Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Cider House Rules, by John Irving

Fantastic. Can I give it six stars? To me, this is exactly what young adult literature should be, except it never will be, because the idea of teenagers reading books about other teenagers dealing with actual, real teenage issues in a way that is not soft-focus or whitewashed or pulling its punches makes a lot of adults really, really uncomfortable. I mean no, I would probably not give it to my middle schooler as there is some pretty frank discussion of sex, abortion, & rape/incest (& a fair number of f-bombs), but having taught high school for many years, I don't think it's in any way beyond what most teens in the say 15+ range can handle (though obviously all kids are different, so it's a bit of a judgment call).

In spite of the sobering topics that it treats, the book isn't really about those things. At its heart, it's an absolutely beautifully written story about love (friendship, romantic, parental), finding one's place/"belonging," rules (of all kinds--explicit, unspoken, laws, etc.), and who gets to make what kinds of decisions for who, based on what, and why. Beautiful, meaningful, and tragically sweet in a thousand different ways.

Seriously. I put this one up there with Uncle Tom's Cabin and the like--everyone should have to read it and that's just all there is to it.

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