Unreliable Narrators, Part 2

29 04 2010

Confession #1: I realized after my last post that I have not mentioned the one major gap in my reading. I’ll confess, I haven’t read that many adult books. Especially the classics. I mean, I probably read more adult books as a teenager than I do now, mostly because the young adult section of my library did not actually exist when I was a teenager. And now my focus is so much on teen and children’s books, that I don’t read many new adult books–unless I’ve been reading that author since my teenage years.

Confession #2: I am addicted to Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series, which is soon to be a new TV show on ABC Family. I think that may be more embarrassing than my lack of education in the classics. I mean, I have to tell you–I hate this series. I hate the characters, they are MEAN! Without exception. The parents are exceedingly cruel to their children, the four main characters are mean girls, hiding things from each other for their own gain (and a little out of embarrassment and fear of retribution) and the girl who died (not really a spoiler, we find out about this early in the first book) was the queen of mean. I’m not really sure if these books have any redeeming qualities–and yet I keep reading them! I think it’s the mystery (which I swear I’ve solved!) that keeps me reading the books. I mean, how will I know if I’m right if I stop reading now?

Anyway, I was reading Flawless, the second book in the series when I happened upon a particular passage. An English teacher is giving an assignment to one of the girls–a side project on unreliable narrators in literature. He says: “Well, the narrator tells us the story in a book, right? But what if…the narrator isn’t telling us the truth? Maybe he’s telling his skewed version of the story to get you on his side. Or to scare you. Or maybe he’s crazy!” (p. 123) That’s what I’ve been talking about, Mr. Fictional Teacher Man! That stopped me in my tracks. Aside from the fact that this is probably a clue in the series, given by our omniscient narrator, it made me realize–what am I missing by just reading teen books? How many adult books, maybe even classics, have I not read that might be relevant to these teen books I’m reading now? How can I recommend similar books to teens if I haven’t read them? How can I even claim to be an expert on books?

Answer: I don’t claim to be an expert on books, though I do know a hell of a lot about teen books. Knowing what you don’t know is the first step to learning more. So, I’m still looking for adult books with unreliable narrators. Anyone?

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