Now that I am a freshman in college, I’ve been reflecting on how much of a mature reader I’ve become. I’m only half done my first semester in college, and I have read some things I could never imagined being assigned to read in high school. Some of the text I’ve read so far have contained multiple curse words and other explicit content that my parents probably wouldn’t approve of. I love it! But it just seems so odd to me that things like this are so straight forward. I guess this could be because I am now reading stories where the narrator is older than I am.
As a teenager in this generation, we have so much literature that appeals to our demographic alone. We are draw to books where the main character is much like us. We love fantasy novels about dystopian futures like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, where the protagonist are both young adults. In these kinds of stories, nothing is reality based. With a older narrator, everything is much more raw. The voice of a character seems more experienced and knowledgeable. They don’t need to question the reality of life as much as growing teenagers and young adults do. A dystopian society doesn’t appeal to older readers.
Looking back now, I think that reading stories where the narrator is close to or around your age is very beneficial, especially to young children under sixteen. Have you every read a story as a child and then read it again when you were a little older? Depending on the topic, it could seem like a totally different story. You might even find yourself saying, “Wow, this is a lot darker than remember.” This could be because you were reading something where the narrator was a child. You were seeing things through a child’s eyes. You were seeing things as innocently as the narrator was because you were a child yourself!
This has happened to me more than once. I read a novel in middle school known as Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli. This novel was about a young orphan boy who survived the holocaust. I had no idea that the story was about genocide until I was done my freshman year of high school! My seventh grade mind and tenth grade mind saw things very differently. It initially sounded like a story about a little orphan who thought his name was stop thief because that’s what people screamed at him when he wanted some of their bread. He also tells the readers about the tall men in uniform who were like police officers and wore very shinny boots. He called them Jack boots. Of course now I know that these men were Nazis. But it wasn’t so clear to the narrator. He was just so fascinated with their footwear. He didn’t understand the danger he was in, and neither did I. After I read Milkweed again, I finally started to see that it was indeed about the holocaust. I saw the dead bodies, the ghettos, and the trains to the concentration camps. As a older reader I saw things the main character didn’t. I couldn’t believe I read that in the seventh grade! I was like twelve years old! But doesn’t it seem adorable that little children could read historical fiction like that and have all the morbid details fly right over their heads?
When it comes to sensitive topics like the holocaust, slavery, and even war, the way you present them to a young audience is very important. At first, I felt like I had been tricked. Why didn’t my teachers just tell me what was going on? But now, I’m grateful that I was eased into it. I guess that sooner or later I’ll get used to the readings I am given by my professors. Maybe it’s all apart of the transition to college? At moments, still expect instructors to blush and classmates to giggle when the topic of discussion is related to sex or sexual situations. I know that some level of immaturity is still present in some of my classes. I have to stop being so nervous and indifferent, and realize that it is okay to talk about adult content in such a straight forward manner. I’m a adult now, and I can’t expect to get the watered-down version of the hard stuff anymore. Even if it did make things less dark and more adorable.