Teen Me reviews “The Handmaid’s Tale”

I’m having a little fun with a new blog series of “Teen Me Reviews” where I rehash how I felt about a book when I was a teenager and compare it to how I feel about it now as a grown up…

Teen Heather’s reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale:

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Oh my gawd, this book is soooooo boring! Nothing happens. Why doesn’t Offred leave? Why doesn’t Offred fight? Why isn’t this book about Moira? She’s way more interesting. Moira actually rebels and escapes and tries to resist the cruel regime. Offred does nothing except what she’s told to do. I don’t like Offred. I do not care about Offred. I do not care about how many beautiful metaphors are in this novel’s prose. Is my English teacher trying to torture me?

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Dear Teen Me,

No, your English teacher is not trying to torture you, she’s just following a curriculum that dictates you learn about metaphors and similes and analogies. Would English be more interesting if the class discussed Atwood’s depiction of a dystopian patriarchal society? Sure. Would you have liked the book better if you talked about its social significance? Probably not.

Because you just don’t enjoy literary fiction.

BookCover-Handmaid'sTaleMargaret Atwood is a brilliant writer and Canada’s literary pride, and it pains me to confess we don’t love her books. You will spend years fighting with people that tell you that you just don’t “get” these books and only super smart people understand literary fiction. Despite your straight A’s, you will wonder if this is true… are you stupid? No. You just have different taste in books. That’s all. There’s nothing wrong with this (to each their own, right?), but people will still try to make you feel bad about it. And it hurts because you want to be smart and sophisticated – after all, once you finish high school, you’re moving to the big city! But you’re not sophisticated and you hate literary fiction. You like blockbuster movies and teen TV of the supernatural genre. You want action! You want proactive protagonists! You want a goddamn resolution! (You will never forgive Atwood for not telling readers what happened to Offred, no matter how much you disliked her character.) But literary fiction does not promise these things. In fact, it seems to purposefully withhold them to piss you off. But you only think that now because you’re a self-involved teenager. No one is trying to piss you off, they’re just writing books in a genre you don’t enjoy.

But guess what? There are lots of genres you do enjoy: mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, Young Adult, etc. And outside of school, you can read whatever you want, though when you’re grown up some will still mock you for reading “teen lit.” You don’t care. You’ll take Katniss over Offred any day.

So chin up! High school doesn’t last forever. And don’t let English class ruin your love of reading. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must finish the Legend trilogy – I’m dying to know what happens!

Sincerely,

Adult Heather

Up Next from Heather (on Monday)… More writing craft! I talk about Character Motivation and two common story tropes that lack it.

Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a cartoon screenwriter, YA novelist, small town fugitive, and late-blooming gymnast. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

11 thoughts on “Teen Me reviews “The Handmaid’s Tale””

  1. I love this post. You put it so well – better than I did, anyway! I think that’s the thing – the want to feel smart and sophisticated. Except it means denying who you really are, which is much more important, and so you just have to stick up a proverbial finger to anyone or anything that makes you feel inferior for your supposed “less than intelligent” book choice! As you say, each to their own! 😉

  2. Ha ha! Visiting from SundayBlogPost. Recently re-read a diary by Anais Nin, that’d I’d read in high school. How could I have missed that it was all about sex? Wishing you many happy exciting reads, that you can revisit in another couple of decades.

    1. Thanks! I had the same reaction to Romeo & Juliet when I saw it performed about a decade after high school – how did I miss that this play is funny? (Probably had a lot to do with my teacher who taught that it was a true love story and not a ridiculous tragedy.) Shakespeare is taking the piss out of Romeo! Instalove is for chumps! I appreciate Shakespeare so much more now. Maybe the same will happen with other stories.

      Glad you dropped by from #SundayBlogPost!

  3. Oh, this is grand—even for someone who could eat up literary fiction with a spoon. I don’t think I’d have liked it much as a younger person, but Atwood’s work came along at just the right point in my life for me to really like it.

    But I do still prefer the monsters and the YA and the genre fiction, as a general rule.

      1. It’s possible. I’ve spent so many years reading almost nothing but literary fiction that I’m enjoying the seedier side of literature these days. 🙂

  4. Well, this certainly looks fun. You’ve nailed this one, I think. I CAN read literary fiction and have read some that I love, but mostly, I’d rather be reading other things. Things with monsters and such. And definitely don’t want to be writing it.

    This is a nice feature!

    1. Thanks, Gene’O! I prefer monsters too. And that’s the joy of having a diverse publishing industry – books for all types of people! I’m just so grateful my mom got me reading at a young age. If my introduction to reading had been in English class I might not be the reader (and writer) I am today.

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