Reading continues to provide an escape to students during this rough patch

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Jessie Warren

Three very different book genres piled on top of one another.

Within the pages of a book, sophomore Kyra Thomas has always found more than words. From reading rendezvous spent in the corner of her childhood dance studio to her fourth-grade classroom filled with the stories from books like Wonder and Out of my Mind, reading means to Kyra what home means to everyone else. 

“I guess [I like reading] because I’m a little bit antisocial, and I like just to get away,” Kyra said. “That’s a pretty common thing for readers, and why I like to escape to another world [through books].”

Within this common escapism tactic, Kyra has also found herself bonding with the characters from her favorite novels, a notable piece of literature in her repertoire being Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This love story follows Elizabeth Bennet—a woman from Regency-era Britain—as she learns the repercussions for her actions, specifically at a younger age. 

“I identify with the main character, Elizabeth, because she has a bit of a temper, and so do I,” Kyra said. “Mainly, I just love love stories.”

The cosmic connection built between the main character Elizabeth and her love interest, Mr. Darcy, is not the only relationship Kyra discovered in Pride and Prejudice, either; her kindred spiritship with the characters from her favorite works of fiction is one of the things that keeps her coming back. 

“I suppose that most of the books I do read, I read because I enjoy the characters,” Kyra said. “Maybe I don’t identify with them as much as they are someone that I would be friends with.”

This friendship is the kind of emotion that freshman Ashley Schenck holds towards Shannon Messenger, the author of her favorite fantasy series, Keeper of the Lost Cities. This nine-book collection follows the main character, Sophie Foster, who is burdened with saving both the human and elven realms and reuniting the two species. 

Not only does Ashley identify with this plot, but she also uses it as a lens into a different universe. By escaping to this other world, Ashley can get lost in fantasy and forget for a while the struggles of reality. 

I suppose that most of the books I do read, I read because I enjoy the characters. Maybe I don’t identify with them as much as they are someone that I would be friends with.”

— Kyra Thomas

“I think I [enjoy] being able to live in a different world or a character’s world for just a few hours,” said Ashley, who has found accommodation in fantasy since a young age.

This getaway is further challenged by the Keeper of the Lost Cities, which takes the novel’s events and forays into current news to create a hodgepodge atmosphere fitted to Ashley’s liking. 

“In some of [the books], they use events that happen in the real world to show who else took part in that,” Ashley said. “So they will use things to make it seem like elves might actually be in our world.”

By remaining in the narrative while using the outside happenings as plot points, Ashley’s favorite series continues to hold the key to her heart. It is a similar yet more profound sense of realism that has kept senior Alex Shier reading all these years. 

Alex is a fan of the non-fiction historical side of literature, veering towards novels such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Final Storm. However, it was the domain of whimsy that drew him to reading in the first place. Through The Ranger’s Apprentice and Warrior Cats series of his youth, Alex felt suddenly glued to the art of words.

Though inflection and idiom have always been by Alex’s side through the written word, it has never been him who crafts them so eloquently. Still, he would say that a well-rounded narrative is just the thing to make him want to write. 

“I found that during the pandemic, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands to just sit down with a book,” Alex said.  “It really does make me want to write sometimes because it’s very much an inspirational sort of like, ‘Oh wow, I kind of want to do that myself.’” 

This inspiration is draining for the same reason it exists; with the pressure of school and current events weighing down Alex’s life, finding time to read is becoming harder and harder. 

“It’s been tough to keep a good reading schedule, especially during Junior and Senior year, just because of the rigor of the classes that you usually take,” Alex said. “They’re a lot harder, so it’s more difficult to find time to read.”

Through the smoke and through the fire, Alex will continue to breach the gap between his favorite books’ narratives and those of the real world, doing so primarily through perspective. 

“It is very refreshing and mentally [relaxing] to read opinions I agree and disagree with,” Alex said. “It’s a recreational thing that I should make more time for.”