Are You Afraid of Sequels, Too?
You're standing in line at the movie theater waiting to see that movie that looks so irresistible in the trailers. You see the movie and the hype is warranted. It truly is a marvelous, captivating film.
Then, a few months later, it is announced with great excitement that there will be a sequel. You wait in anxious anticipation. At length, when the sequel is released, you go to see it.
But something is different this time. The magic is lost. That adoration you felt after seeing the original movie is gone. Something just isn't right anymore. The story just doesn't feel genuine. You begin to sense that the only reason the sequel was made was to satisfy a thirsty audience, either to fulfill a contractual agreement or purely monetary gain.
You've been there. We've all been there.
And, all too often, that's how I feel about books.
You see, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. (I don't think it's the best book to teach school kids about race--ahem, white savior complex--but that's a whole 'nother post.) I've read TKAM more times than I've read any other book (4 times; the first time in 4th grade).
When I find a book I love that much, to me, it takes on a separate life from the book. Like the story and its principles cannot be contained to mere pages. The characters live on in our hearts and minds. We identify with them and what they stand for. At least for me, when I love a book that much, the story takes on a certain sense of reality--I imagine the characters alive somewhere in an alternative universe in all their timeless glory.
I realize that's a bit nerdy and that not everyone feels that way. But I think everyone, at some point, has been disillusioned and disappointed by a sequel, and that's precisely why I'm dreading Harper Lee's new book, the sequel to TKAM, called Go Set a Watchman.
Go Set a Watchman was written an finished before TKAM, so Harper Lee says, so its creation is not solely to further capitalize on a thirsty audience. And again, because it preceded TKAM in creation, it's hard to make the case that it's not "genuine."
So, what am I afraid of, you ask? Well, Go Set a Watchman is about Scout as an adult living in NYC who is visiting her father in Maycomb, Alabama. The Scout I know and love--the Scout that lives in my mind--is a little girl, still in awe of Boo Radley and the world's cruelties while learning how to navigate her world in a way that honors her father's upstanding values.
Will the adult Scout have grown up in a way that makes Atticus proud? How is she affecting positive change in Maycomb if she's living in New York City? Is the adult Scout someone to whom I can relate, respect, and admire as I did Scout as a little girl?
It's not that I don't trust Harper Lee to have written a second stellar novel, despite the multitudes predicting she couldn't or never would. It's not that I don't want my favorite characters to change, to grow as people in the iterations of the stories they inhabit. It's not even that I'm afraid it'll taint my memories of reading Scout as a little girl.
It's that I'm afraid I won't like the person Scout has become. I'm afraid of the answers to my questions: especially of whether she makes Atticus proud--of whether the adult Scout is still someone whom I could see myself in, someone whom I'd want to see myself in.
I know the only way to find out is the read the book. And I will. But perhaps not immediately. I want to savor the Scout I already know I love just a little longer.