Everyone says “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we are all guilty of this. A lot of times our instincts can be correct, like when I avoid the novels with covers of shirtless men and scantily clothed women that don’t even have faces, or when I pick up each and every book with a ship on the cover. Sometimes you just know. However, sometimes if you look past your preconceived notions or the strange cover art you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
I read The Kite Runner my senior year of high school for my AP English class. It had been on the list since the beginning of the year, and I had not been looking forward to it. I’m sorry, but the recent history of Afghanistan was just not something that interested me. I thought it was going to be a depressing story about how the main character and his/her people had been mistreated and that it wouldn’t apply to me in any way. Oh, how wrong I was.
The story of The Kite Runner centers on the story of a young boy named Amir and his best friend and servant Hassan. When they are quite young, Amir witnesses an older boy, Assef, rape Hassan. After this horrible event, the friendship between Amir and Hassan is never quite the same. Amir spends his time wondering is Hassan knows that he knows, or even worse, that he did nothing to stop it. Hassan, on the other hand, knows what his friend witnessed, but in the perfect picture of unconditional love, he forgives Amir. Amir, however, cannot forgive himself, and finally Hassan and his father Ali cannot stand to live with Amir’s family anymore.
It’s a great story of love, friendship, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Everyone has been Amir at some point in their lives, on the receiving end of a love they don’t think they deserve. There are so many great lessons to be learned from this book. It’s something I never would have picked up on my own, but I’m so glad I did.
Another book we were supposed to read my senior year was Frankenstein. After already reading Dracula for that class, I was done with “monster” books. We ended up running out of time to read another novel, and I felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to plow through another morbid, macabre classic. However, I was in for a surprise when I started my 20th Century Honors Seminar second semester of my freshman year and found out the first work we would be reading was, you guessed it, Frankenstein. I dreaded it until I started reading it, then everything changed.
Mary Shelley tells an amazing story. Written when she was only 14, it may be considered a classic but it reads like a modern-day adventure story. It’s an intricate set-up of a story within a story within a story, and she intertwines the characters brilliantly. Everyone views Frankenstein’s monster as just that, a monster. But is it? Shelley explores the basic human ideas of good and evil and challenges the reader to reevaluate human nature.
The story itself was nothing like I thought it would be. No evil scientist in a lab creating something to control that got too powerful and escaped, wreaking havoc everywhere it went. It was a man of prestige with a slight obsession with his work who took it just a little too far, got scared, and tried to forget about what he had done. The creature, newly introduced to the world as a full-grown “man,” was scared and alone, and at times seemed more human than his creator ever did. I expected good and evil to be cut and dry, but the relationships and characters are so much more complex than I ever would have imagined.
So the next time someone’s raving about a book and you’re thinking “That is just not up my alley,” pick it up and give it a try- you may be surprised at the results.