If any of you come ’round these parts Tuesdays on the regular, you know that I usually participate in The Broke and The Bookish Top Ten Tuesday meme. This week, I was not really feeling the topic, and when I glanced at the list of topics that were used before I started participating nothing really grabbed me. This morning, inspiration struck.
I graduated college a year ago yesterday (the first in my family to do so, go me!), and my Facebook is positively flooded with updates from friends across the country participating in their own graduation ceremonies now. In that spirit, I present my overdue Top Ten for the Week: Top Ten Novels About Movin’ On. As a bonus, I actually put them in order of the merit I perceived, because number one really deserved to be number one.
10. Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
We’re all movin’ on from Earth! I love pioneers and Old-West stuff and outer space AND Science-Fiction, so this novel about pioneers from Earth traveling across the universe to colonize new planets was right up my alley. There’s an equal mix of delicious science-y terraforming technology, and old-fashioned wagon-circling community. Heinlein’s Tunnel In The Sky is a little better as a story, but this is still a fun (quick) read.
9. Glass Slippers Give You Blisters by Mary Jane Auch
This is a middle-grades (4th and up) book I read back when I was a middle-grader, which resonated with me at the time and has stuck with me since. Good job OPMS librarian! Kelly is moving from childhood into adolescence, growing away from her elementary school friends, and discovering that some roles are not one-size-fits-all. After losing the part of Cinderella in the school play, Kelly gets involved in some of the behind-the-scenes work at the urging of her eccentric artist grandmother. Kelly’s mother is less supportive, but our heroine perseveres and shows those who had underestimated her that she has a lot to offer. I remember particularly enjoying the descriptions of set and lighting design, and the creation of stained glass.
8. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The eighth volume of the Little House books almost contains a graduation: when Laura tells the schoolmaster that she won’t be back in Fall (because she’s getting married), he tells her that she could have graduated already but he had held her back in hopes that her class would graduate together. The little girl from the big woods is all grown up and has moved into a little house of her own by novel’s end.
7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The world has moved on from the “old” gods and their systems of belief. The gods are not content to take this lying down and enlist the aid of Shadow, a man who is himself moving on from a prison stint and the loss of his wife. As a total mythology geek, this novel both entertained me and made me think about spirituality and its role in culture.
6. Girls in Pants by Anne Brashares
This one actually starts with a graduation! Probably my favorite of the Traveling Pants books, the third installment finds our quartet of comrades of the cusp of college. Moving in different directions both geographically and as people, each of the pants-sharers has a life changing summer. Bee is moving on from past mistakes, Carmen is moving on from only-child status and her family unit, Lena is moving on from living life to please her parents, and Tibby is moving on from her emotional insulation. This is one of those books that has it all: character growth, solid female friendships, romance, makey-outy time, humor, girls that do stuff other than obsess about boys, enough drama to keep things interesting…it’s a satisfying read (especially after the rather lame second book in the series).
An aside: I really hate these new covers, the evolution of the pants on the originals was a lot more interesting. I refuse to believe that they couldn’t fit one more rail-thin girl into the frame to make them more accurate. Also, exactly which of these girls is supposed to be curvy Latina Carmen or olive-skinned Lena?
5. Paint it Black by Janet Fitch
White Oleander is a beautiful book, elegant and thoughtful as it flows through the years of Astrid’s life. Fitch’s second novel (for adults) Paint it Black is a more challenging read. Where Astrid is soft and dreamy, Josie is bitter and bereft. She is moving on from the suicide of her live-in lover Micheal, her only support a motley crew of 80’s punks and Michael’s narcissistic mother Meredith. The girl from the armpit of California (Bakersfield for non-locals) had one beautiful thing in her life, and she’s struggling to both cope with the fact that it’s gone and understand why. It took me a couple of reads to come around, but I now appreciate this novel as both a companion and counterpoint to White Oleander.
4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Mysteries rank pretty low in my preferred-genre hierarchy, and rape scenes range from pet peeve to literary dealbreaker. One who knew me well might suppose that I would hate this novel, and I probably wouldn’t have read it on my own, but I was in Puerto Vallarta moping after a breakup and I had read all of the other available English-language novels. The story of Susie Salmon’s afterlife is not so much a mystery, since the reader knows who the killer is from the first pages, it’s much more a novel about moving on from a death that came much to soon.
3. The Odyssey by Homer
All Odysseus wants is to move on from the Trojan War! He spends ten years just trying to get home to his admirably faithful wife Penelope and son Telemachus. Unfortunately for him, the gods have other plans. This is one of my favorite…epic poems…classic or otherwise, worth working through the structure for the poetry-averse.
2. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
I love this book like some people love Alice in Wonderland (a book and Disney film that gives me the unrelenting heebie-jeebies). Adorable four-year-old James is moving on from a dreadful life with his Aunts Spiker and Sponge, conveyed by a giant stone fruit full of anthropomorphized bugs! It’s a beautiful, creepy, sad, happy, funny book with a delicious ending. The choice to render the eponymous film in claymation was inspired.
1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Number one for a reason, Speak is the powerful story of a girl moving into high school as she tries to move on from a traumatic event. Tormented by clueless classmates for a misunderstood act of self-preservation, Mellie swallows her pain and quits speaking entirely. This novel is, at its very core, about moving on. About not just coping but forging a new life and reconciling it with the old.