Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sharing Time

Bedrooms. Desserts. Boyfriends. There are just some things in life that are not meant to be shared. Case in point: It's Spring Break right now, and vacation lodging plans usually entail the Cheerleader and I stuck squished into a queen sized bed. Not terribly comfortable, seeing as though she seems to practice her moves in her sleep (and I've got a sore spot on my shoulder to prove it). While my sister and I are reasonably close, and in fact, a lot closer than some of the other pairs of siblings we know, we don't really share that much, other than interesting gossip pertaining to celebrities we love, and well-meant hair/ makeup tips(the sporadic "boy, your hair sure looks awful today"s not included). However, after the disastrous elbow-to-neck-at-3:00am incident, we did manage to find a better way of sharing this week: I traded her Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle for the first two installments of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series, Pretty Little Liars and Flawless. It seemed to work out for the both of us (and with a bedroom to myself now, we seem to be on better terms, as well). I have to hurry up now, because she wants to check her Facebook, and she's probably going to hover over my shoulder until I let her. Anyways, the trade did work out really well. I've actually been pressing her to read Howl's Moving Castle for some time now, seeing as though we both happen to share a penchant for Miyazaki, and that specific movie of his is one of our favorites. She enjoyed the book, but she is one of those people who is just so trained on fast-paced soap-opera-esque drama books that she kept leaning over and asking what was going to happen next, if this person was this, or whatever. Apparently, I need to hurry up, because she says that if I don't, then she's going to implode, and then she'll "never learn how to drive." (she just got her learner's, by the way). I really enjoyed the Pretty Little Liars books. I haven't really had much interest in them before now, and haven't been following the television series, but I do have enough of an interest in teen-girl magazines to know the basic plot. However, even with that minor exposure, I still managed to find a few discrepancies between television and print. But not enough to make me dislike it, or get me confused. Honestly, I don't like that many dramatic YA novels, but this series is pretty cool. And the benefit of my coming into the series at this point is that not only is it already over, so I can read them closer together, but the Cheerleader has already collected them all for me. :) Happy Spring Break, even if it is winding down for most of us now. My sister needs to use the computer.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reprint City

So, I definitely tell most people that I'm Co-Editor-in-Chief of our school paper, mostly because I'm proud of my job, and I feel that the work I produce is pretty good (yes, that is my minor ego flaring up a bit, but don't you need a bit of an ego to have a blog anyways?). And while there has been some definite drama raging in the Journalism room recently, I remain a solid supporter of our staff and their work, which is why I've been throwing myself with a little more force into my work recently (and Nancy seems to be, once more, suffering for it. Do you think that when my teacher says, 6 pages, double spaced, she'd be okay with a 10-pager? Because I suck at revising, and that's where I'm at right now). Anways, one of the topics I write about for our newspaper is frequently books, obviously, because it just so happens to be a subject I'm fluent in. The only reason I'm mentioning this is because my Dad is getting tired of my infrequent posts, and feels that I should spread my work to a wider audience by supplementing my withering blog with the articles I submit to the paper.

So, here's my stuff. Or, at least, one of them. (But be forewarned: Obviously, I write a little differently for my peers). Enjoy.

Building a Booklist for Summer
[submitted for the May issue, being released April 28].

You may be trying to get ahead of the competition. You may be looking to escape from present uninteresting circumstances. You may be under the jurisdiction of another overpowering party. Honestly, there are plenty of reasons why you might be induced to pick up a book this summer (or an eReader, whatever). However, the real problem that always seems to accompany the pleasure (or threat, depending on your scenario) of reading, is figuring out what you are supposed to read.

It is clear enough if there is an actual list. This is classified as the “Teacher Told Me To” approach. Either the school supplies you with a catalog of books they expect you to choose from, or an especially industrious teacher hand-selects a few for the class to explore themselves. Regardless, the books you end up with, by applying through this approach, tend to be the classics. There isn’t anything wrong with that. Classics are celebrated, time-treasured pieces of literature: they are famous because they are great, and popular; not just because some nut named Dickens or Austen sat down at a typewriter two hundred years ago and said, “I’m going to write a book that will be inflicted upon the developing minds of adolescents two hundred years from now!” No. Dickens is known for his enduring comic characters, and celebration of the downtrodden hero, in books like Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol. Austen is known for her expertly crafted romances, which find new love with every passing generation, in books like Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Emma (and, in this generation at least, she also seems to be well known for her zombies). So heed your teachers. The books they pass under your discerning eye may actually be worth something more than the opportunity to say that you actually read one. (And, as always, make sure you get your assigned summer reading done on time. Trust me: summer is much more fun with a clean conscience and a light backpack).

Other ways of pursuing a serious lit-fix is by being adventurous. Summer is a time of freedom, without restrictions, and without people judging you by the kind of stuff you read. So, go ahead, pull out a couple of girly, frou-frou, romance-y novels. I promise I won’t tell. Or maybe steal a couple of those cool non-fiction biographies or science books off of your Dad’s library shelf; we won’t call you a nerd. All closet biblio-freaks are safe during the summertime. This is a better time than any to satisfy your fluffy, sugary Young Adult novel sweet-tooth than any other. No one can chastise you for your choice of literary sustenance from the comfort of your own home, so have at it!

Or maybe your idea of an adventure is fulfilling a quest, like they do in those books you read when no one else is looking (just kidding, fantasy books are awesome!). Setting a cool theme for books to pursue can make for a really interesting activity, and may even turn out to be a major accomplishment. For instance, are you a huge spy movie fan? Then you may already know that the character of James Bond was based off of a series of books by Ian Fleming. Reading a few of those may give you a closer insight into the film series! The same goes for all films based off of movies, like the Lord of the Rings series, the Harry Potter series, or the Twilight series (once again, we’re not judging), so maybe it’s time you read some of them, instead of just appreciating the cinematography. Or, why not go for the whole box office list? Some of the most loved movies of all time emerged from library shelves. The Princess Bride: William Goldman. The Godfather: Mario Puzo. Geez, you could make a blog out of this thing… now wouldn’t that be a way to get into your next year’s English teacher’s good graces?

The moral of this story is, good reading material can come from anywhere. You just have to give it a chance, and maybe do a little hunting, until you can find books that will really interest you. The best part is, I can already read you the Epilogue: it ends with you, spending your summertime lost in the pages of books, but emerging having found a true treasure: Knowledge. (Now wasn’t that nice?) So go have fun.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three.

It doesn't take that much of a roadbump to send me in to full-on crisis mode.

Take, for instance, pretty much every school project I've ever worked on. If I am assigned a certain task, I do not hesitate to turn that task - easily manageable and forthright it may be - into a full-on, Broadway-style production number. In the third grade, a report on Egypt included the construction of a 2 foot by 2 foot pyramid, inscribed with the hieroglyphic symbols for "Here lies the Queen of Plastic" (for, you see, a mummified Barbie dwelled inside the tomb). In a report on France, in the 5th grade, I printed out an eight page newspaper, with articles detailing the history of the country, as well as current news, like entertainment and food. I also served the class madeleine cookies to go alongside (I think the idea was like they were at a French Cafe, or something). Anyways, I have always been a perfectionist, and this annoying obsession seems to go hand-in-hand with trying to outperform everyone's expectations all the time. Obviously, the results are not always that spectacular.

The good news is, I think I've begun to get this certain compulsion under reasonable control. The bad news is, it seems to pop up again at the most inopportune times. Like, how in preparing for my Nancy Drew research paper, I almost completely forgot to prepare for the SATs this past Saturday.

Before you go gasping, and shaking a reprimanding index finger at me, I'll have you know that it was only my first time, and that I WAS prepared for it. I've done the vocabulary, I know the test-taking skills, I've done practice essays... just not terribly recently. It seems that a certain supersleuth has sucked me away from the work on which I should be focusing. However, it is totally okay, and I'm sure my score will turn out fine. My mom already told me that I'm going to be taking every SAT test possible until I earn the fabled 2400, and I wasn't going to hit that number on the first try, now was I?

You might be wondering why I am dwelling so long on some inane standardized test, but I promise that I have a good reason: Departure from the Nancy Drew disease led me to the first non-Nancy books I've read in almost a month. The first, being a belatedly applied SAT prep book, Princeton Review's Cracking the SATs, was decent, and had a few good test-taking strategies in a comprehensive format, and was therefore of no use to me when I rediscovered it under a month-old layer of dust, leaning dejectedly against the side of my bookshelf.

The second, however, was a library book, Robin Wasserman's Hacking Harvard, a book that a friend of mine has been trying to get me to read since around the eighth grade. Incredibly comical, truthful to the stress and competitive spirit associated with college choices, and reasonably well-rounded, with stealthy super-spy "hacks" and romance coexisting side-by-side, I liked it. While the middle did get a little boring and drawn out, it was pretty fun. As someone going through the experience of having to choose colleges, and freaking about taking all the standardized tests you can possibly shove down a person's throat, I felt it was pretty cool. The style of writing, as well as some of the personalities present in the book, reminded me a little of John Green's novels, too. Which is cool, because I love John Green's novels.

So, anyways, I let go of my precious research materials for a few days, so I could fling myself out and scramble to catch an SAT preparation guide, as well as a novel about the stresses of college applications. What a relaxing vacation. Luckily, late starts for school, due to HSPE testing, mean I didn't have to show up to school today until 10:20 am. Same goes for tomorrow, too. Maybe I can squeeze in another Nancy Drew before my notes are due on Friday. :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Further Adventures with Nancy Drew

The passion I have for Nancy Drew books is definitely showing in my research habits. I've got half of my annotated bibliography done, I have a sturdy working outline, and I still have a multitude of sources to sort through... and I totally love it. Total absorption in a topic spawns hard work, which, in turn, results in quite possibly the best research paper ever. Or at least, that's what I'm aiming for. :)

However, while I am investing so much time in my topic, I find that the people around me aren't able to get nearly as much out of their's. My friend B, for instance, finally got around to actually choosing his topic, deciding to study Economic Success as a Result of Fame, or something, with a subject focus specifically hightlighting the Kardashian Family. Last week, he asked the teacher if he would be able to use their TV shows as one of his main sources. Another good friend of mine, A, is simply pursuing her topic, Book Banning in Public Libraries, because she thought it would be easy, and partially because I had told her I had gotten an A+ with that topic last year.

Meanwhile, they have to put up with me freaking out every time I find something interesting about the teenage sleuth in one of my sources. :)

It's a pretty good deal. I mean, I get to study a topic that I'm truly interested in, and its all for a grade. However, it is a little sad when I realize that not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for my topic. Take, for instance, my sister, The Cheerleader. I wanted to get a good look at how Nancy Drew is represented in various forms of media, rather than just the book series, so I've been doing things like looking up songs about her (there are several, if anyone wants to know), and watching some of the Nancy Drew movies and TV shows. Last night, The Cheerleader and I were watching the 2007 Emma Roberts version of Nancy Drew, and my sister asked a question about 10 minutes into the movie that completely threw me for a loop.

Nancy and her father, Carson, were leaving for California, and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, runs out of the house, to give them some snacks for the road. It was at this point that The Cheerleader asks, "Wait. Does Nancy Drew have a MAID?"

I responded, "Housekeeper. Hannah Gruen. Don't you remember her from the books?"

She shrugged. "I've never read any of them."

So now our mother has her reading at least one Nancy Drew book a week, over the summer. The Cheerleader complained a little bit, like how we had just got her to read the Harry Potter series, but we told her that she had been depriving herself, and we were just setting the Girl Universe right. :)

The research is pretty enthralling. However, I feel like I have to warn my teacher that I might never even end up writing a paper at all, after having spent all my time reading as much as possible. However, there is also more than my paper to worry about. I'm taking the SAT this coming Saturday, and I also want to reread Beastly before The Cheerleader and I take time to check it out in theaters. Too much work to do, but too little time to spend. My brain is constantly stuck on Spring Break, which is still about 3 weeks away. All I have to do is make sure my head is still on straight by the time AP Testing comes around. :)