Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Ch. 12: Reader Reawakened: how I revived my love for books in my senior year


I stared begrudgingly at the words “Advanced Placement English Literature” printed on my Infinite Campus course selection for my senior year classes.

After hearing about how difficult the class was from those who already took it, I wasn’t too excited at the prospect of enrolling. However, I felt even more dissatisfied by the other English course options.

I was a bit discouraged at how I dreaded taking AP English Literature because I used to love reading as a kid. I still clearly remember seeing the colorful sign of the Palo Alto Children’s Library as 9-year-old me scurried up the brick steps while carrying a bag overflowing with books I needed to return.

My mom would take the books to the return slot while I ran to the familiar nooks and crannies of the library that housed my favorite series such as “Geronimo Stilton,” “Dork Diaries” and “Percy Jackson.”

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Weekly library trips were common when I was in elementary school and I looked forward to acquiring a whole new set of reading material to keep me entertained. I enjoyed reading to the point where I would stay up past my bedtime and read books under my blanket with a flashlight.

I realized that in my past English classes, I didn’t like reading the required books or participating in discussions because I didn’t understand the stories and messages. It was difficult to enjoy something I couldn’t comprehend.

My reading hobby continued into middle school, where I would regularly check out books in the school’s library, but when sophomore year arrived, I remember blanking on a  questionnaire asking about my favorite books.

I had no book titles to answer with, let alone favorite ones, except for the embarrassingly juvenile ones. I realized that I had gradually stopped reading until I hadn’t read for my own pleasure in months.

My room’s shelves were filled with books I had yet to read, but I couldn’t bring myself to start. My lack of reading stemmed from having more homework and activities while also reading required books in school that were uninteresting to me at the time. My increased use of social media and entertainment apps contributed to this as well.

When I first stepped into the AP English Literature classroom, I expected a strict class style that I would dread. Instead, I experienced lively discussions with my peers and teacher, Sarah Bartlett, sharing interesting perspectives that I would never have otherwise considered.

For example, in “The Great Gatsby,” my classmates and Ms. Bartlett picked apart the symbolism in something as simple as a billboard advertising eyeglasses. They noticed that the large eyes on the ad could symbolize God or the upper class looking down on the “valley of ashes,” which symbolized the lower class.

I was surprised because I had completely skipped over the description and thought it was meaningless imagery. This is just one instance that taught me how to look deeper into every word on the page.

After a few class discussions, I began to look forward to them. I wanted to share my opinions and thoughts about possible themes and motifs hidden within the text.

Overall, my senior year of high school has culminated in a reawakened love for reading and the arts.

AP English Literature taught me more than just how to analyze text; it taught me how to find deeper meanings in any art form. Most books, movies and art pieces have a message, no matter how philosophical the message may be. The books, poems and short stories I’ve read this year have all had a theme about the human experience.

Since joining the class, I’ve developed an appreciation for authors and the clever symbolism and motifs they create to explain their take on life.

For example, in “Frankenstein,” author Mary Shelley questions whether or not humans are innately evil, and in “Passing,” author Nella Larsen explains how deception always leads to isolation.

I thank Ms. Bartlett for teaching this class in a way that changed my perspective on learning for the better.

Of course, I haven’t mastered my analytical skills yet and may still not fully understand the scope of the message about feminism in “Frankenstein,” but what’s important is my newfound enthusiasm to seek the knowledge out of my own curiosity.

For example, I watched multiple video essays on one of my favorite movies, “Coraline,” and they gave me so much insight into every symbol and hidden easter egg in the film that I missed. Why did the cat disappear behind the sign at the end? Why is the well important? Why are there so many bugs? What do they all mean?

A better understanding through these small details greatly increased my appreciation of the movie. This newfound passion for delving deeper into text pushed me to create a list of classics to read for fun that I would’ve never even considered a year ago such as “1984,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Anna Karenina.”

I’m also planning on re-reading books such as “No Longer Human” in hopes of further developing my understanding of the text with my new skills.

This year has taught me to be more open-minded and step outside of my comfort zone, and I’m glad I ended this chapter with a new appreciation for literature.