By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) – Just because a novel is targeted to an adult audience doesn’t mean the protagonist has to be an adult. In fact, some of the most memorable contributions to English literature feature the voices of young people, who grapple with situations in ways every bit as nuanced as adults do. Here are three memorable examples of this genre.
- To Kill a Mockingbird: In Harper Lee’s 1960 classic, who doesn’t love Scout? A strong girl who struggles with the pressure to be ladylike, she uses her fists to solve her problems. A brave young girl in changing times where racism is rampant, she serves Lee’s purpose as a catalyst for changing readers’ views on humanity.
- David Copperfield: Charles Dickens’ 1850 masterwork tells the story of a boy as he carries on through life into adulthood. It is full of strange family dynamics, saddening abuse and love. Dickens created a brilliant perspective of a boy in this harrowing coming-of-age story.
- Peter Pan: M. Barrie’s 1911 novel—which followed his 1904 play—tells the story of a mischievous little boy who can fly and has many adventures on the island of Neverland that is inhabited by mermaids, fairies, Native Americans and pirates. Peter has many stories involving Wendy Darling and her two brothers, his fairy Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys and Captain Hook.
“The fact that Peter is a child—the boy who never wants to grow up—does not detract in any way from the vivid narrative of the book,” says John Leonard Pielmeier, author of the recently published Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself(Scribner, 2017). “In fact, through the eyes of Peter and his young friends, the wonders of their fanciful world are actually enhanced. For my novel, I decided to ask what Captain Hook himself experienced as a child.”
As we learn in Hook’s Tale, Captain James Cook (a/k/a Hook)—long defamed as a vicious pirate—was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining and entirely truthful memoir. Now Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time. Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At 13, he runs away from home but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures, he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.
“Adult readers have much to learn from children, in literature as well as in real life,” adds Pielmeier.