Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Identity Issues

By Jeffrey S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Identity through Peers:
Paul Zindel's Harry &
Hortense at Hormone High

Michael L. Angelotti and Terry M. Pace


SYNOPSIS AND LITERARY RESPONSE

( Michael L. Angelotti)

Simply put, Harry & Hortense at Hormone High is a contemporary young adult novel based on the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus. Under this deceptively innocent title, Paul Zindel has written a story about three young people coming to terms with self-identities in quite different ways. Harry Hickey and his best friend, Hortense McCoy, are reporters for the Bird's Eye Gazette--the newspaper of the school they have dubbed "Hormone High" because of the outrageous behaviors of its students and school personnel. Their lives change dramatically when Jason Rohr, a charismatic new student who looks to them like a living Greek statue, asks them to write a story about a hero. Jason confides his belief that he is the reincarnation of the Greek demigod Icarus returned to earth "to lead everyone out of the dark labyrinth" (33-34). Hortense, thinking of herself as a psychiatrist, is fascinated by Jason as a psychological case study, while Harry, a budding writer and voracious reader, finds that Jason whets his appetite as a potential fictional character. In fact, the novel is written as Harry's first-person account of Jason's story. Soon, the three grow beyond their self-serving inclinations and become caring friends. Ultimately, Harry and Hortense discover that although Jason's cloak of godliness initially attracts, it is his human vulnerability that draws them close and touches their lives. In the end, this short,

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