My favorite book in high school was The Great Gatsby. True story. I think my love for Fitzgerald was born because my English teacher was emphatically in love with the flowing writing style of the American author. Plus, there was something mysteriously heartbreaking about a grown man trying to relive the past, only to find his dreams dashed and broken in the end.
I loved Gatsby. I loved Daisy. I loved the classics. Sadly, I doubt many of my students share the same love for literature I had. So in my quest to read what I think teenagers are into, I finished three books within these past two weeks: The Outsiders, Speak, and 13 Reasons Why. Why those three? Well, the Hinton classic is a required summer reading book for the incoming freshman, and I needed a refresher on Pony Boy and his coming of age. Speak was one I always saw on the library shelf but never had the time to actually borrow, sit, and read. And 13 Reasons? There is so much controversy surrounding that novel, I had to know what it was all about before coming to any definitive conclusion about the tale.
Lets just say, after reading all three books, my heart is heavy. Incredibly heavy.
Bullying. Rape. Violent fights. In all three books, the protagonists all share one similarity: they were forced to undergo extremely physically and emotionally stressful situations, and as a result, found themselves speechless and without a voice. Actually, “stressful” is not even the best adjective to describe what Pony Boy, Hannah, and Melinda had to endure. I can’t even begin to think of an appropriate word that could encompass all the drama these individuals endured.
And to think, high school students are going through these exact situations.
Feeling unable to voice his or her true feelings.
Feeling stuck in a situation with no way out.
Feeling torn between friendships.
Feeling like no one can be trusted.
It’s a lot for a sixteen, seventeen, or even thirty-eight-year-old person like me to endure.
As I pray and prepare for the upcoming school year (yes, it’s never too early to think about it!!), I am reminded that I am in a high school classroom for a reason. Maybe I can be that one adult, that one person, a sophomore feels comfortable talking to about her fears about deteriorating friendships. Maybe I can be that one teacher a freshman confides in about his depressing thoughts or feelings of inadequacy.
Maybe I can be that ray of hope or light in one person’s life.
Every morning I open up my devotional and ask God what it is He wants me to pray about. Good weather? Good health? More often than not, it’s the students. It is a prayer for the upcoming adolescent kids who have their whole lives before them. It is a prayer that they will be filled with expectant wonder in all they learn. It is a prayer that these teens will be protected by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that during times of trial and strife, they can seek Him for peace and guidance.
It is a prayer that my daily actions, my words, my demeanor, will highlight the joy of Christ and be a blessing to them.
I am done reading those three novels, and am wondering what my next reading choices will be. What are some books you think are great representations of what teenagers are going through right now? Comment below!