So there is this Thing in books. I think it must also be in film and TV as well but I am not an expert in the writing of either. It is one of those Things you don’t realize or appreciate until it has been broken. Indeed, violating this Thing can sometimes be a great story vehicle and sometimes it can be a cop-out. The Thing is the fourth wall…. that window that readers or viewers get to peak through when consuming a story. Think of The Office (US) and how periodically Jim stares into the camera, talks directly to the audience. That is the breaking of the fourth wall.
I bring this up because I think it can be quite difficult to do. And it is done in My Plain Jane and done well such that it was unobtrusive. The direct conversation with the Reader provides context for the era, a useful tool considering the target audience is probably not familiar with the Victorian Age and its historical nuances. It also supplies a fair bit of the humor… including some that will appeal to young activists, particularly in the US.
This is the second in the “Jane” series – focusing on Jane Eyre and her writer, Charlotte Bronte (oh, and her brother). It is a fun, paranormal retelling of the Eyre story and is enhanced with a knowledge of Jane Eyre (such as Charlotte Bronte’s male pseudonym) though that isn’t strictly necessary. The novel is not scary despite the ghost plot line and it is has the morality of the time (so no sex, drugs, or rock n roll). The reading level would make it suitable for Middle Grades and above. But most importantly, this would be a truly entertaining hook for students into the original Jane Eyre novel and all the controversies it brought up in its own time.
I am obviously a proponent of reading for fun. But I am coming around to the idea that all school “assigned” reading really should be for pleasure’s sake. Comprehension as a skill is a by-product of empathy for characters and their travails. Trying to teach it is possible but so much more difficult than letting it happen naturally.
So Readers, allow me to break the fourth wall as well and directly implore you. If you don’t want to read the book assigned, dare your English teacher to let you choose your own reading material. Bring them your favourite stories and ask them to compare them to the classics. And if they don’t, demand they enter your reading world by writing your essays about how Hunger Games relates to the Odyssey or compare Steampunk and Victorian novels. Your reading choices are vast and varied and deserve validation.
As for My Plain Jane, this is one strong sample of the way that modern authors are handing out gold-gilded invitations to ELA teachers to join their students in reading first for fun.