Teen Read Week: Seek the Unknown with Paranormal Stories

TRW_logo_Teen Read Week is from October 13th to the 19th and the theme is “Seek the Unknown.” Right in time for Halloween and the spooky season of autumn, I’m focusing specifically on the genre of the paranormal.

Paranormal is defined as anything beyond normal explanation. The genre of the paranormal involves creatures, ideas, and other horrors unexplainable by science or reason. It also addresses themes such as supernatural phenomena and superstition. Paranormal stories leave you with a sense of unease and endless questions of “what if.”

My favorite literary works from the paranormal genre are actually short stories and poems. I feel that short stories and poems capture the essence of the paranormal better than novels because they are as short lived as the paranormal experiences themselves. The poems and short stories of Edgar Allan Poe are among my favorites in the paranormal genre.

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illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite paranormal story.

Edgar Allan Poe is by far one of my most beloved poets. His dark themes and imagery make for the ideal paranormal story. In my opinion, “The Black Cat” is the most frightening piece I have ever read by Poe. The short story is centered around an unnamed narrator. The narrator has been fond of animals all his life. He and his wife own several pets, including a large black cat named Pluto. The narrator and Pluto get along amicably and they are very fond of one another. Everything is going well until the narrator becomes an alcoholic, and in a fit of rage and confusion, he gouges the eyes of his beloved pet. Pluto then becomes afraid of the narrator and in another fit of rage, the narrator hangs the cat from a tree. In the middle of the night, the narrator’s house burns down and he comes back the next day to collect his belongings, only to find a depiction of Pluto in a noose on the wall. He disregards this and moves on with his life. He later finds a cat like Pluto in a tavern, they are identical in every way but one: this cat has a white patch on his black fur. The narrator soon begins to resent the animal and also begins to notice that at times the white patch on the cat resembles the gallows. The cat and the narrator’s relationship goes from unpleasant to unmatched. The cat attempts to trip the narrator so he would fall down stairs so, the narrator attempts to kill the cat and the story only progresses even more paranormally from there!

-Sarah B., 12th grade

Book List: Books for a Roadtrip

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photo by flickr user Tim Lucas

Most of us have been stuck in a car or a plane for an extended period of time. Maybe your family is driving to another state. Or maybe you want a good book to read by the pool. Either way, the books you choose to bring with you matter. Earlier this summer, I drove to Palm Desert with my family, and chose the following books to read on during the vacation.wrinkle_in_time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a book I read when I was younger. I’d always liked the odd, sci-fi aspect of the story, but after rereading it, I fell in love all over again! As a diehard science fiction fan, A Wrinkle in Time is sci-fi gold. The main character is a girl named Meg whose father works for the government as a scientist. When he disappears, she and her siblings look into what their father was working on when he vanished. Meg finds that he was working on a project about something called a tesseraect (a geometric figure used for space and time travel that’s also been referenced in The Avengers). Meg, her youngest brother, and a misfit boy from Meg’s school travel through space and time to find Meg’s father.

childhoods_end_coverChildhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke is targeted to have an older audience. It isn’t exactly young adult literature, but it is a phenomenal story about an alien invasion in the late 20th century. The humans begin calling these creatures, which remain in their spaceships, overlords. The book itself has an odd format; it has three parts, no main character, and is written in third person omniscient. It’s an excellent book to read because you get to discover the mysteries of the overlords along with the rest of the human race.

uglies_coverUglies by Scott Westerfeld is about a fifteen year old girl named Tally Youngblood. It is set three hundred years in the future, and on your sixteenth birthday, you get an operation so that you can be pretty. Tally only wants to become a pretty and live where all of the beautiful people are. However, her friend decides she doesn’t want the operation and escapes to the wild. Tally is given an ultimatum: help a secret branch of government locate her friend and the rest of the runaways and bring them back or stay ugly forever. Tally embarks on a journey that changes her views of the world, and ultimately, her future.

Each of these books are considered science fiction, and even if you don’t care for sci-fi, these books are incredibly well written.

-Madison M., 12th grade

Top 5 Coming-of-Age Novels

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photo by flickr user Justin Henry

Coming-of-age novels are written primarily for children ranging from middle school to college and they tell of those times. Coming-of-age novels have influenced and shaped my life more than any other novels and they are essential reading because they can do that! There is a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald which exemplifies the essence of coming of age novels:

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”

I believe that this quote exemplifies themes present in coming of age novels because coming-of-age novels reassure the reader that they are not alone and that there are others who have been through what they have been through and they also open the reader’s eyes to new experiences and ultimately help prepare them for life.

Here are 5 of my favorite coming of age novels!

perks_cover1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
“Perks” was the novel that got me interested in other coming-of-age novels. The book was inspired by both The Catcher in The Rye and A Separate Peace. The story is told through letters between the main character Charlie and an anonymous correspondent. It tells of Charlie’s freshmen year of high school. Charlie is extremely anxious about high school because he has no friends, but he soon befriends Sam and Patrick who help him to have the full high school experience. Throughout the year, Charlie learns a lot about himself and reveals his darkest secret.

separate_peace_cover2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A Separate Peace takes place during WWII in a boarding school and is about two friends Phineas (“Finny”) and Gene. Phineas and Gene are polar opposites but they become friends nonetheless. After an accident that takes place between them, Gene learns a lot about Finny and abut life but ends up losing himself.

catcher_in_the_rye_cover3. The Catcher in The Rye by, J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in The Rye revolves around the life of Holden Caulfield. Holden deals with feelings of alienation and angst throughout the entire novel. He thinks that everyone is a phony and cannot find anything worthwhile in the world. He denounces adulthood and longs to revert back to childhood where everything is pure.

kind_of_a_funny_story_cover4. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is centered around the life of Craig. Craig is overwhelmed with life and cannot bear it any longer so he checks himself into the hospital afraid that he might hurt himself. While in the hospital, Craig meets people who change him and after being discharged from the hospital he learned that he does want to live and that he wants to live life to its fullest.

fault_in_our_stars_cover5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
TFiOs is about Hazel and Augustus: two teens struggling with cancer who fall in love. The story progresses as their health declines. It depicts the trials and tribulations of their complicated relationship.

-Sarah B., 12th grade