Read a book today: the 2000s are back and the world is scary — it’s time to read it again
In an attempt to exert what little control I have over the world, I decided to clean up my childhood bedroom over the winter break. If we’ve been in Zoom meetings together at any time, this room has probably left an impact on you. In fact, I’ve had people on campus come up to me and say, “You’re Rachel with the blue room, aren’t you?” The walls in the room are a Powerade teal blue that I chose when I was 10, decorated with an oversized bookcase and travel prints and it’s small—typical of Los Angeles. As I was sorting through my stack of consumer paperbacks in said blue room, trying not to think about the state of the world, I found a yellow tome.
“Tome” might be an exaggeration, but it was a relatively complete collection of “Curious George” stories, all printed in the mid-90s. I was struck by how much I remembered flipping through the pages, wondering if I should donate. It felt like the stories were taking up space in my brain, which could have been put to better use in my final semester exams. It’s weird how a story can stick with you no matter how long you’ve been reading it, and how comforting it can be. If you were to ask me about some of the lines in any of the books I read as a kid, I would probably remember them. I could be a “Geronimo Stilton” encyclopedia.
Life right now is scary (even beyond the usual stressors) and uncertainty reigns. Maybe that’s why I felt a kind of contentment come over me when I remembered those plots and illustrations. Perhaps this is an example of old events coming back into vogue, Bennifer style. I’m now used to seeing the little sunglasses and velor pants reminiscent of the once ubiquitous Juicy tracksuit when I walk around town and on campus. If it weren’t for the pandemic and the fact that “Fearless” and “Red” were re-recorded to become Taylor’s versions, I would think I was back in a world where “Single Ladies” was the number one song. So if the world is scary, turn to old comfort; I have a few in mind.
First let’s talk about “Percy Jackson” – I’ve never read “Harry Potter” except to your shock – but I adored the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. Percy and I were best friends. I remember saving all the old fashioned Tumblr-style memes from vintage Instagram fan accounts to my camera roll – is that exposing me too much? Either way, that’s all to say that the stories still age like fine wine and are as engaging as they were when you first read them. The books don’t take themselves too seriously, and Riordan knows where his strengths lie. It’s probably because of his skills that the original five-novel series swelled to twice that length with a “Heroes of Olympus” spin-off series (the bonus tells you if you read it).
The feat of creating a fleshed out series with 3D characters that stand the test of time is commendable, resulting in the highly acclaimed Broadway musical adaptation and TV show currently in development, not to mention that the characters have been featured in movies. that the fanbase chooses to ignore. The dialogue is masterful, witty, and voice-filled, and I’d bet even today you’ll remember the individual personalities of Annabeth, Percy, and Grover. I found my beloved “Percy Jackson” series while browsing my shelves. My original copy of the series – which I’ve carried with me for 10 years – is well loved and dog-eared, especially on the pages where I, 12, found a line she liked. And, of course, you better believe I picked up the Anniversary Edition. I made sure it was prominently displayed in the favorites section of my shelf.
In the olden days, at the same time that I had exhausted Riordan’s verses, I came across the revival of young adult literature, and it quickly passed my brain. We rarely talk about how lucky 2012’s cohort of young adult readers were with this barrage of dystopian novels. The main thing that comes to mind is the “Hunger Games” series. I remember walking past magazine stands and seeing the collector’s edition magazines advertising a dark-haired Jennifer Lawrence (before the Oscars dropped) and a Liam Hemsworth before the wedding .
As a good reader that I am, I devoured the whole book before seeing the film at the cinema. In a marathon reading session in the aforementioned Blue Room, I finished the novel in a single day. I recently reread the book (reviewing the movie is also on my list), and I was surprised at how well I remembered. I was suddenly struck by the memory of dressing up as Katniss Everdeen for the Purim holiday. I remember putting on a black rain jacket and attaching a Mockingjay pin to it. I did the signature single braid, and felt like the coolest kid alive (for reference how cool that looks in hindsight, no one will never see the photographs. I exposed myself enough in this column). I was also surprised to see the careful annotations of the iconic lines made by myself at 12 years old.
This is a more tearful column than I had planned to write. Maybe it’s the startling realization that this is my last semester before graduating from USC, or maybe the nostalgia of sorting through decades of books has taken hold of me. Still, I think we could all use a little comfort right now, and maybe it’s worth imagining this is your A24 coming-of-age moviemaking moment – like the when Lady Bird calls her mother, or when Rachel Bernstein is going through the books in her childhood room – still her room today because she is a commuter (very A24). Get a little maudlin, you’ve earned it!