Romeo and Juliet versus Edward and Bella: Where is adolescent literature heading?

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Maritza A. Ramos

In the past few years, I have noticed a steady decline in a past time that I enjoyed greatly as a young adult – reading. Additionally, I have observed the growing trend of a particular type of reading material that has made its way to bookstores and libraries across the nation (and the world). These new books are fairly similar, containing a powerful female character that is singularly different and being sought after by a brooding captivating male presence. The pair is usually surrounded by mutual acquaintances or family in hopes of either uniting or separating the star-crossed lovers.

As an educator, I am pleased that young readers are choosing to read a chapter book over a magazine or picture book provided that the literature selection provides some room for discussion. Is there a preceding storyline that breathed life to this tale? Are the characters in this story line comparable to characters of classical literature past? Ultimately, some form of a connection is made from text to reader and vice versa be it negative or positive, but most recent modern story lines have been influenced by cinematic interpretation.

twilight-booksThe term ‘star-crossed’ has been applied to describe couples in recent literature which always seems to provoke the sudden urge to smirk or laugh outright in certain company.   Most recently there has been the uproar sensation Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers, which tells the tale of the outsider Bella Swan who captures the attention of the mysterious Edward Cullen. By modern standards and as a female, I can see how this story plays out as enticing and romantic, but I prefer to remember classical romances, written in times when wording was important and not rants narrated by an emotional teenager. What is the underlying draw to this book series? To be quite honest, I had not heard about the book series or the author until I was made aware of a movie to be starring a popular young man and woman. The cinematic counterparts increased the interest in this series now that Edward and Bella had faces that were appealing by Hollywood conventional standards.

2936William Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet is what I associate with the term star-crossed lovers. While the masses prefer Twilight, I have to admit I prefer the effort that is made to read this work and see a different face put to the characters. Romeo and Juliet was a tragic love story and told the tale of two young lovers who were forbidden to mingle due to a deep family feud resulting in a secret marriage and tragic deaths. The youth of today might prefer happy endings to tragic ones, but Shakespeare’s words have withstood the test of time and continue to be studied, dissected, and analyzed. Where will the Twilight series be in a few centuries?

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