance for the rest of the novel. And now, for the disappointing part - neither novel provides much in the way of a resolution. They both sort of end with the nerdy boy, Pudge in this case, essentially saying 'oh well I guess I'll never really understand why she left' and then walking away from the situation.
REALLY JOHN GREEN!?!?!?!?
Ok, so, if you couldn't tell, this book disappoints me because at the end the whole journey just seems so pointless. The fact that the same writer has done this to me TWICE started to bother me, so I did some digging and I found that John Green had a similar experience in HS to the one that Pudge goes through. Looking for Alaska was John Green's way of trying to make sense of what happened to him when he was younger. I think it's safe to say that he really didn't make sense of it, because four years later he wrote Paper Towns with an eerily similar plot line and the same disappointing ending. I'm not sure what Green has in the works for now but I'm going to have to take a bit of a break from him. There is only so much disappointment a girl can take. Until next time, happy reading!!