It’s been a long time since I’ve read a young adult novel (other than Harry Potter, which doesn’t count), so when I picked up Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women this week, I was at first taken aback by the rosy, generic moral lessons within it. As I began, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, since it’s a reread for me. Besides, I had this idea that I’d outgrown it. I was wrong.
At first the moral lessons were a bit silly to me. For example, when the girls want a holiday week, without any chores, their mother agrees and lets them, knowing they will learn their lesson. Sure enough, by the end of the week, they are ready for chores again! If only lessons are really learned that way.
By the middle, though, I was finding myself relating to the teen angst as the girls began courting and dealing with each other and their life dreams. They plan their “castles in the air” for what they want to be doing in ten years, when they are between twenty-two and twenty-seven. (That’s where I am right now. It does not seem that old.)
As I was reading Little Women, I really found myself enjoying the story, as childish and “rosy” as it is. Then, during a scene when a character marries, I had a moment of bizarre realization: I’m not one of them. I’m already married. I have a baby. How am I relating to these girls?
I think what makes Little Women a classic novel is the universal themes. The oldest, Meg, wants to be a lady and be elegant and beautiful, even in the midst of her family’s poverty; Jo struggles to control her anger; Beth struggles with shyness; and Amy is completely self-absorbed. Surely these are themes we all deal with throughout our lives! I recommend this book to any teenage girl–and to the rest of us as well!