Yes, I WILL help you do your homework.

We Were HereI love the idea that students find this blog when trying to fudge their homework. I think I’ve made my feelings about traditional schooling pretty clear, especially my feelings about the way literature is integrated into Language Arts classes. I’ve reviewed and discussed a lot of books on this blog and I truly hope that students who haven’t read them are able to find the answers to fill out their time wasting worksheets.

Sorry teachers, I’ve chosen my side. I’m sticking with it.

See, WordPress lets me see the search terms that reach my blog. Not only does this give me insight into what books are being taught in Language Arts, but also what kind of questions teachers see fit to assign on these books. It also gives me the small hope that these students might read some of the more ranty content on the blog and gain some insight of their own on such topics as rape, abortion, bullying or misleading statistics. Here’s to hoping they get something out of the hours they spend doing pointless busy work.

In this spirit of making lemons out of lemonade I thought I would help some kids with their homework today. By a large margin, the most frequent homework oriented searches to my blog concern Matt De La Pena’s fine book WE WERE HERE.  I can no longer resist temptation. I’m going to do the homework of disgruntled American students everywhere. Here goes:

(disclaimer: students, please feel free to use my answers in your homework. Strictly speaking this is plagiarism, but since I’m giving permission you are in no danger of being sued. You are however, in danger of failing, should your teacher find out because plagiarism is considered academic misconduct or “cheating”. An easy way around this is to cite me. Please do it like this: “The young adult author, Gabrielle Prendergast writes on her blog, that *answer here*” If your teacher has a problem with this, you may invite him or her to contact me. You may also remind them that properly cited sources are an accepted, even necessary part of higher academic study. And that I’m almost sure they didn’t read all the books they were assigned in college. And that they cited stuff they didn’t even read. And that they turned out okay.)

What is the author’s purpose for the book WE WERE HERE by Matt De La Pena?

File:Alberto Plá Rubio - Girl in a Field - Google Art Project.jpg
Alberto Plá Rubio – Girl in a Field, 1920
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Oh lord, who knows? Writers write for many reasons. Even though many books, WE WERE HERE included, contain “messages” this is rarely the real purpose the author wrote the book. Most of the writers I know write because they can’t NOT write. Some writers write because they’re good at it and suck at anything else. Myself I’m a bit of both. It’s possible Matt had a character pop into his head who wouldn’t leave him alone. That happens to me all the time (three of them are bugging me right now).  One thing I’m pretty sure is that Matt didn’t write the book to “teach the world about what it’s like to be a half Mexican kid on the run from the law in America today.” I know with all the discussions you’ve probably had in class about the book it might seem that way, but that’s not how most fiction writing works. Good fiction does not attempt to teach, only to inspire. The difference between fiction and instructional texts is like the difference between art and illustration. An illustration is to show you something, like the pork parts diagram at left. Art is art. Like the painting above.It hopes you feel something. Fiction hopes you feel something, but it never presumes to tell you what.

So, what did you feel?

What is the plot of the book WE WERE HERE ?

At the most basic level, the plot of WE WERE HERE is a sort of a quest, kind of like The Lord of the Rings. Miguel is looking for something. I’m not going to tell you the exact plot because I’d like you to try to figure it out. I will tell you that a good way to define a plot is “CHARACTER does ACTION because MOTIVATION”. So try to figure WHAT Miguel does, and why. I hope that’s what your teacher wants. If he or she is looking for an outline of everything that happens in the book, that’s a synopsis, not a plot. Try some reviews of the book on Goodreads, but don’t forget to cite them or to paraphrase – preferably both.

What is the theme of WE WERE HERE ?

This is kind of like asking “how long is a piece of string?” Good books never have one simple theme. I asked Matt about this once and he was nearly as flummoxed as me. But he said: “Three invisible kids who want the world to know they exist too.”  You can cite him thus: “A tweet from @mattdelapena to @gabriellesarap, November 20, 2012.”

Forgiveness and friendship are a couple of very broad themes in the book, but they are also a couple of very broad themes in Harry Potter so I don’t know that this helps.

Summary of WE WERE HERE

Well, you’re not even trying. Hit Goodreads my friend. You will find many summaries there. Cite them.

WE WERE HERE is it based off a true story?

Most of the writers I know use a lot of their own lives in their books, even if they are writing fantasy or science fiction. I know Matt is half Mexican, like Miguel in the story, but I don’t think Matt spent time in juvie. His website bio says he went to college on a full scholarship so probably not.

It’s a novel. Novels are generally considered fiction, even if they are semi-autobiographical. If it was his life it would be called a memoir.

WE WERE HERE  quotes

Open the book and find them, kid. Come on. Oh all right, here are a couple, via Goodreads.

WE WERE HERE characters

Miguel, Rondell and Mong, all three juveniles on the run from a group home. Jaden, their counselor. That’s all you get.

WE WERE HERE analysis

God, are you freaking kidding me? Books are not urine samples. Why do they need to be “analyzed”? Tell your teacher to go to a freaking shrink if he wants analysis. I sincerely hope you haven’t arrived here after being assigned the question “Write an analysis of WE WERE HERE by Matt De La Pena”. If you have, and you are able to complete this task, you may skip your undergrad degree and go straight into a Masters.

WE WERE HERE  point of view

WE WERE HERE is written in first person point of view, narrated by Miguel. More specifically the point of view is first person subjective which gives the reader the sense of experiencing the story along with the narrator. However, it is written in past tense, providing some distance from the events, but not too much.

WE WERE HERE скачать

Matt de la PenaI have no idea what you’re saying. It’s possible you have been possessed by a Russian poltergeist. AH! I’ve just translated it. It means “download”! You are a Russian bootlegger, you bad bad person. Bootlegging or downloading books from “free” sites is stealing. Do you really want to steal from Matt de la Pena? Look at his face. How could you steal from that face?

WE WERE HERE Miguel characterization

Please tell me you’re in college. I have two Masters Degrees and I don’t know what “characterization” means.

WE WERE HERE audience

That would be you, I guess, since you’re the one supposed to be reading it. I mean…? The target market is young adult. That may be what you are getting at. I would say there is nothing inappropriate in the book for readers 12 and up.

What are questions for WE WERE HERE?

What? What questions? There are no questions. It’s a book, not a job interview.

Matt De La Peña nationality

He’s American. His mom is basically anglo-ish and his dad is Mexican-ish. But he’s American. Nationality is what it says on your passport. Sometimes it matches your culture, sometimes it doesn’t. My daughter’s passport, for example, is American. Her culture is Canadian. She says “hoose” and eats poutine.

WE WERE HERE character and plot analysis

If you can complete this question please proceed directly to graduate school. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

WE WERE HERE interesting facts

In my copy of WE WERE HERE none of the pages were missing, unlike in my copy of Matt’s other book, BALL DON’T LIE, which was missing pages 153 and 154.

Matt mentioned WE WERE HERE in a New York Times piece called “Seeing Themselves in Books”. I suggest you read it. It might make you want to actually read the book.

It was an ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Google ALA/YALSA. I’ve lost the will to live.

What type of novel is WE WERE HERE?

A good one. Go to bed.

Seriously though, it’s a young adult novel in the contemporary genre.

What is the climax in the book “WE WERE HERE”?

Are you kidding me? Read the book. At least read the last few pages until you find it. Throw me a bone here.

WE WERE HERE group home name

I’ve no idea. Matt?

How does XXXX die from “WE WERE HERE”?

I’d prefer to keep this post spoiler free, which is why I’ve blanked out the name in the question. Don’t ruin it for everyone. Suffice it to say a couple of people die in different ways. If that isn’t enough to entice you to actually read the book I don’t know what is. There’s a pretty steamy make-out scene too, if that helps.

WE WERE HERE is a great book, a really great one and Matt De La Peña is a wonderfully talented author. I know you don’t want to read the book, or you haven’t got time, or you’ve left it too late. But there’s probably a part of you that WOULD read this book if a friend recommended it instead of a teacher assigning it. If you take nothing else from this little homework help session let it be this: read for pleasure. It doesn’t have to be novels. I can be magazines, newspapers, comics, letters from your grandmother, non-fiction books about baseball or rap music, recipe books (seriously, recipe books are awesome), blogs, poetry, verse novels or the instructions for building a motorcycle.

Don’t let school suck the fun out of reading forever. Finally in appreciation for my help with your homework, please consider reading my books.

And hang in there. High school is not life. Neither is college. Life is much much more interesting.

3 thoughts on “Yes, I WILL help you do your homework.

  1. I just read parts of this aloud to my 20 year-old-daughter. (The part about analysis.) And she disagreed. She says books are meant to be analyzed and that that was how she learned to enjoy what a book was all about. I was a bit floored by her response. She said that teachers’ assignments taught her to appreciate good writing.

    I look forward to reading other responses.

    1. Well, that’s great for your daughter I suppose. Here’s the thing – reading is a bit like sex. You don’t really know what you like until you’re in your 30s. I was a pretentious Lit-git English major when I was 20 and thought I had many brilliant things to say about books. I know differently now.

      The problem with being taught to appreciate “good writing” is that most English teachers wouldn’t know good writing if you beat them over the head with it. They flog what the curriculum designers tell us is good writing – Steinbeck, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Keats which is great, but that’s like eating nothing but raw vegetables and streamed chicken. Have a burger, have pizza, wash it down with beer. Read Stephen King, Maeve Binchy, even John Irving. Read Roald Dahl and Eva Ibbotson and Raymond Briggs. Read Christopher Hitchens and Dava Sobel.

      Heck, read THE DAVINCI CODE and 50 SHADES OF GREY. What on earth is wrong with appreciating BAD writing? The most fun I ever have with my students is when we read something awful, dated, illogical or cliched. In my field, writing for young adults, the best conversations I have with other writers and with readers concern TWILIGHT, something we all think is ridiculous.

      You can analyze books if you want, of course. Who am I to stop you? I only said they don’t “need to be analyzed”. I know this because I write books. That’s not what they’re for. And the word “analyze” implies that there is some final result that is possible. That the story is always about “man’s inhumanity to man” or “the eternal struggle to define oneself in an increasingly hostile and repressive milieu”. But, as I said, books aren’t urine samples. You can’t put them under a microscope and find the answer. There IS no answer. Even the author doesn’t know. To suggest otherwise is misleading.

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