So Many Supers!

whisperI picked up Whisper, by Phoebe Kitanidis, from my daughter’s shelf. She is fifteen, so as you might guess, Whisper is a Young Adult novel. The story was entertaining, fast moving, had a nice mix of action and drama, plus family and friend relationships, and even a budding romance. My daughter loved it and I was entertained by it, so it was a win!

What I thought while reading: Like most YA novels these days (including some of my own books: the Whinnies on the Wind series, the Horse Guardian series, and more), Whisper featured a teen who has an extraordinary ability – and I couldn’t help but wonder yet again, why do such a high percentage of YA movies and books feature superhuman teens?

One can say that all demographics enjoy this genre, and that’s true – but the genres available to older readers are far more diverse. We have plenty of non-super protagonists to read about. In YA, the majority of novels include teens with an unusual ability of some sort.

My first thought: having super powers puts protagonists in previously unheard of situations, and therefore may create story interest out of novelty. But then I wonder, after a while wouldn’t reading about a non-super teen become new and fresh? Also, wouldn’t a “normal” character be more relatable?

Maybe the attraction to the super teen is an indicator of how some teens feel powerless in their lives. In the pages of a book, a reader usually feels as powerful as the protagonist, so that very well might be the draw. But do that many teenagers feel powerless? I hope not.

Another option: the super teen phenomena could simply be boredom with the world as it is. Yikes, and almost as sad as the feeling powerless theory. Especially since there is plenty to see in the world when one takes the time to really look.

Maybe it’s because teens are in the process of finding and realizing their own abilities, including those things they’re gifted at. In that case, reading about superhuman teens would be research. And as an aside, it is possible to have a super power. Here’s a list of 50 real-life superhumans.

Then I moved on to the other side of the computer, so to speak. Why do writers write about teens with super gifts?

I can’t speak for other writers of course, but I have tried to infuse my teens’ superpowers with a deeper message. In the case of Evy in the Whinnies on the Wind series, that truth was that we, as the dominant species, need to have compassion for all living creatures and treat them kindly. If, by reading my books, one person does something kind for an animal that they might not otherwise do, then Evy’s superpower has served its purpose.

In Whisper, it is possible that Phoebe Kitanidis also intended to show a deeper truth. Her protagonist’s superpower – to hear others’ thoughts as whispers – gave encouragement to the reader to be authentic to themselves.

Isn’t that something that we all want to hear – or dare I say even need to hear? I believe that on some level, we all know that honoring our most authentic self is how we reach our greatest potential. To me, to be personally authentic is a true super power – and I believe it is to young readers too.

Racism, Residential Schools, and Hockey

indian-horse-coverIndian Horse, by Richard Wagamese

First thing I want to say: Richard Wagamese is an amazing writer. This book is so well written that I didn’t want it to end, despite the tough subject matter.

Second, this isn’t a book about a horse. It’s a book about racism, residential schools, and hockey. The residential school parts were as difficult as I expected, and then got a bit worse. The racism parts were just as tough to read, and as senseless and cruel as racism is today. The hockey part was pretty cool, even though I’m not a hockey fan. Yes, I’m Canadian. I also don’t drink much Tim Horton’s coffee. I’m sorry.

Though I don’t watch hockey and I thankfully have no experience of residential schools, I could still relate to the character in this book. This is because, at it’s root, Indian Horse is a book about connection. It’s my opinion that we are all born wanting to belong, to feel connected, and we actively seek it. The character, Saul Indian Horse, finds that connection with nature as a boy. Though he doesn’t feel it with his parents as much, because of their brokenness, he is strongly connected to his grandmother. Later, in the residential school, he finds connection with the game of hockey, and the priest that enables him to play – and he longs for connection so strongly that he blocks out the abuse inflicted by that priest until much later in his life. As an older man, after a heart-searing journey through an uncaring social landscape, Saul is finally able to return to the one healthy community he has a connection to, and rebuild his life among those he can trust.

What Indian Horse expressed so well to me is that longing we all have for home – and by home, I don’t mean a physical place. We long to be seen for who we are. We want that which is good and pure and unique within us, to be both recognized and valued by those around us. And sadly, the book showed how if we aren’t valued, for whatever reason, whether it be racism, sexism, ageism, religious intolerance (beliefism?), or any other ism out there, we tend to fall into shame and self blaming. We’ve all seen it happen, and, to varying degrees, we all know how it feels to be rejected and harmed by people who say they’re on our side.

But there is hope, as Saul Indian Horse discovered. When we confront our pain, we mature and grow wiser, and realize that maybe the society or group that rejects us isn’t where we belong – and then we go looking for that place where we are truly accepted. And in that way, this book is about courage too, because I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been decimated as a child can understand how much courage it takes to trust a safe place as an adult when you didn’t have a safe place as a child. Indian Horse gives us a view of that in one boy, then in one man, who had the courage.

To sum up, I found Indian Horse to be an amazing book. Very well written, wise, and compassionate. It was difficult to read in places, but worthwhile, even in the tough parts. In hindsight, maybe especially in the tough parts. A soulful book.

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese: highly recommended.

42 Books

booksMy newest venture: 42 books in 52 weeks!

Why 42?

Because, “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is 42” – at least according to Douglas Adams who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Also, it gives me 10 weeks to fiddle around and procrastinate. ?

But why do it at all?

First, I’m great at buying and downloading books and starting to read them, but not so good at finishing them – so this project is selfishly meant to motivate me.

Second, I am inspired by many of the books I read, and yet I don’t have a satisfactory outlet for the thoughts they encourage. So I’m creating that outlet, in the form of blog posts. Some will be reviews, some will be random thoughts inspired as I read that book, but every book will get a blog post. Promise.

I know I’m the big winner here, but I hope you get some value out of my new commitment too. Books and links added here, as soon as I start. I’d love to get your feedback on the books too.

Cheers!