Drug Use in Swimmers

Swimmers is one of the only books that covered the issue of drug abuse in the high school setting. I found that I connected with this book on a personal level because it dealt with descriptions of drugs and parties at the high school age. I went to a Catholic high school that only covered classic literature in our English classes. Books such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, and The Catcher and the Rye by J. D. Salinger were the ones we covered in class. Although The Catcher and the Rye deals with issues like alcoholism, the drug culture was much more apparent in my high school. I believe that young adults today should have the opportunity to read books like Swimmers which deals with drugs in an unromanticised way and also shows the consequences of addiction.

I watched a documentary called Meth Nation on discovery channel recently that showed many small towns in the United States that are affected by young meth users. In the documentary the high schoolers that were interviewed claimed it was easier to find drugs then it was to get alcohol. This is concept reminded me off the drug dealer Josh in the book. Josh carried around drugs at school in a mint case, which made the drugs easily accessible so that the characters could get high in class. I believe that this is common problem that could be found throughout high schools in every city or town. I also think that by reading books that cover drug problems in high schools could help students make educated choices before they experiment with drugs.

In this day and age the rave culture has emerged as popular event for people of all ages to attend. Many raves are open to underage kids and give out wrist bands to those who are over the age of 18 and able to purchase alcohol. This creates an environment where finding drugs is easier than finding a fake ID that will allow the younger raver to drink. Young adults are constantly struggling with fitting in with their friends which could bring up situations of peer pressure when drugs are involved. Adults can teach kids that peer pressure is wrong and you should keep to your convictions, but when it comes down to it high school aged children want to fit in. The book Swimmers, while it doesn’t deal with rave culture, it does depict party atmospheres where Hunter and his friends use drugs, drink and engage in promiscuity. I think that any adult reading this book would be able to relate to the party scene. Your friend’s parents are out of town and so that’s where the party is on the weekend. Swimmers is able to depict a realistic view of high school without making the drinking, partying and drug use look cool. I think that Swimmers would be a great book for a high school English class to read because of this.

In class we have discussed the argument against only classic literature for the young adults in school. I think that studying the classics such as Shakespeare and Mary Shelly is important for English classes in high school because it allows them to interact with work from different times. The problems faced in the classics are still prevalent today, but I believe new problems have emerged for high school student in this day and age. That is why I think that integrating texts such as Swimmers would allow students to relate to the characters on a deeper level. Swimmers does a great job of showing the consequences of drug abuse in a modern day high school. In high school one of my friends over dosed and was then sent to rehab. Although he was not in a coma like Niall it had a lasting effect on many students. I believe that using books in high schools that show the consequences of drug abuse could help other students deal with these issues. It may not stop students from experimenting but it will at least show the consequences.

– DJS

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Some Graphic Novels

Before I started reading graphic novels after a lit fair presentation in my PS1, I was really reluctant to because I’m such a good text-only reader and not really much of a visual learner, but I’ve completely fallen in love. I’m a strong tactile learner and the higher sense of physicality and space that graphic novels provide really speaks to me even though it’s just pictures and words.

I’ve felt myself growing in visual literacy as I’ve read graphic novels. I’ve always really struggled with picturing what I read. If you ask me what a character looks like, I’ll just recite the exact words the author used to described him/her because that’s all I’ve got. I tend more to imagine how things would feel rather than what they would look like. Since I’ve been reading graphic novels, however, I have been picturing things more when I read text-only books. I still don’t do it as much as other people seem to, but I’ve been surprising myself by adding physical characteristics to people and places that the author hasn’t explicitly attributed. For example, in One Year in Coal Harbour, I pictured Ked as Metis and Eleanor as Asian and, looking back, I’m not entirely sure where I got that from.

My lack of ability to picture things may also be another reason that I enjoy graphic novels. I don’t have to picture anything because it’s already done for me. I’m not missing anything.

So, I’m definitely a convert and most of the reading I’ve been doing in my spare time lately has been graphic novels and here are some that I thought you might want to know about. In particular, I’ve tried to hypothetically relate them to education, but I also just consider these books to be good reads.

I’ve included links to the Amazon page I purchased each book from, just in case you wanted to look into any of them.

Laddertop is written by Orson Scott Card alongside his daughter and I think a few other people. For those not familiar with the name, Card is the guy who wrote Ender’s Game.
The genre is sort of a mystery sci-fi combo, fairly typical of Card and although it’s not really heavy on social issues, the main character does seem to have an abusive step father (although it’s not really brought up much in the first two volumes, which is what I ordered from Amazon) and it also brings up issues of bullying, pressure to perform at school, religion, privacy (the children in the book are sort of turned semi-bionic at one point) and so on.

Overall, I would say a great read for middle school aged readers or reluctant readers. Heavy on images and relatively light on text but still manages to tell an interesting story.

  Skim is the earlier book written by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. I ordered it after reading “This One Summer.” I’d say probably middle/high school age and, like “This One Summer,” it brings up a lot of issues and leaves a lot of loose ends but is really realistic. It’s set in a private Christian all-girl’s school and touches on topics of family disharmony, bullying, suicide, depression, sexuality (especially non-traditional sexuality), spirituality, etc… I liked This One Summer a bit better, can’t say for sure why, but still a great read, Canadian, and great for encouraging discussion on some more difficult issues.

  Julius Caesar, a graphic rendition. I ordered this after somebody in class mentioned graphic novel versions of Shakespeare plays and I was like “That is amazing! Why did I think of that?” I haven’t read this through all the way and it’s been a while since I’ve read Julius Caesar, but so far, I see the potential of books like this in the classroom. Mostly, what I like is to be able to see the set and characters because Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be seen. I think graphic novel renditions are actually closer to the original versions in this way than text-only versions.

This version, in particular, is quite a bit shorter than the original, so it would probably be used in younger high school grades or with students who struggle with Shakespeare. I also found that all the characters kind of looked the same and I had difficulty remembering who was talking but that’s just a weakness in this particular version. All the dialogue is in Shakespearean English, but it has explanations written in Modern English, which is great for filling in gaps in knowledge of Shakespeare’s language and time and Roman customs.

I just got Watchmen last Friday, so I haven’t finished it, but I’m immensely impressed so far. It’s by far one of the most famous graphic novels that I know of. It deals with more mature subject matter: politics, violence/death, war, rape, determinism, etc… so, if you were to use it in school, the students would have to be older and probably a bit more mature. Also has some nudity and sexual content but nothing raunchy. I’d say it’s all fairly tastefully done, considering the subject matter.

For any adult, I would definitely highly recommend this. It’s honestly so brilliant in so many ways. The reason I would love to see it in school is because A) it deals with really relevant issues that could be explored and discussed but more importantly B) it has so many literary devices and symbolism that you could teach as well. It could also be used to teach the Cold War era even though it’s set in an alternate universe. There’s no way you can read this book and not realise that it is really eloquent and sophisticated literature.

My only complaint might be that it’s a very male book but this makes a lot of sense because it’s basically a comic book on literary steroids.There’s only one prevalent female character and she’s very emotional and dependent, although I honestly still like her and relate to her, albeit a tad bit begrudgingly. And her dependence and over-sensitivity is later justified when you learn more about her.

Has anybody else read any of these books? I think I’ve heard a few people say they read Skim and I can’t imagine I’m the only one that’s read Watchmen or a graphic novel version of a Shakespeare play. What did you guys think of these texts?

And are there any other graphic novels anybody would suggest? Next on my list is V for Vendetta, Maus, and Logicomix which I’ve heard are all good.

~Christiane

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When Everything Feels Like the Movies & Other People Don’t Like It: YA Literature & Censorship

When we discussed the awards given to When Everything Feels Like the Movies, as well as the petition attempting to have the book removed from the Canada Reads list in class, I was intrigued to say the least. After finishing the book, I was mortified (both by the tragic ending and the sad statement the book made about society), but honestly not shocked to discover that this text was based on the true story of an openly gay 15-year-old California boy who was murdered in 2008 by a fellow student he’d asked to be his Valentine.

In my opinion, the people trying to censor this book are missing what this book is about. Despite the book containing explicit language, sex, self-mutilation, & death – this book is really not about any of those things. Emily M. Keeler says it best in her article in the National Post

“It’s sickening to me that the moral panic surrounding the book regards teens reading about blow jobs and not its painfully, stylishly wrought portrayal of kids being bullied to death, or growing up with fear because it’s not safe for them to be who they are.”

Censoring young adults from books like When Everything Feels Like the Movies, is really censoring young adults from reading books about the real world.

While people complained that Raziel Reid could have written the book in “a more appropriate way, with less vulgar language”, I disagree. This book was about the everyday life of Jude, and whether adults want to admit it or not, for some young adults, their everyday looks a lot like Jude’s. Raziel Reid responded to comments about censorship and the appropriateness of his novel with the following statement:

“I’m not promoting a culture, I’m depicting one – and I’m doing it with the graphic language that culture uses, and with the themes that culture is consumed with: fame, drugs, sex, and selfies.”

In Keeler’s article, she discusses the author Kathy Clark, who writes children’s books about real historical events and also signed the petition against Raziel Reid’s novel being on Canada Reads list; suggesting that Clark’s purpose parallels Reid’s. What is so different about talking to youth about the horrible events of the holocaust and the horrible events of bullying an individual to the point of killing him? What is so different about the discrimination homosexuals suffer through, in comparison to anti-Semitism? The difference is 6 million Jews died in the holocaust, and there is nothing we can do to change that. Which in my opinion only increases the need for books like When Everything Feels Like the Movies to be written, to bring awareness to the discrimination occurring in our society, and stop it before it is comparable with the holocaust. Realistically the issue of discrimination due to sexuality is one we are not only dealing with currently, but also one our children will be faced with in the near future, they should probably be aware of the problem… no?

I would love to know you opinion on the “graphic” nature of When Everything Feels Like the Movies. Do you think Raziel Reid took it to far for a young adult text? Or do you feel the text was an accurate portrayal of society and youth culture today?

– Miranda MacKenzie

Keeler, M. Kelly “On Raziel Reid, and when everything feels like controversy.” Rev. of When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid. National Post 27 01 2015. Online.

Reid, Raziel. When Everything Feels Like The Movies. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014. Print.

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Why is Y.A. Literature so Popular?

I have to say that taking this class has really opened my eyes to the variety of Y.A. literature that is now available to readers. You can choose anything from Harry Potter, to Twilight, to The Fault in Our Stars, to The Lesser Blessed. There are novels, short stories, poetry, and as we’ve seen, graphic novels. It seems like the possibilities are endless. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels as though Y.A. literature has expanded and become exponentially more popular within the last few years or so. And with the increasing amount of new content available to readers, it’s caused me to ponder the question of “what really is Y.A. literature?”  What makes it distinct from children’s or adult’s literature?

While surfing the web and asking myself these questions, I came across an interesting article that discusses the 8 Habits of Highly Successful Young Adult Fiction Authors. The author, Nolan Feeney, asks writers, such John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Veronica Roth (Divergent series); as well as editors as to what makes Y.A. fiction so popular? In his article Feeney makes 8 crucial points as to what makes Y.A. fiction so successful and relatable to younger audiences.

1. Think Like a Teen

This may seem like an obvious point, but the authors suggest that this can be more difficult than it seems. When writing Y.A. fiction it can be difficult to lose the adult voice within your work. In order to be authentic and relatable to teens, it’s important to adopt their perspectives. The decisions and mistakes that the character makes in a particular work should match those of the teenager: not what the adult would do.

2. Find the “Emotional Truth” of the Teenage Experience

This point relates to the first in that the author must reflect the true teenage experience. Although the situation of the character may be vastly different than that of the every day teenager, they must demonstrate the the same emotions that the teenager would make when facing their own issues. Keeney also suggests that the emotional experiences of the characters can instigate teens to examine their own lives and to explore some of the bigger questions on mortality and relationships.

3. A Good Pop-Culture Reference Goes a Long Way

Pop culture references also makes the text more relatable to teens. The fact that a character enjoys a particular show or book shows that he/she is like her peers and is, therefore, more relatable to teens.

4. Get Input From Real Teenagers

I believe that this is an extremely important point that helps in connecting readers to the literature. Obtaining input from actual teenagers results in the accuracy of the teenage experience. Teenager’s input helps the author to distinguish what situations are likely to happen in teenage reality or what situations are too far-fetched to be believable. Again, this strategy boosts the relatability factor for teen readers.

5. Use Slang Words at Your Own Risk

This point suggests that authors must be careful in the language they use when writing Y.A. fiction. It’s important to reflect the changes in slang that teens use. However, the overuse of slang can make the author seem like they’re trying too hard and, as a result, the reader loses connection to the text.

6. Keep It Moving

Authors have found that it is important to find the right diction and perspective in their writing. Y.A. fiction is often criticized for being less complex compared to other genres, but writers have discovered that a simpler diction and first person perspective can be a lot more effective in establishing the right voice for their characters. More flowery and poetic writing can actually hinder the flow of the text.

7It’s Okay for YA To Get Dark

I think that this point is quite relatable to our own class. The novels that we have read this semester explore some very dark and complex social issues. Keeney reveals that Y.A. fiction often delves into issues such as death, drugs, and rape. Some authors write about these topics in order to allow teens to experience the darkness issues through a safe environment. Authors also use literature as an effective way to address these issues.

8. Find the “Kernel of Hope.”

Even though the subject matter of their literature may be dark, it is important to show teens that there is hope. Through the portrayal of their characters authors show that although life can be dark and unpredictable, teens can survive and get through it. Y.A. literature promotes the idea that teens can become victorious in their own struggles through their own means.

I think that this article offers some insight as to why Y.A. fiction has become so popular. The authors of Y.A. literature really strive to keep their work relatable to their readers. They are able to capture a realistic and emotional portrayal of the teenage experience through their own research of the teenage mind. Therefore, many teenage readers and even adults can relate to Y.A. literature and enjoy it.

Keeney’s Article: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/10/the-8-habits-of-highly-successful-young-adult-fiction-authors/280722/

– Katrina B

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The Judging of YA Literature Covers

It is often said in the world of English majors to not judge a book by its cover. Although I have personally read many novels that are great reads but have horrible covers, I want to bring to light the reality and purpose of book covers. Book covers are created to be judged, picked-apart and also appreciated. Authors work with cover designers for their novels so that readers will pick their books off the shelves before another novel, to aim at a certain aged reader and types of readers. So instead of saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” I would to argue and declare that we should take into consideration how a books cover interests us the readers. Covers are just as important as the novel itself. The purpose of a cover it to depict what the novel is going to be about. Misrepresenting the text can be done by a book cover. A great example of the misrepresentation of book covers is by a novel in our class Blink and Caution, which displays this misrepresentation very clearly. The novel shows multiple bullet holes, but yet the novel deals with issues of youth homelessness. WHHHHAT! I know that I am not the only one that felt tricked by the cover of that novel, did it not anger some of you readers as well? Just as the actual text creates feelings and thoughts, so can the cover of a novel. Although this blog posting is short, I think that we as readers need to reconsider how we approach the cover of a novel and not feel guilty when we hate the cover, felt that the cover is childish or way to adult like.

If you are interested in reading more about the purpose of covers you can refer to this article: Judging a book by Its Cover:Publishing Trends in Young Adult literature. Written by Cat Campbell

– Casey Canning

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Making Reading More Interesting Through the Use of Graphic Novels

Growing up I was one of the kids that didn’t want to read. I hated reading because it took too long to get to the end. I also disliked it because although I had a good imagination I found it hard to imagine while what I was reading. I rarely finished a book completely. I would sometimes quit halfway or I would use the trick of reading just the beginning, middle and end. We used to have to write book reports and I would just try to fake my way through. Then I got introduced to graphic novels. They were easy reads and they were more interesting because of the pictures. I could imagine each scenario because it was laid out on the page. The images still left me with the ability to fill in the gaps. It basically helped me play a movie of the book in my head. This is what got me into reading. Then I started reading other books like Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Vampire Books etc…

I believe that graphic novels could have a great impact on kids. They are not only easy reads but they are great for making your imagination more realistic. Students these days have more technology in their lives. They read less and they have less time in their lives to pick up a book and read. Graphic novels can be good for students who don’t have much time. In schools, I think a graphic novel per grade should be studied. Kids can learn to study them more thoroughly and see how the pictures tell more than just what is simply written in words on the page. Artists put a lot of thought into each image and there is always more to a picture than what is on the surface. It’s as though you are reading a book and analysing it. This could also help students be more imaginative and artistic.

Graphic novels are also a great way to get students who have trouble reading to pick up a book and read. For them they may see more in the images than in the text written on the page. It would be a great way to get there reading levels up. If you studied it in class then they could keep up and they would be able to participate more because they are able to stay at the same pace as everyone else.

When doing research I came across a site which gives a few names of graphic novels that deal with social issues. Link: “http://www.bookcentre.ca/newsletter_nov2014”. “This One Summer” is actually on the site and although I believe that when I got to the end I had trouble coming to terms with the book not having resolved certain issues, I also would have to agree with others who said that the book does show the realism of a summer at a cabin and about how some issues are dealt with within a family. It shows that going through a miscarriage is difficult and that it does put a lot of women into this phase of depression where there other child becomes neglected. Students would possibly be able to relate to this.

I also agree with the aspect of bringing graphic novels into a social studies class only because everything you read in social studies can become a little overwhelming. So much information needs to be remembered and it’s hard being in this day and age and trying to imagine what the soldiers went through or what life was like back then. Graphic novels would be a great way to help bring imagery into the picture and help kids visualize what was happening back then.

I am very pro graphic novels but that is only because of past experiences. I got a lot out of graphic novels and they helped me start enjoying reading. Although the ones I did read, weren’t exactly the kind you would bring into a class because they were very fantasy based, they did help me use my imagination and they brought out my creative side. Graphic novels should be brought into schools but they should also be taught and analyzed to a certain extent with teachers. It just opens up a new world for some readers.

I thought I would share a link to not a graphic novel but to a video of a woman using images that she is drawing in sand to depict a story. It shows just how powerful images can be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5bdMyOWLHg

– Jabin Teja

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Why Menstruation in Young Adult Texts Matters.

Katniss. Tris. Bella. Hermione.

Every one of those characters are young, cisgendered women. Yet never in any of the books was anything mentioned about one of them getting her period. The Hunger Games trilogy sold 50 million copies in the United States alone. Divergent, Twilight, and Harry Potter come in at 10 million, 100 million, and 450 million respectively. That is a lot of books sold. With such powerful voices telling these amazing stories, one can only imagine there is a better tale to be told than a woman and her “Aunt Flo” every month. For instance, Katniss is impoverished – she barely gets enough to eat, and she is in survival mode so her body probably would not be able to menstruate. Tris is in that same boat, danger is her lifestyle, her body has no time for cramps. Bloating? Pfft. Bella could probably not care less about her constant bleeding around vampires. And let us just accept that a woman like Hermione simply cannot reduce herself to crying over Ron and listening to Celestina Warbeck croon out about heartbreak one week a month. Menstruation is messy, unappealing to men, and takes away from more important aspects of the plot. It, frankly, is not important.

But here is why it is. Menstruation is messy. It really is. 49.6% of the world knows that. There are billions of people out there who have had to deal with all the messy things. The buying of pads, tampons, and cups. Sneaking out of class to change, waking with red sheets, ACCIDENTAL LEAKAGE. It truly is a horror story. To see someone who is brave, strong, in love, or even just going to a super rad magic school deal with one incident – Katniss waking up in the games wondering if she was injured, Bella absolutely confused as to why Edward was freaking out. Something to show that the young girls that read these texts are not alone, or to give the readers something to laugh about and relate with.

But why does it always have to be about the young girls? Young adult boys find periods repulsive! Well that might be a problem. Even if a period is not mentioned in a text it still matters that young men and women understand that they are completely normal. It is not only common to get a period, but it means that the individual is healthy and has a healthy, baby making body. Somehow we have shamed a culture into ignoring a part of life. I am completely against public acts of menstruation, because blood is blood and nobody would like it if someone just let a nosebleed go free, but a period does not count as an excuse to dismiss someone’s opinion, it does not make a person count less or become uncharacteristically destructive. In the same way pop culture has made it commonplace to accept women will wear pants or have short hair, it should be commonplace for anyone to not freak out over a little (hygienically maintained) blood. Maybe with a little knowledge Young Adult men will feel a little less grossed out and a little more sympathetic?

And yes, I realize in these books that the plot is not central to periods.Yet in two of these texts pregnancy is mentioned as a main plot point,  (Peeta’s fake baby with Katniss in the second book, Bella and Edwards crazy demon spawn in their fourth book) and sex happens in all four (Peeta and Katniss have kids, everyone in Harry Potter has kids, everyone in Twilight gets some and Four and Tris get it on a bit too before Tris… y’know…), pregnancy is actually very much linked to the menstrual cycle and ovulation and all that fun stuff that a body can do, yet in all the texts I can only remember Bella going on about how she missed her period, and that was like a page in the fourth book. All of these texts are by female authors. They cannot even pull the card of not knowing. One line from Katniss would make a million young adult women feel closer to her than before. It does not take much for someone to feel represented, and we have consistently spoken about how much representation matters.

Society feels completely comfortable with texts about children killing each other, society turning in on itself and creating mindless armies, an immortal vampire in forbidden (and tbh a little bit creepy) love with a mortal, and teenagers having to go against authority, the government, and their own families to save the world. Yet in these worlds of dystopia, futurism, mythology, and magic the idea of a woman talking about her period is out of place. So when writing a text like The Shore Girl, or This One Summer. we can see female authors telling stories about real life female young adults. This can totally apply to them too. I brought it up in class about Caution, and it has just sort of been stewing in my mind ever since. I guess I had a lot more to say and I did not want to take up any more class time 😉

Menstruation matters because it happens. It will happen to you or someone you know and that sounds very threatening to type, but it’s just a fact of life. Homeless women deal with it without any products. Women in developing nations are kept from school and work because of their periods. Women with medical conditions and eating disorders sometimes do not get them for months at a time. Women can go through such immense pain that they are kept from school and work here. Considering most of this class is female, I would say that we all have stories to share.

Thank you for taking the time to read!

-Chloe G

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