I’ve stated before on this blog that I’ve been interested in young adult literature for a very long time, but I had never studied the genre in depth or looked a young adult novel very critically until a few years ago. I was lucky enough to attend a high school offering a class called Teen Literature. It was so exciting exciting to finally read (and even re-read) books that I was actually passionate about in a classroom setting. Books like Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson. It goes without saying that to have a class on teen literature, there needed to be someone just as passionate about the genre to teach it. And also by my incredible luck, that teacher was my school’s own, Christine Fry.
Mrs. Fry was one of my favorite teachers in high school. I remember choosing classes simply because she was teaching them. She was one of the first teachers to really listen to me and help me come out of my shell. I was extremely happy when she agreed to do this interview with me. Not only would I get to find out what a teacher really thought about young adult literature, but I also got to visit one of my favorite people in the universe.
“Phillipe Dumass!” she smiled and greeted me as I walked into room 210, just as I did four years ago. She made up the nickname for me because I was remembered for changing my chosen name quite often, and she could never remember what the current choice was. I looked around the small room. Plastered on the walls were posters created by students, depicting scenes from young adult novels. Crank by Ellen Hopkins, Looking For Alaska, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson were popular, it seemed. Classic READ posters were also scattered around, and on one side of the room sat the book cabinet, containing textbooks for English 10 and 11, and Teen Literature. I sat down at one of the desks. It was like sitting in a time capsule.
She took a seat next to me and we got started right away. She had a meeting to go and I couldn’t stay for long.
DC: “What made you want to teach a literature class, Mrs. Fry?”
CF: “Well, I have always loved reading and learning through the events in books. I think it’s fun to see how each person who reads a book learns different lessons.”
I thought about that for a second. It’s one of the great things about literature, that everyone who reads the same book can take something different out of it.
DC: “How to you feel about teaching Young Adult literature to high school students?”
CF: “I think it’s vital. Students love the literature because it is relevant to them. It’s amazing. Whether the student is taking honors, regular, or special ed. classes, they tend to look at the books and identify with the characters. It truly is a class which reaches out to every teen.”
DC: “And how difficult is it to get a diverse group of students into reading?”
CF: “It depends. I think if you find the right books, and if you pair the books up with fun activities, articles, and discussions, it isn’t hard at all.”
DC:“Very true. Personally, what is your favorite Young Adult novel?”
She tapped a finger on her chin.
CF: “Hmmm… This is unbelievably difficult. If I had to pick only one: Twisted by Anderson.”
DC: “I remember that book. I didn’t really like it, actually. It might have been my least favorite of the entire class.”
CF: “Really? You disliked a book from my class? Ugh, I’m disappointed in you, Phillipe.”
DC: “I’m sorry. I am. Haha. Um, which novels are your favorites to teach?”
CF: “Shooter and Twisted, but I really like them all. Those two are just very interactive.”
DC:“Why did you choose to teach Young Adult literature?”
CF: “I love YA literature, therefore, it is easy and fun to teach.”
DC: “Have you ever come across a book that you wanted to teach, that you felt was important for your teens to read, but found out it was banned? Or have you ever had a different personal experience with banned books?”
CF: “I have taught books that were banned in various other districts, but not ours. My philosophy has always been that students learn from literature and to see them choosing to read is the most important thing. I look at my own children, and I would rather them read than not read. In our school, we cannot read books that are not approved by the curriculum review board.”
DC: “Do you read YA literature in your free time?”
CF: “Yes…It isn’t the only thing I read…but it is what I read most.”
DC: “So, do you think YA literature is for everyone?”
CF: “Absolutely. It would really keep older people in touch with how young adults feel.”
DC: “What would you say to someone who says that YA literature isn’t “real” literature, or who says it’s ‘just for kids?’”
CF: “They obviously haven’t read YA literature lately. They should pick up Shooter by Walter Dean Myers and see the allusions, imagery, similes, symbols, figurative language, and the many other devices that are in the novel. There is so much more to YA literature than just a plot for young people.”
DC: “Is there anything else you would like to add?”
CF: “I hope your classes are going well, Phillipe. And I hope you keep reading.”
DC: “I’m trying to. Haha. But I meant about YA lit.”
CF: “Ah, well, you should be out there promoting it as much as you can. Everyone should read something for young adults.”
DC: “Thank you, Mrs. Fry. I will do that.”
And with that, our short interview ended. The most interesting thing was finding out my former teacher’s favorite young adult books.