Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks...Oh, Yeah, and My Hatred of Book Snobs!

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I by day, I'm an 8th grade Reading teacher. Hence, the innumerable teen fiction reviews and Twilight-obsessed posts - 8th grade girls are to blame for my love of Edward Cullen! I had two students basically force me to read Twilight, and I will be forever grateful for their insistence. When my students ask me to read something, I obliged because throughout the school year they are reading works per my request. I have a group of girls that have become Nicholas Sparks addicts. I don't usually purchase Sparks books for my classroom because of the "adult" situations that sometimes crop up, (hello, did anyone read the scene in which Ally and Noah reunited from The Notebook? Too HOT for teens!) but this group have been buying their own copies and reading them during our independent reading time. These girlies challenged me to read The Last Song, so picked up a copy and did so over the weekend.
As for my review of the book, I enjoyed the story and can appreciate why my teens love it so much. It's a story about discovering true love, mending bridges with parents, and understanding why family and love is the only thing that matters in this world. It also helps that Mylie Cyrus is staring in the movie version of the book, which I think is the main reason many of my girls picked it up. No matter what turned them on to the book, I'm just excited that they are reading and sharing their opinions about what they read with one another. The story is simple and oh, so sad, but I love any book that makes my students discuss and rehash.
This brings me to my second point I'd like to discuss in this post: Book Snobs. I've talked about Book Snobs before in my posts concerning Twilight and books that aren't considered "good literature" by the elitist Book Snobs. What is a Book Snob, you may ask? Well, if you're a BS, you slam all mass-market fiction and label most best-selling authors as "crappy writers" or producers of works with "no literary value". Book Snobs insult, degrade, and rarely promote any book that isn't labeled a classic or a work that has won literary awards. Book Snobs usually have never written a novel, and if you are a Book Snob critic who is also an author, more than likely that author has only written works that are research-based or non-fiction. I rarely hear authors of fiction slam other authors of fiction because, well, they have first-hand knowledge of how hard it is to produce but how very EASY it is to critique. What makes my blood boil more than anything is when Book Snobs are TEACHERS who openly share their opinions of books that are not "worthy" to read with their students.
While browsing Barnes & Noble last night, I picked up an educational text written for teachers of literacy. Granted, this book wasn't written by a well-known author in my field, but what this author said about mass-market fiction really upset me because her opinion is being openly shared in schools everywhere. In her defense, I will totally butcher the quote that infuriated me since I do not have the book in front of me to directly quote what she said about popular books. The statement said something to the effect of "I read excerpts from mass-market books written by authors like Nora Roberts and James Patterson, so students can see how these books are not well-written." First of all, middle school students are smart and intuitive. They are not going to disagree with their teacher's opinion if they realize the intended result of the presented lesson should be them agreeing that the writing being shared is "bad". Just like adults in a room full of Book Snobs, most of us are non-confrontational and will keep our mouths shut if a Book Snob is slamming a book we happened to enjoy. Teens are no different than adults in that regard, and if their teacher is telling them that a book is poorly written then they will agree. Teens don't like to appear stupid to their peers or teachers, because the figure, what do I know about well-written books compared to their teacher who has her degree and has read tons of books?
The literary expert author also went on to slam authors (that I grew up LOVING) like John Grisham and Michael Crichton (God rest his soul). This slamming of entertaining and popular fiction just BUGS me. Why in the world would you make teens feel that only dumb people read mass-market fiction. Why would you slam a book that they might have enjoyed? I just don't GET IT. I've experienced this backlash of popular fiction after I began sharing my love of Twilight with other teachers in my field of study. I was completely appalled when some teachers told me that they think the book is "crap" and would never promote that "type of reading" to their students. WHHHHAAAATTTTT? You would possibly demean and slam the only book one of your students might have enjoyed? What does that tell a student? It tells them that they are a horrible judge of literature and maybe that this reading thing just isn't for them if they only book they like is "crap."
Book Snobs are a group of people I hate with a passion because they turn people off to reading. If you genuinely think that only good books were written 100 years ago, or to have subject matter that doesn't deal with love, science fiction, or humor, then Book Snob, you suck! Keep your sucky opinion to your sucky self and stop telling my students (and myself) that they suck because they like stuff that you feel sucks. I've read tons of literary classics (most English majors are required to do so), and I have many favorites in that genre that I come back to time and time again. I will read literary award winning works, and find the value in them, but most of them are hell to get through and are not books that I gravitate towards and end up loving and recommending. The Last Song might not be nominated for any literary awards, but it is keeping my 8th graders noses in books, which in itself is a huge accomplishment and doesn't SUCK by my students' standards.
Oh, and here's to hoping The Last Song movie doesn't suck! The trailer made me cry (because I know the ending) and I will probably being seeing it with a slew of 8th grade girls! Bring on the tissues!

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