“Learning to Fly”
By Paul Yee
ISBN No. 978-1-55143-953-2
By Norah McClintock
ISBN No. 978-1-55469-039-8
Both available through www.orcabook.com
It used to be that if you wanted to read A Classic you had to suffer for it. The perverse sentence structure, the obscure religious references, the Big Statement symbolism turned tiny because no one gets it anymore; even the “Moby Dick” academics recommend skimming some chapters because they’re just too dense and verbose for contemporary readers.
Instead of shying away from the big thick books, however, Kid Lit is taking its cue from classics that have practically become unreadable now thanks to their ye olde English style of writing. If you like to read – and you like to read classical stuff – there’s never been a better time to be a tween. For instance, in “Watch Me”, an angry kid evens up things in the universe by stealing a lady’s purse and then suffering mightily for it “Crime and Punishment”-style. In “Learning to Fly“ a recent Chinese immigrant tries to find his way in a racist, corrupt society. The first half of the book is equal parts Salinger’s “Catcher in the Ryle” and “David Copperfield” with its worldly, bored narrator wondering if he’ll be the hero of his own story. Mid-way through the book echoes Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage” with its characters ostracizing each other through the tyranny of style and cliques. By its hopeful ending (the only thing that really deviates Tween Classics from Ye Olde Classics, it seems) you’ve had the complete Comparative Literature Experience – but without any of the university-level pain.