The following short dialog happened some months ago with one ex workmate of mine.
MR: “How could such a person like you enjoy reading a teen-lit novel? I cannot stand it. It is only such a rubbish for me.”
(NOTE: I was reading Princess Diary number five, Princess in Spotlight, if I am not mistaken? LOL.)
ME: “Which teen-lit novel have you tried reading?”
MR: “Dea Lova. It is a very popular teen-lit novel, don’t you think? I am wondering why people are crazy for that while I couldn’t stand continuing reading it only after I read some pages. It is sooooo boring.”
ME: “Oh well, for adult people like us, I do agree if we find Dea Lova a very boring teen-lit novel. I experienced the same thing too. But this one teen-lit novel—Princess Diary—is different. It is written by Meg Cabot—an American writer. Oh well, I don’t mean to underestimate Indonesian writers, no. I have read some other teen-lit novels written by British authors—that I forgot the names LOL—and I thought the same. There is nothing interesting in the novel.”
I didn’t seem to successfully provoke MR to read Princess Diary. Oh well, anyway, that’s her right to choose which novels to read. J It is obviously everybody’s right to choose what kind of novel to read, just like any kind of movie to watch, or any mailing list to join. (Nah lo, how could I come to mailing list? LOL.)
The first time I happened to find this teen-lit novel—and got to know with the term TEEN-LIT NOVEL—was in the beginning of 2003. I was looking for an interesting book to read for Angie—my lovely star. At the same time, I also wanted to find a kind of reading that would prepare her to enter teenage years. I expected it to be a kind of book that would give Angie fun when reading it, also life experience, how to handle teenagers problems—especially girls, and make Angie more broadminded and open-minded about more universal issues. (So idealistic, huh? LOL.)
And I think Princess Diaries could fulfill the requirements I make for myself. Some reasons behind it:
First, Mia Thermopolis lived only with her mother. Her parents didn’t get married. This is an important issue, in my opinion, to make her think that happiness doesn’t only come from a family that consists of father, mother, and kids. When the parents live separately, it doesn’t always mean that they cannot shower their attention and care and love to their kids. (NOTE: until this twenty first century, in Indonesia many people still think that when the parents get divorced and live separately, they no longer love their children anymore. This false idea then gives the best excuse to many irresponsible people—mainly men—to ignore their children after they live separately.) Eventually it will give misleading opinion that this ‘broken family’ creates problems for the future generations because they don’t grow up with “complete parents” who give them “complete care, love, and attention”. Narrow-minded people then will point out “the broken family phenomena” as one cause of the not qualified future generations.
The fact is not always like that. That’s for sure. It is high time for people in
Indonesia to accept that living separately but each of the parents feels happy in their respective life will even make happy children. It is compared to when children live in a loveless marriage, both parents don’t feel happy anymore with the marriage; but they continue living together because they are afraid to be given “burden” by society as creating unhappy future generations when they live separately. Since not feeling happy in the marriage, and most of the time fights and quarrels are involved, they even cannot take care of their children well. It is supported by misleading teaching of religion that women must be submissive, to think of their husband and children’s welfare first, although they themselves are unhappy, abused psychologically, verbally and sometimes physically. However, they are indoctrinated to “enter heaven” as the compensation of torturing themselves to live in such a marriage.
In Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot depicted problem Mia faces with her two parents live separately, but it doesn’t mean that Mia feels very troubled or unhappy with that.
Second, being included into the ‘not popular’ group of students at school is not a big problem for Mia and her gang, such as Lilly Moscovitz and Tina Hakim Baba. When teenagers enter high school, they face this phenomenon—students are divided into the ‘popular’ group and ‘not popular’ group. Popular students are usually well-known as the good-looking, sports star, the rich, physically beautiful, etc. Their popularity at school oftentimes makes other students envy and forget their own potentials, such as good at certain subjects, like mathematics, physics, etc. Some worse things happen when they forget their potentials then just try doing anything in order that they will be included into the popular groups at school.
This phenomenon can also be found in some teenage movies, such as “Never Been Kissed”. In fact, this phenomenon happens worldwide. I want Angie in her high school not bothered by this silly dichotomy—popular and not popular groups at school. It is more important for teenagers to be able to actualize themselves, to be mature and find out their own strength, talent and potentials without being a copycat.
Third, Meg Cabot described Mia’s mother as a feminist. (Aha … no wonder, I love this novel, huh? LOL.) Where can I find feminism issues in Indonesian teen-lit novels?
Fourth, some topics Meg Cabot illustrated some of Mia’s subjects at school. It is clearly seen that the way of teaching in America emphasized on students’ understanding rather than memorizing things. The big problem in Indonesia’s education: teachers insist the students to memorize things, and test them on it.
I remember my own experience when I was in high school (also when I was in my bachelor’s degree.) I had to memorize the patterns of twelve tenses—from Simple Present Tense, Present Continuous Tense, etc—without knowing when to use each of them. As a result, although I memorized all patterns of those twelve tenses very well, I still didn’t know when to use the appropriate tense. :(
Fifth, Meg Cabot didn’t forget to mention some names of theorists plus their theories and the application. For example: Carl Jung with his self-actualization concept, Beauvoir with her existentialist feminism ideology, Freud with his psychoanalysis theory. It sounds serious, but in this novel, Cabot described them nicely so that it is easily understood. Teen-lit novels written by Indonesian writers? Of course not.
Oh well, of course it is everybody’s right to choose any novel to read, isn’t it? No one can say that he/she has right to accuse other people with different choice as less intellectual only because they choose to read “light” novels. Perhaps for many people, Princess Diary is also only rubbish, one thing that I will not care either. LOL.
PT56 13.05 010207