Current English novels don’t meet modern standard

Stephanie Henry, Reporter

Students in English classes read these titles from freshman to senior year.

I love English and always have; I enjoy reading the articles and even writing essays.The only thing I don’t always love — in fact, usually hate — are the novels. While I’ve read a few that I enjoyed, and even might pick up again  in the future, there have been more that I wish I never had to read.

Freshman year I had to stop the novel I was reading for enjoyment to force myself through “Great Expectations.” I honestly did not understand that book at all. Everyday we would have in-class discussions about the book and everyday I left thinking two things. “When did that happen?” even though I did all my reading. And, “The book sounds good again!” Then I’d pick it up and all possible enjoyment left along with any free time to read the books I wanted to read.

Last school year, I had to read the worst book ever: “Cold Mountain.” It was immoral tedious, long, boring, and confusing. The plot was simple, seen from the two protagonists point of views. But it was the plot that made it so boring. Half of the chapters were about a girl sitting at home, moping, and wishing for her boyfriend who’s at war to come back home.  The other half were about a young man walking through the woods day in and day out for months to get home to this moping girl. And then there were the long flashbacks every few pages (each several pages long). During that unit, I forced myself through hours of what I saw, and still see, as the worst book, hating every single second of it. When that book was finally, finally over, the last thing I wanted to do was read. Anything. Ever.

The same thing happened this year during “Scarlet Letter.” I didn’t want to force myself through the horribly dry and boring plot, I wanted to read anything, absolutely anything else (except for Cold Mountain).

My list of English novels that I hated sharply outnumber the ones that I enjoyed. There has only been one book from each year of English since eighth grade that I would even consider rereading. “To Kill a Mockingbird” (eighth), “Night” (freshman), “Lord of the Flies” (sophomore), and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (junior). Four books, one for each year of English.

Like I said, I love reading, It’s my favorite pastime, but whenever I’m handed a new English novel I usually end up doing two things. I put it off as long as I can, reading the novels that I like and actually want to read. Then, about a week before the test, I realize that I haven’t even started my homework, so I put aside the book that I’m reading (even if I’m halfway through) and force myself through the book. The only exceptions were the books listed above. Then, after the book is done and its test is completed, I tend not to read — even if the book I was reading before is halfway done — for several days. I simply don’t want to read anymore.

And that brings me to my point. Why does English have to ruin reading? I have a whole list of books and authors that I love. Books like “Harry Potter,” “Septimus Heap,” “Leven Thumps,” “Dragon Slippers,” “Magic Thief,” and “Matched.” What makes these books different from “Great Expectations,” “Grapes of Wrath,” “Animal Farm,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “Scarlet Letter,” and “Cold Mountain?” I see two reasons.
One, all of the books that I love have been written in the past ten years. The language and dialogue are simpler, more natural, and shorter. The books themselves probably aren’t that much shorter than the English novels, but the sentences are. That was one of the things I hated about “Great Expectations.” By the time I finished his sentence, I had forgotten what had happened at the beginning of it.

Two, I have never been forced to read any of these books. Each one of them I either chose to pick up myself or someone recommended them to me. None of them were forced on me. I have wasted many “free reading” times reading English homework instead, my “free reading” was “forced reading.”

The thing I love most about the books I pick up and read for pure pleasure is how easy it is for me to become part of the book. Almost every English novel I have read was hard to get into and I could never really picture what was happening or care about the characters. I just couldn’t care.

If the English curriculum included newer books, maybe even already popular books, I know that I’d enjoy the novels a lot more. Chances are that I might even find a new book to add to my favorite lists. Books like “Harry Potter,” or “Hunger Games;” books that are already popular, ones that high school students actually enjoy should be the sort of books that students read in English.