I visited a friend a few weeks ago, and told her that the only Tamora Pierce books I’d read were in the Circle universe. I’d tried reading the Immortals series when I started high school, but older students on the bus, including my sister’s best friend, started making fun of me for it. I put the book down and never picked it up again.
My friend, Liz, was surprised that I’d never read Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness series. She told me I’d love it and practically shoved the first book, Alanna, in my hands. I had my doubts. I knew the basic story: girl wants to be knight, so she disguises herself as a boy to become one. It didn’t seem that original to me. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the prose, either; this was a book for kids, after all. Even the first chapter seemed very rushed. On the second page, with the reader having no prior knowledge of these characters, Alanna and her twin brother decide to switch places. Boom! Suddenly the plot’s rolling. A little too fast for my taste.
So, no, I did not come into this book with high expectations.
I ended up loving it: the main character, her friends, and all the adventures she went on. Maybe my favorite part was when Alanna beat the crap out of the bully that’d been beating her for months. For someone who was also bullied at Alanna’s age, I think it was cathartic for me.
A few years ago, I might not have even considered reading Alanna or similar books. I was familiar with young adult fiction, and so much of it seemed the same: girl in dystopian world starts a revolution and falls in love along the way. I wasn’t very interested in children’s literature, either. I thought that it wouldn’t be able to challenge more or entertain me. Fortunately, my attitude changed with a little help of a friend, and Lemony Snicket.
I’d tried to read the Series of Unfortunate Events books when they were “age-appropriate” for me, but I really didn’t enjoy them. I managed to get through one book, and gave up. A few years ago, one of my friends bought the first two books. Remembering how much I enjoyed the Series of Unfortunate Events movie, I picked up the first book as well.
At the time I was working as an educator at a small museum, which hosted overnight programs for scouting groups. I like to read before I go to bed, but I was also tired and had to be up early the next morning to cook breakfast for the scouts. I couldn’t read anything that was too long, or anything that would make me stay up late thinking. So I started reading The Bad Beginning. I quickly found that the writing was clever and humorous in ways that I couldn’t appreciate when I was younger. Even if the characters are simple and straight-forward, the stories twist and turn and are endlessly entertaining. The Unfortunate Events series also grapples with moral ambiguity and doesn’t give clear-cut answers to all its mysteries. These are things that would have frustrated me endlessly as a child. As an adult, however, the give what seems to be a simple story a deeper meaning and complexity, full of questions whose answers could be mulled over for hours.
This blog is as much about growing up as it is about books. When I read those old books that I grew up with, time and time again, I can see the ways that I have changed. Moreover, I derive different meanings from the same stories as I grew up. This is probably the most obvious in The Magician’s Nephew reviews. Certainly, I could draw parallels between Diggory’s life and my own when I was ten, but for the most part it was a wonderful adventure I could get lost in. As an adult, I had a much better understand of the story as a whole, especially as a Christian allegory. I was also a lot more intrigued by the characters of Uncle Andrew and Jadis. As a child, I’d written them off as villains, and were therefore to be disliked, no matter what.
The experiences I had reading these books are worth revisiting, and I’m happy that I have a space to share them. But thanks to Lemony Snicket and Tamora Pierce, I’ve learned that I can still draw deep meaning and enjoyment from books that are supposedly not for adults.
I got several new books for Christmas this year that I’m still working my way through, including In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce, and All The Wrong Questions by Lemony Snicket. Right now I’m reading through the dark and complicated world A Storm of Swords, but I can’t wait to finish this book, crack open my new Tamora Pierce, and see how Alanna is doing.