In my last post, I talked about my struggles with the book Terrier by Tamora Pierce. Today was the meeting of the teen book group, and I hadn’t finished reading the book; I only got to page 248 out of 561, which is a shameful thing. I thought about my options: I could lie to the teens and tell them I read the whole book, or I could fudge my way through the book group, not lying outright but also not confessing my sin, or I could tell them the truth. I chose the truthful option – I respect these teens, and they deserve the truth. (Actually, every teen deserves to hear the truth from adults in situations like this, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Only half of the group made it to today’s meeting, due to play rehearsals and illness, but that half of the group had all read the book, some of them twice, and were very well-prepared to discuss it. J—-, the teen who nominated Terrier as a book group choice, started off the meeting by saying that one of the teens who didn’t attend today’s meeting had not finished the book, “How could she not finish??!?!?! This is such a great book!!! How could she put it down without finishing?!?!?” To which I gently cleared my throat and pointed to my bookmark sitting happily at page 248. J—–, bless her soul, figured out what I was telling them, and said, “Well, for Abby it’s different – she has a full-time job.” What a sweetie, that J—–, trying to give me some wiggle room. But I told them, no, it’s not just that I work full-time and have had two oral surgeries in recent weeks; it’s because I don’t like high fantasy. And that got us off and running on a great hour-long conversation about this book and high fantasy and books that we want to re-read and books that just don’t cut it for us.
After defining high fantasy, we found out that only one of these teens dislikes high fantasy as much as I do, and that teen commented on how much fantasy we had read in the book group this year. Which is true, and is something that has been bothering me; in the group in years past I used to always aim for a mix of genres, but that usually involved me choosing all the books. This year I had wanted the teens to have control of the choices, and we ended up with all fantasy. Maybe, I suggested, we should read some realistic fiction or historical fiction or a mystery this summer, and the consensus was that was a good idea. I have a great mystery in mind that I’d love to foist upon the group, so perhaps that will be our choice.
And then the conversation veered towards books that we choose to read over and over again. Some of the members of this group are very fast readers, and plow through dozens upon dozens of books, and thus end up re-reading many books. The Harry Potter books were popular choices for re-reading with these girls, and also certain books out of the Lightning Thief series (as I remember, the third and fourth in the series were labelled by the group as not being worth a second read, but the rest past the test). The main reason given for choosing to read a book again was to discover a new element of the plot that had been missed before; or perhaps a book had been read before but was not very memorable, so another reading of it actually seemed fresh. I mentioned that there are very few books I like to read over and over, and the only adult books that come to mind are Jane Austen’s novels – and that I read them again to savor her use of language.
I wish, as always, that I could remember verbatim all that was said in today’s group; but I don’t. I do know that I did very, very little talking in the hour-long meeting, and that today’s meeting was the epitome of an excellent book group. Everyone contributed, we stayed mostly on topic (but all deviations were quite interesting), and civility was the rule of the day – no one even thought about talking over anyone else. I love this group of teens (and yes, I did very much miss the teens who were absent today), and am so honored to be connected with this bunch of articulate, critical thinkers who love to read. I’ll be so sad to see our two 9th graders graduate after the meeting in May – they’ll be moving on to Lisa’s book group for 10th to 12th graders this summer – and I’ll be hopeful that the rising 7th graders who will be joining the group in July will continue the streak of excellent, thoughtful discussion that has been the cornerstone of this teen book group for these past five years.