TEEN GUEST REVIEWS: Teens Take on the Classics

We have one more round of teen guest reviews in honor of Teen Read Week! Of course teens (or any BCPL patron or blog reader!) is always welcome to submit a guest review at any time. You can contact me at [email protected] for details.

In the meantime, here are reviews of two literary classics from local teens!

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Reviewer: Denise
Denise’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romanticism
Audience: Adult
Summary: In 17th century Boston, Hester Prynne, a young Puritan woman, is accused of adultery and ostracized after conceiving a child outside of her marriage. Hester refuses to name her lover despite pressure from her husband, who hides his true identity from the rest of the community and becomes obsessed with getting revenge against Hester’s lover.

Denise’s Review: Nathaniel Hawthorne, an author known for a few classics (The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables) surely spent vigorous hours in the process of writing The Scarlet Letter as he takes space in his pages to describe in great detail one or two objects at a time. Based in Puritan times, Hester Prynne lives out her life, looked down upon for committing adultery. Hester besides raising Pearl, her daughter from the sin, does a lot for the town. By the end of the novel a lot of secrets are revealed. The book as a whole, I strongly recommend for high school students only.

Extra: Tracy’s Thoughts: I actually read this book in 7th grade at the behest of a friend who LOVED it. I was a bit less enthusiastic, but I did enjoy it though much of it probably went over my head. By the time I was in high school and it became assigned reading, I was better able to appreciate the rich symbolism of the book, especially in relation to the guilt felt by Hester’s secret lover. Of course, the overt emphasis on symbolism tends to detract from character development, as Henry James famously pointed out in his essay “Hawthorne”:

The faults of the book are, to my sense, a want of reality and an abuse of the fanciful element–of a certain superficial symbolism. The people strike me not as characters, but as representatives, very picturesquely arranged, of a single state of mind; and the interest of the story lies, not in them, but in the situation, which is insistently kept before us….

Personally, I love layered books that are brimming with symbolism. However, rich, multi-dimensional characterizations are often the key element to my very favorite books, as I have noted in several previous reviews. And though it’s been a while since I picked up The Scarlet Letter, I must agree with James that the characters are a bit flat. Perhaps that is why I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about this particular classic.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reviewer: C.W., Age 16
C.W.’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Coming-of-Age Story/Southern Gothic
Audience: Adult/YA Crossover

Summary: In this classic tale of courage and morality in a small, Southern town, a young tomboy tells the  story of the summer her father defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. This is a  powerful look at discrimination and an emotional exploration of human instinct, as viewed  through the eyes of a child.

C.W.’s Review: I did like reading this. It was told from the eyes of Jem and Scout, which is different from what you normally read from the perspective of an adult. I had to ask my mom about some of the storyline because it was written around some subjects I didn’t understand at first, because I am 16 and didn’t live through them. It was easy to read, and it was surprisingly well made into a movie.

So… that is our teen take on two popular classics, with a brief interjection from me. Now we’re wondering, what it your opinion of the featured titles?
Source: Book News and Reviews