I originally had a review scheduled today, but when I looked at the date, I decided to change things up a bit. I know it’s not a big year, but I decided to honor the 12th anniversary of September 11th anyway with a related discussion.. I know that not everyone who reads this is from the U.S., but I want to talk about a topic that I think can apply to any country that’s been marred by a tragedy that affected a well-known location.
Earlier this year, I read the first two and a half Jessica Darling books (just read the reviews if you want to know what I didn’t make through all three, let alone the five books in the series). Anyway, in the first book, something really threw me out of the book and its story. One minute I’m reading about the various thoughts that run through Jessica Darling’s head, the next she throws out a quick mention of the Twin Towers.
Now, when this book was written (and when it was published, I believe, but I’m not sure), September 11th had not happened. The Twin Towers were still standing and we could never have guessed that anything like that would ever happen. I’m not saying that it was the author’s fault that they were mentioned – I’m sure the Twin Towers have made appearances in other books published before 2001, or in books set before 2001.
The next book was written just after September 11th, so the idea of New York seeming unsafe, especially to Jessica’s parents when she wanted to go to Columbia in New York City for college, was a big part of the book. I think September 11th might have even been a date in her diary, although I don’t remember for sure.
Reading these two books, one that brought up memories because it didn’t know anything and another that brought up different thoughts because it did, really made me think. I was in second grade when September 11th happened, so it’s been a big memory in my life for most of my memorable years. We were too young to really understand everything and our teachers didn’t even tell us, so I have a much different perspective than my parents or grandmother or a high school senior like Jessica. It was weird seeing her perspective, one that’s much more knowledgeable about the matter but probably less so than most adults. It was interesting, but at the same time it was a bit hard to be reminded of, especially in the first book.
I just wonder if something else similar would affect me the same way. If I were to pick up a book published before the 1940s that mentions Pearl Harbor without mentioning the attack, how would I feel? What about Columbine High School before the 1990s or New Orleans without any traces of Hurricane Katrina? What about a book published after the “Great War,” but before it was joined by World War II? Books are static – they don’t really get updated. My government textbook my senior year mentioned Senator Barack Obama, even though he was just at the tail end of his first term at that point, and I’m sure the latest will mention our future president before he (or she) becomes the POTUS. Books don’t really get updated like that, though. Series can update things, like the Jessica Darling series did, but the first book will forever remain the same, with its offhand mention of the Twin Towers. It was really a small thing, and if it had been a mention of nearly anything else, I probably wouldn’t still remember it.
Again, many of the events I’ve mentioned are exclusive to the United States, but this is a thing that can happen with any book from any country. The world is always changing, but books don’t necessarily follow that. It’s just weird to think that the books we read and write now could mention famous landmarks that might be gone or completely changed in just a couple years, let alone decades. Some of these landmarks will be changed by tragic events, but we really have no way of knowing that right now.
I know this was pretty rambling, but I just felt that I had to do something to commemorate this date and the fact that our world is always changing. Our books will never be able to tell the future – which is a reason that books that take place in the future, such as the 21st century, can be quite comical with how much they get wrong – but we’ll keep writing and reading them in order to keep up with history.