Magazine article NATE Classroom

That's My Point of View

Magazine article NATE Classroom

That's My Point of View

Article excerpt

'Point of view is a theme in itself in this novel.'

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'I like reading books where I can really ... you know ... be with the characters, Miss ... and know what they're going through.' This was said rather shyly and after some thought by a Year 9 boy from the pupil reading group I've been involved with over the last year in Blackpool.

I think he meant, in more literary terms, that the narrative point of view in a novel is really, really important. For teenagers, it's probably the most significant feature in enabling them to get to grips with a narrative--any narrative. It seems to me that most teens often have a maelstrom of narratives churning away in their heads anyway! They are almost exclusively concerned with who they are and how they relate to the world. It could be said that by the age of 12 to 13 they are not 'in Kansas anymore' and therefore 'Once upon a time ...' will no longer cut it. So maybe teen readers are seeking a 'truth' via the narrative point of view that is to do with notions of identity--their identity. So which contemporary teen/ young adult novels do this effectively? And which ones are suitable for use in KS3 English? There are so many excellent novels to choose from; this reading group adored Keith Gray's The Ostrich Boys and No and Me by Delphine de Vigan for example. Both writers put their protagonists through a great deal in narratives that proved to be thoroughly gripping and absorbing. My readers approvingly described both titles as dealing head on with 'the big stuff' which they liked and thus immediately engaged with.

Another novel that had the same effect was Patrick Ness' arresting dystopian novel The Knife of Never Letting Go (Walker Books): 13-year-old Todd Hewitt's first person account of being the only boy nearing adulthood in a community of entirely male interplanetary settlers. It is not only written in the first person, but also in the present tense. The reader isn't afforded any extra knowledge at all, making it a very immediate, absorbing and intense reading experience completely 'inside' Todd's often panicked and frightened point of view. Short sentences and statements run or are joined close on the heels of each other--all written in Todd's idiosyncratic and rough vernacular. These pupil readers said that Todd's frequent misspellings ('direkshun') and rebellious use of 'effing' made him 'seem more real somehow'. It's as if his language helps shape their belief in Todd's narrative being reliable. Patrick Ness himself has said that he wanted '....things [books] that were completely strange or pretty rough but which tell the truth.'

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Look at how the novel begins, for example (pages 3-4):

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything.

   'Need a poo, Todd.'
   'Shut up, Manchee.'
   'Poo. Poo, Todd.'
   'I said shut it.'

We're walking across the wild fields south-east of town, those ones that slope down to the river and head on towards the swamp. Ben's sent me to pick some swamp apples and he's made me take Manchee with me, even tho we all know Cillian's only bought him to stay on Mayor Prentiss's good side and so suddenly here's this brand new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn't have to walk every forsaken place in the stupid town, but oh no, happy birthday, Todd, here's a brand new puppy, and even tho you don't want him, even thos you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he's got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?

There is so much language analysis possible in this introductory 'rant' from Todd--and indeed it is a rant, as there's little punctuation and at one point Todd even mimics Cillian's opposing point of view concerning the puppy. …

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