One of the few times I got busted in middle school was because of The Westing Game. I was deep into the book’s convoluted plot, puzzling over who would win the Westing fortune. This book had everything my sixth grade mind could hope for: a mystery with a thirteen-year-old girl as a main character, giant piles of money, PBS levels of diversity, and a mad bomber. I would not put it down to learn lame things about English grammar. My exasperated teacher, Mrs. Taylor, announced a pop quiz and obliquely called me out. “I hope,” she said focusing squarely on me, “that those of us who have been reading novels throughout the lesson do very well on this quiz.”
It was the first time I let art get in the way of my studies. The first time I thumbed my nose at The Man. The first time, and actually one of the few times, I walked that good kid/bad kid line. I remember my brush with juvenile delinquency fondly, and hold it up as evidence that I wasn’t entirely a goody-two-shoes in my early years. The Westing Game, consequently, looms large in my memory of that time. I loved that book. I thought it was super cool. Almost 25 years later, I still remember it as an excellent story and would unreservedly recommend it to anyone. The only thing is, I haven’t read it again since that first heady time in the sixth grade. And I don’t want to.
I’ve never been a great one for rereading. I don’t often see the point once the book has revealed to me all of its secrets. I know there is more to gain, more to appreciate of the writer’s skill upon second and third readings, and a deeper relationship to form with the work over time. I just won’t ever be able to recapture that first-time thrill of the revelations leading to the climax and the following catharsis. I chase new highs from other books because I know I won’t feel the same emotional peaks with the beloved book again.
I’m also reluctant because I’m afraid. What if The Westing Game doesn’t hold up to the refined/jaded palate of the adult me? What if my adult mind finds a pile of faults and disappointments in it? What if what I remember of its awesomeness gets trashed? My memory of the art might be more important to me- and how I view my sixth grade self- than the art itself. I haven’t decided to never reread The Westing Game, but for now I want to remember the first thrill of reading it and being a little rebellious in the process.
P.S. I did get an A on that quiz. Booyah.