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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Book Review: Johnny Tremain

My copy of Johnny Tremain/the mysterious note I found inside
I've wanted to read this book for a long time, since I'd heard so many good things about it from several people, but it wasn't until recently that I finally got a chance to.  I was browsing through a used bookstore (the kind that has books all over the place, in no real state of organization), when I came across an old, battered copy.  I bought it at once, took it home, and read it straight through in three hours (I found an odd note inside - I couldn't figure it out at all; it'll have to remain a mystery).  It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think.  More on all that in a bit.

I watched the Disney adaption when I was younger, and I really liked it, so that combined with enthusiastic recommendations from friends pretty much ensured I would enjoy it.  I've actually read it two times, and I liked it a lot better the second time around (not to say I didn't the first time).  One of my favorite things about Johnny Tremain is the characters.  There's Johnny, of course.  The odd thing about me is that I never like heroes/heroines as much as the supporting characters, but I really did like Johnny.  His story is pretty much the typical 'hero's journey' and it was amazing to see how much he'd changed by the end of the book.  It was gradual, but when I finished the book and thought back to the beginning, I could see it right away.

The other characters: Cilla was great.  She was my third favorite character and I really liked how her and Johnny's friendship was portrayed.  They were great friends, even when it didn't look like it, and, after all, she was the only one Johnny trusted enough to show his silver cup to.  As for my favorite character...well, I'm sure you can all guess who that is.  Rab.  I can't really explain why he was my favorite, but I think this little snippet sums it all up quite well...
"Anybody named Priscilla can marry anybody."  
"No they can't.  For instance, I couldn't marry Rab."
Johnny froze.  From being mildly irritated, but interested, he was a little angry.  "Nobody asked you to," he said shortly..."Rab wouldn't marry you.  He's too...he's too..."
"Wonderful?"  Cilla gave him one of her sweet, veiled glances out of the corner of her eye.  "That's what you mean?" 
It was exactly what Johnny had meant.
 Let's see...what else can I talk about?  Oh, yes, the historical setting.  I love the American Revolutionary time period and reading Johnny Tremain confirmed that opinion.  I learned a lot more about that time period just reading the book (sort of a subconscious thing, you know) and, on another note, Otis' speech in the attic was completely epic (and I mean that in the blow-you-away-with-the-amazingness-of-it way).  I have a feeling I should quote it here, or at least some of it...
"Each shall give according to his abilities, and some-" he turned directly to Rab "-some will give their lives.  All the years of their maturity.  All the children they will never live to have.  The serenity of old age.  To die so young is more than merely dying; it is to lose so large a part of life...we give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills...we fight, we die, for a simple thing.  Only that a man can stand up."
Talk about foreshadowing.  Because, you see, Rab dies (oops - should I have put a spoiler alert in front of that?  Oh, well, you basically know it from the above quote).  And it's heartbreaking.  Not in the 'oh no, this character died.  Let's cry a little.' but in the way that makes a real impact on you.  Because he died for what he believed in.  He was only eighteen and he already had a set course for his life, and he wasn't afraid to see it through to the end.  Excuse me whilst I go cry.

So that's my review of Johnny Tremain.  One of my new favorite classic books and one that I'll probably re-read several times.  It's funny, it's poignant, and at some parts, it's downright sad.  But you'll love it anyway.  I promise.

Have you ever read Johnny Tremain?  Who's your favorite character?


Jennifer said...

Okay, it is now official. I'm going to have to borrow that from you and read it. I read it years ago, but you've whet my appetite to read it again. :)

Anonymous said...

I just read Johnny Tremain for the first time a few weeks ago, and I loved it! I couldn't believe I had put it off for so long...

Anonymous said...

Are you LITERALLY KIDDING ME, Eva? Wow. So, last night, I was talking with a dear friend about this very book. And about how wonderful it was, and how humorous it was, and how bittersweet in the end. I'm just amazed. xD xD Then here I check your blog and BOOM, there it is. xD Awesome.
Oh my gosh, this book... It's just too bittersweet. Like Lord of the Rings. Torn. Conflicting feelings of hope and sadness. It was SOOOO WONDERFULLY written; seriously, it's one of those "call to action speech" type of books (like Enjolras' speech in the Brick, sort of) because it makes you want to DO SOMETHING, right? (I want to grab my musket. xD)
My favorite character is probably - no, I can't choose. They're all so real, so 3-dimensional, so *alive*. <3
Seriously, thanks so much. Wonderful review. <3

Miss Jane Bennet said...

GREAT review!!! You expressed my thoughts on this wonderful book perfectly. I've been watching for this review since you told me you were working on it last night- I recognized the quote. One of my favorites. :)

Eva said...

@Petie - WHY DID YOU NOT TELL ME OF THIS? =) Seriously though, I'm so happy you you enjoyed it (although, pretty much everyone I know loves it, so...) We must fangirl over it ASAP. Yes?

@Peregrin - Things like that have happened to me before and I think it's weird and cool at the same time :) And yes, it's definitely 'a call to action' book - probably one of the reasons I love it so much.

@Jane - I actually was planning to schedule it to go up during my family's vacation, but I just couldn't wait to publish it one I'd finished, so that's what I did :)

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Oh, goodness, yes. I read it for the first time years ago, and loved it, of course. But I don't think I even fully realized how awesome it is until recently. My thirteen-year-old sister just read it for the first time, and it's become her favorite book—meaning she's been reading it over and over ever since. So I picked it up one day (when she happened not to have it in her hands for once) and re-read it, and...well, I think it's one of the best historical novels ever. Looking at it with more experienced eyes, I can see how wonderfully well developed all the characters are, and the full emotional impact of the story—plus the wonderful historical detail.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I read this for school!!! It's a pretty okay book. Johnny is okay, but my favorite character had to be Rab. I was so sad when I found out that he died!!! I'm glad that you liked the book!
~Anna S.

Amy Wegner said...

This is a major family favorite. I read it when I was probably about 9 (my older brother was really pressing me to read it... he loved it!), and 9 years later, it is still very high on the favorite books list very high as in... just under The Bronze Bow and North and South. Haha... it is seriously one of the best written books I have ever read. Like you said, it is a typical story of the hero starting not so good and turning good... but she writes it all so well that you can seriously believe that he would change. The things that happen and the people he meets... it is all so believeable! And of course, I love the historical setting. :) I am a bit of a history geek. :D

In Christ,

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