Posted in Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Geek Out, Reading

Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Part 6

Sorry I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like; I’ve been busy in the writing cave, working on exciting things! Today I felt like reminiscing about some more of my favorite reads from high school.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

This was another required reading in high school (I think my senior AP English class? I’m not sure…) that I took to. (I have an honors degree in English literature and I was still bored by half the books I had to read for school, bad me! But I read them, analyzed them and all those good things.) It’s about a young American man, David, who spends time in Europe as sort of a last hurrah before getting married to his girlfriend. While he’s there, he’s pretty unsure he even wants to get married… It turns out, we eventually discover, it’s because he’s gay but isn’t fully ready to admit it.

After quite a while abroad failing to find himself, David meets Giovanni, a bartender in a gay bar. They fall in love, and David moves into “Giovanni’s room.” However, David has still not come to terms with himself and broken it off with his fiancee… And a dark act soon threatens their relationship.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, so I don’t remember the details, but I do remember being swept up in the narrative, particularly the beautiful, desperate romance, and crying toward the end, I felt so bad for the characters. I went on to recommend the book to a few friends at different schools, and they loved it too. This is a very poor analogy for a piece of classic literature written in the 1950s, but I felt at the time it had a very “anime” feel to the story (and my 17-years-and-counting love of anime was certainly strong in high school), which is perhaps why my friends and I enjoyed it. I’d love to see an anime adaption someday, but that’s never going to happen!

Star Wars: Heir to to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn

In high school and late middle school, I was obsessed with Star Wars. I’d seen bits and pieces of it here and there before (I remember having a fondness for Jabba as a kid for some reason), but I didn’t properly sit down to watch them from start to finish until the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release in 1997… And I went nuts. I saw each of the original trilogy three times in theaters over the next few months (so nine visits for SW), I wore SW shirts every day I could to school (when we were allowed to stop wearing uniforms), I so blindly defended anything to do with SW that I saw The Phantom Menace SEVEN TIMES in theaters. (Ha ha, eight if you count this year’s 3D re-relase. Yes, I saw it, despite disliking 3D movies… I still watch the Clone Wars TV series, too, which my boyfriend makes fun of as being one long series of senate meetings, despite being a show for kids… It’s mostly true. But where else would you get the insane, flesh-eating torso of Darth Maul melded onto a robotic spider?) Attack of the Clones kind of finally made me see that the prequels lack what made the originals great (yes, I still dislike II more than I; maybe it’s the crappy romance… Oh, by the way, I still saw it twice in theaters despite that!), although I’m all right with Revenge of the Sith, disappointing that the dialogue and acting may be at times.

But anyway, back in high school, I was still in high SW gear. So that meant getting my hands on SW in any form, and I discovered the rich novel universe, which told what happened to the characters over the next few decades. (I wonder how far they’ve gotten now? Seriously, I was reading through until some of Han and Leia’s kids–yes, they have three, boy and girl twins and another son–had kids of their own, and Leia was dealing with grey hair and menopause…) There were quite a few of the novels I really liked (and some that bored me a bit), but the “Thrawn trilogy” was my favorite.

Set about five years after Return of the Jedi, these books center around the heroes of the New Republic dealing with the last remnants of the Empire. (They didn’t all just die when their leader blew up, after all.) Strangely, the Empire is led by an alien–bizarre considering Palpatine was an alien-cist (? racist against aliens?)–but he was that good at what he did; he made it to Grand Admiral even when Palpatine was alive, and was the highest-ranking leader left. Thrawn. The well-mannered, harsh blue-skinned guy with black hair in a white uniform… After Darth Vader, he’s just the perfect SW villain to me.

The books are also notable for introducing Mara Jade, a secret assassin strong with the Force called “the Emperor’s Hand” (She’s also so good, she got the job–Palpatine was also a misogynist after all–all those white human men in high ranks…) who’s out to fulfill her final mission from her master: kill Luke Skywalker. I loved Mara Jade–a strong, likeable female villain! I tend to like villains in fiction in the first place, though…–and all the fights she had with Luke… And readers did, too. It took quite some time, and she had to move beyond her dark past, Luke had to have another fling or two, but I’ll tell you a huge spoiler: Mara Jade Skywalker. Enough said!

There are some funny things in the books now, too. The details are vague (I read them more than once, but it’s been a while), but since they pre-date the prequels by eight years (I believe they may have been the first official books that took place after RotJ? Later books went back and bridged the five-year gap, though–Leia and Han already have their older two kids in these books for one!), the “Clone Wars” was still misunderstood and I think a crucial part of the book involved them stumbling upon a random cloning facility and there being clones of Jedi Masters… Oops. I’m sure they shoehorn that in there somehow, though.