Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

What Bringing to Life a Literary Character Can Do for You – a guest post by Mary Gray, author of The Dollhouse Asylum

As a teen, I moved every year. Can you imagine? Spending freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years in four separate schools? That’s not to mention all the moving I did before that, including multiple schools in one year, often being lost in the curriculum, and immensely alone. But I studied hard, and was always determined to do my best in class.

Without question, it seemed I was supposed to read To Kill a Mockingbird. It was literally the book of choice at three separate schools in three separate years. So I got to know the story quite well, and, I’m sad to say, eventually grew sick of it.

One wise English teacher my Freshman year asked us to do a presentation on some aspect of the book. Always drawn to sad, brooding topics, I chose Boo Radley, because what’s not sad and brooding about him? He is so picked on, so very alone, and I suppose a part of me knew what that was like (I never put that together before). At the time, the song “You Might as Well be Walking on the Sun” by Smash Mouth was big (I bought their CD!) and for some random reason, I decided to change the lyrics to fit with Boo’s predicament.

I don’t have all the lyrics anymore, but every time I think of or hear that song, I remember this line, instead of “You might as well be walking on the sun,” I’d changed it to, “You need to be walking in his shoes.”

It’s corny, don’t I know it. And my stomach twists to think of how I performed this little musical number in front of my entire English classroom. (Mortifying!) I didn’t receive any compliments–halfway through it, I knew my performance was bad–but the message has stayed with me, and I’ll always have a soft spot for Boo.

This is why I love reading. We look at characters completely unlike (or sometimes just like ourselves) and think, “How does this character feel?” Analytical study gives us the power to grow compassion, become better than our often selfish selves.

So, moral of the story? I’m not necessarily saying make a fool of yourselves, but taking on projects that aren’t in our comfort zones will stick with us, and God knows the world needs more people who can think of others before ourselves.

*Note: I’m not saying I’m always capable of doing this, but that’s why we keep trying, and remembering our good choices in the past and deciding to make positive strides in the future can only help.


Official bio: Mary Gray has a fascination with all things creepy. That’s why
 all her favorite stories usually involve panic attacks and hyperventilating. In real life, she prefers to type away on her computer, ogle over her favorite TV shows, and savor fiction. When she’s not immersed in other worlds, she and her husband get their exercise by chasing after their three children. The Dollhouse Asylum is her first novel.

You can meet author Mary Gray, Victoria Scott, Jeramey Kraatz, Krissi Dallas and Heather L. Reid at the Betty Warmack Branch Library (where I happen to work oddly enough) on Monday, October 28th at 7:00 PM.

Here’s another post that mentions To Kill a Mockingbird