As I read more and more YA literature this semester, I find myself connecting stories with literary classics that I have read. So far, the strongest instance of this happened while reading Crutcher’s Deadline. Here was a story about a protagonist who knew he was going to die and decided to live his life to the fullest anyway. Not only does Ben live the life he wants to lead, he also manages to think beyond himself and attempt to help others.
Only a few pages into the text, I found myself thinking about Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the story of a man who learns that he is going to die and spends a long time bemoaning his fate. Ivan rails against the idea that he could have lived such a good life and then die over something as ridiculous as…well, if you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil the rest for you, but, suffice it to say, I think there are plenty of points of comparison with the Crutcher text.
This all made me think about ways of potentially pairing YA literature with some more challenging literary classics. Tolstoy’s novella isn’t exactly light reading, but I think that getting students to engage with challenging classics should be one of our goals as English teachers. What better way in to a difficult text than to compare it with a more contemporary, less dense work? This would then lend itself to helping students learn compare and contrast strategies and thinking deeper about why authors make certain choices in their writing.
I’m wondering if anyone else has thought of any literary pairings for some of the YA literature we’ve read so far. For example, what about The Story of a Girl and The Scarlett Letter? Just a thought…