Three Books I Feel Differently About As An Adult

jealous wall-52 These days some of my favorite reads are actually re-reads. Maybe I’m just getting to an age that I’m nostalgic for a past childhood, or like C S Lewis says, I have become old enough for fairytales again. Whatever the reason, I find myself re-reading a number of childhood favorites that I haven’t looked at in years and it’s been an interesting experience. I find myself looking at the stories and characters with a completely different perspective; I can still largely remember my childhood impressions of the stories, but it’s almost as if a different person is reading them today. In a way I guess that is true; I am a different person today. I was a child and now I’m an adult. I was naive and now I’m slightly more worldly. In any case, here are a few that have stuck out to me recently. (P.S. Spoilers galore! If you haven't read these books and don't want them "spoiled" for you, then definitely skip this post!)
John Christopher’s The Tripod Series: I was inspired to re-read this series by a dream I had. Very random, but I had an odd dream that seemed to exist in the Tripod universe and woke up with an itch to pick up that series again. This series was probably one of my first introductions to scifi and re-reading it was very fun. Written more than 50 years ago it is a predecessor of today’s dystopian genre and foreshadows many themes written later. I still really enjoyed the series and its themes of free will, freedom, and individuality. However reading it as an adult I was struck by the lack of female characters, especially ones within the resistance. First there seems a lack of female runaways and then as we get further in the series to the resistance movement, there appear to be no women living in the White Mountains at all. What’s funny as well though is how I never noticed this as a kid. It literally didn’t cross my mind to be bothered by the fact that all the characters were male. I related to Will with his short temper and Beanpole’s curiosity; I was a silent adventurer alongside them, writing myself into the story with each chapter. It’s only now as an adult that the blatant absence of a single worthwhile woman bugs me, not even as a “feminist” but just in terms of realism. It just seems unlikely that there isn’t a single female runaway or woman who has made it into the White Mountains one way or another--even if they stumbled there on accident! The only significant female character (Eloise) also represents a lure to a content but captive life. In a later book when Will himself is now out recruiting runaways, he specifically states how he’s looking for young, discontent boys about to be Capped—the fact that a young girl might be equally frightened by the imminent Capping doesn’t seem a possibility. But as much as that bothered me, I can accept the books as they are and even wonder if the lack of female characters originates from the author’s own limitations. Maybe he didn’t feel he could write an authentic female voice so he didn’t try. But it is sad that a mind that can conceive a refreshingly original alien and dystopian society can’t write a single named female protagonist…At the same time the lack of female characters didn't phase me as a kid; I didn't think because I was a girl I had to relate to Eloise as the other girl; I related to Will even if he was a boy. To me, it is such a good book series with the ultimate message that sometimes it's easier to battle the monsters than our own prejudices and I’ll likely be drawn back to it again and again--and continue to write my own fictional version of myself as fellow runaway alongside Will into the story as I read. Sometimes modern stories are very clunky in their attempts to write strong female characters rather than relatable ones or just heroes of both genders; I think kids are smart enough to choose their own heroes within a story regardless of the hero's gender.
The Immortals Series by Tamora Pierce: The first series I read by Tamora Pierce was Alanna’s series. I devoured that series of a sword wielding young woman who trades places with her twin brother in order to become a knight in record time and quickly moved on to many of Pierce’s other works. Of them all, the Immortals is undoubtedly my favorite. Daine, the protagonist has a unusual magic and thus unique connection with animals that is endearing to any animal lover who wishes they could talk to their own pony, but it was Daine’s shyness and lack of confidence in the first two books that really made her a favorite. She’s very talented and capable; independent enough to live on her own at a young age, but she still gets tongue-tied in large groups and struggles to realize her own worth. This duality really appealed as someone who could excel in school but still hated raising my hand in class. In Emperor Mage we see Daine come into her power more than ever and see her destroy a whole palace when she thinks her beloved teacher has been killed. I loved this book. I thought Daine was so great, I thought I understood her devotion to her teacher…until I read the last book in the series: Realm of the Gods. I saw her upset being caused by a love for her teacher, but also the loss of the security he provided as her main guardian—she is someone who has literally had her world ripped apart before and now the main adult figure in her life is supposedly gone. But of course he’s not really gone and in Realm of the Gods it is revealed that Daine is in love with her teacher (and he’s been secretly in love with her too); she’s 16 and he’s 30. I remember reading it at a similar age to Daine and being shocked and horrified. I could understand her loving her teacher, but being in love with her teacher seemed gross. I felt betrayed that Numair had harbored these feelings for his pupil even though he didn't act on them--it still felt wrong. Had he at 28 fallen in love with her at 14? Re-reading it as an adult I still feel the same way, although there’s less visceral shock for me now; I know it’s coming and even see the subtle threads leading that way. I didn’t read many books heavy in romance when I was younger, so this relationship really surprised me as a kid; I had interpreted their relationship entirely differently until it was spelled out for me. Today, the age gap still bothers me; if she was in her 20s it might be different, but at 16 she’s barely out of childhood. When I read it at 16 I still was a child! That relationship still sours the series for me and I prefer to leave out the last book when I re-read. I like to end the series with Daine in Emperor Mage when things seem more innocent.
Anne of Green Gables: I mentioned before that I enjoy Anne more as an adult than I did when I was first introduced to the books as a child. As a child the rather quiet story of Anne’s life was enjoyable, but less engrossing than a story of a kid battling aliens or becoming a knight (see the above books lol). However as an adult Anne feels more relatable than ever. I love the “quiet” stories of life in Avonlea and all the characters; the whole book series is relatable and heart-warming. However, even more than my enjoyment of it, it also hits an emotional note with me as an adult that it never did when I was younger. Last year I was re-reading the series while traveling and found myself tearing up at the moment of Matthew’s death on a plane. I’ve always prided myself on not crying at sappy movies or things that would get to my friends, but suddenly I found myself fighting back tears while reading a story I’ve read more times than I can count. Matthew’s death when I was a kid had been sad, but a brief note quickly followed by more adventures in Avonlea that distracted me from his absence. But as an adult I realize so much more what a rare person Matthew was and how much Anne blossomed under his quiet enthusiasm for anything she said or did. Marilla’s rare moment of openness with Anne afterward is also an emotional sucker punch. It all reminds me of a Madeleine L’Engle quote (another favorite author) that goes, “And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” I think sometimes we dismiss and grow out of these books we read as children because we see them as kid-ish, but the authors of those books were as masterly with storytelling and world-building as any adult novelist and sometimes it takes looking at a childhood favorite with adult eyes to really appreciate a book. I know Anne planted seeds in me when I read it as a kid and reading it as an adult it’s as if I’m walking through L. M. Montgomery’s garden.

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