Persepolis and Mao's Last Dancer and thinking "I'm glad I don't read brainless twaddle. I'm so much better than that".
And then my book club assigns Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty as this months book. A quick scan of the blurb and I thought that all my literary concerns had come true in what appeared to be some ditsy, plastic teen girly book that doesn't address any real issues. And until 2/3 of the way through, the book did nothing to change my opinion of it. The main character, Jessica Darling, was self-absorbed, stuck-up, and whiny.
I started getting angry at the author for writing such a terrible character...and then I thought about it a bit and realised that she wasn't doing it without reason. After a while the endearing nature of Jessica Darling started to shine through. She was whiny, she was self-absorbed and she was very very full of herself, but then again so was I when I was a teenager. But, just like I like to think I did, Jessica has some endearing traits. She is stuck up, but she's also incredibly intelligent. She's whiny, but until about 2/3 of the way though the book she doesn't have much opportunity to do anything about the most pressing and immediate of her issues. She's self-absorbed like any teenager, but spends most of her time thinking of her best friend. And it hit me.
She's just like I was at her age.
In fact, all teenagers are like this. Most people are still like this well after they stop being teenagers and they don't have the added benefit of being particularly entertaining for an outsider. And unlike a lot of whiny, self-absorbed, self-righteous, self-satisfied people I've met, Jessica actually goes through phases of personal growth. She makes a lot of mistakes, but she doesn't make the same one twice.
On Friday night I stayed up after midnight (le gasp) finishing this book. I was disappointed. I felt that Jessica Darling still had a lot of learning to do. And I wanted to get past the stage where I was nodding my head saying "Yes! That is the way of life, young Padawan!" and get into the stage where I would be able to say "I'm so glad she learned these lessons so I didn't have to go through the trauma of doing it myself!" So I went and acquired the other 4 books in the series and stayed up reading (and exercising and dying my hair) until 5.30am. I'm about to finish the second book and she's still got a long way to go, so I guess I'll keep reading. I'm hoping she'll catch up to me soon and teach me those important life lessons about the little things that I missed while I was reading about the big things.