Start reading as many books as you can and get your reading endorsement as soon as possible was the advice that my future English Language Arts cooperating teacher told me the spring before I officially began my program to become a secondary teacher. And, I took her advice. I began reading books for adolescents. In that season of life I was also reading books for women that my sisters would recommend or pass on to me. Along the way, I rediscovered my love of reading for pleasure and realized that I loved genres that I thought I didn’t like.
I taught adolescents for 7 years, and one of my favorite aspects was discussing books and teaching how to better comprehend while reading. I was easily absorbed in a good book and found it hard to put books down once begun. Sometimes the just a little bit more after a chapter ended on a cliff hanger resulted in having less sleep than was ideal. When I transitioned out of K-12 and into teacher education (and concurrently into a decade of going from 2 kids to 6), reading middle grades and YA literature mostly slipped away. Occasionally, I would read a book with one of my daughters but every once in a while just for fun and just for me.
A lot of my reading in recent years has been absorbed in nonfiction centered on the Catholic faith. I am starting to read more widely again. Blogging about YA novels is part of a recent intentional decision about wanting to expand how I use this space – being able to explore and play related to different layers of interest, rather than just a narrow vision for this site. This week I read The Betrayed by Kiera Cass. I previously read her Selection series with one of my daughters and read The Betrothed, the book that comes before The Betrayed, on my own. I’ve never grown out of loving reading or watching adventurous love stories revolving around the concept of royalty. I especially love when they include growth with realizing what really matters and about loyalty and service along the way.
When I picked up The Betrayed, I could not remember anything about The Betrothed, so I was piecing my memory back together as the story progressed and layers from the previous novel were referenced. When thinking through the lens of the process of becoming, I enjoyed seeing how different characters grew throughout the book. Right before I began the book, one of my older daughters was having a conversation with me about desire to understand her purpose. I had reminded her of the song Glorious (both versions). Then I noticed different references to the process of having a purpose emerge and be clarified over time showing up in The Betrayed. I sent my daughter a reference to the first one that I noticed in which one character Scarlet said, “What, you want to know your role in all of this?” and the main character Hollis replied, “Yes! Desperately!” The next lines were, “Scarlet sat up, looking deep into my eyes, ‘Too bad because I don’t know.’ The matter-of-factness in her face made me want to laugh, which was good as that seemed to be her goal. ‘Hollis, all I can tell you is that I believe you’re here for a reason. And maybe we don’t know what it is today, but I’m certain that whatever happens, we’ll need you'” (pp. 80-81). This process of discovery and the role of interactions between these two was a thread woven throughout the novel. I loved this initial mention (and all the other references that flowed from it) because they highlight the reality of the desire that we so often have to want to know right now what is not yet ours to know. They show the need for patience, while also providing encouragement and a sense of hope. The novel also included glimpses into the process of becoming of other characters.
Nonetheless, it is important for readers who are struggling with patience to know what their purpose is to realize that it is not as common for things to come into as sharp of focus as quickly as it did for the main character, and that even once it does, there is still additional depth to be revealed over time. While novels like this can inspire, it is important to also provide support and encouragement to persevere through the process when the pacing is not what is desired or when individual purpose does not seem as exciting or as important as the purpose that a main character in a work of literature (or someone they know in their everyday lives) are discovering about themselves.
Based on father, my word for the liturgical year, I also noticed elements of another primary character, Etan, and his father. I recognized a line in which he expressed his preference and then said, “Of course, I am at my father’s command” (p. 90). I appreciated the connection to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, expressing His desires but then clearly expressing his intentional choice to do the Father’s will (Luke 22:42). As the relationship between Etan and his father unfolded throughout the novel, they had other connections between the Father and the Son, such as their love for each other. I won’t share one of the most concrete examples as it would be too much of a spoiler. Nonetheless, there was also a moment in which Etan is willing to do something that he knew his father would not approve of, sharing his rationale for how he was discerning that layer, so the book also provides avenues to discuss decision making processes along the way. For the most part lines that highlighted the relationship between the father and the son consistently demonstrated their mutual respect, encouragement, service to each other, and devotion to larger community as they navigated life-threatening situations.
Since identity construction has been a point of interest for me since at least my undergraduate years, I also loved elements that focused on that aspect, such as a line saying, “People were not their introductions. They were not their lineage or country. They were but themselves. And we had to dig past all the rest to find them” (p. 186). I appreciated how this layer helps to illuminate that we each have different roles and layers of identity but we need to dig deeper in order to really know ourselves and each other.
Copyright 2022 Amanda Villagómez