10 books to get you through A2
The alternative to joining the circus
Year 13 is tough for a variety of reasons that don’t need to be listed (e.g A2 horror, complex social / love life dramas, living with your family) so it’s fair to say that at times a bit of escapism, straight up, is in order.
In that vein, we’ve compiled a list of 10 literary characters to get you through A2, as delving into their lives will hopefully take some of the sting out of your own.
1. Paddington Bear (The Renaissance Man)
This might seem a bit of a cop out, but it’s not because indulging in the nostalgia for a simpler time can be very therapeutic. Not only that, but Paddington Bear had a lot more going for him than his quintessential penchant for marmalade. He was, after all, a bear who journeyed from “darkest Peru” equipped only with a sense of adventure, a misshapen hat and the charisma which won him a place in the Brown household. Just imagine if you rocked up at uni decked out in a duffle coat and wellington boots, with a label around your neck bearing the words “Please Look After this Fresher”. Things might not be so bad.
Sample Quote: “Well, he’s got good manners; I’ll say that for him.” (Mrs Bird talking about Paddington)
The Book: A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond
2. Atticus Finch (The Ideal Paternal Figure)
Atticus Finch is the epitome of a principled man as he always advocates that people be treated justly and as equals. To put it lightly, he knew he’d get a lot of stick for representing a black man in a white court of law circa 1930s Alabama, but he did it anyway because it was the right thing to do. He also makes a point of never patronising Scout and Jem as he asserts that “evasion simply muddles” children, something most parents would be well advised to take heed of. If you’re ever in an ethical pickle, take a leaf out of Harper Lee’s book and stand strong. Maybe the problem is peer pressure or perhaps your teacher is being too harsh marking mock papers: assert yourself.
Sample Quote: “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” (Atticus Finch)
The Book: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Hermione Granger (Setting the Standard for Diligence)
Everyone who aspires towards academic excellence has to be a bit intimidated by Hermione Granger. Sure, she’s not likely to be invited to any wild Parties (if that sort of thing even happens at Hogwarts) but the girl is a tornado and eventually becomes the driving force behind Dumbledore’s Army against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (...Ralph Fiennes). She always has her hand up in lessons and is eventually awarded the Time-Turner so that she can get more work done than otherwise conceivable, though she also uses it to save Buckbeak, the hippogriff, from execution. All in all, she must have a pretty impressive Personal Statement.
Sample Quote: “We wouldn’t last two days without her.” (Ron Weasley talking about Hermione)
The Book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
4. Alice (Meandering through Wonderland)
Alice finds herself alone in a nonsensical reality which isn’t actually so real... if that makes sense. It’s new, it’s scary, it’s exciting and in the end, like Dorothy, she just wants to go home – sound familiar? Reading about Alice’s psychedelic adventures (you might want to listen to Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ at this point) will transport you far away from exam stresses and sexual diplomacy and may even remind you that, for a lot of it, A2 is just a bad dream. You might be Tweedle-Dumbfounded now, but just don’t drink anything too suspect and things will be alright in the end.
Sample Extract: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” – Alice
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” – The Cheshire Cat
“I don’t much care where.”
“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
The Book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
5. Esther Greenwood (The Girl Under a Bell Jar)
You might be put off reading The Bell Jar due its reputation for being morose. Esther Greenwood is stifled by depression; “stewing in [her] own sour air” after the metaphorical bell jar has descended. But she is also witty and vibrant, and although she crumbles under the weight of her ambition, at least she has tried to follow her dreams. We can all sympathise with Esther because her problem is that she wants “to be everything”. A pressure we all feel sometimes, despite knowing it’s relatively impossible. Few of us are Hollywood icons who moonlight as astronauts and play the lute to the elderly after all.
Sample Quote: “From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.” (Esther Greenwood)
The Book: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
6. Charlie Bucket (& his Golden Ticket)
Who doesn’t love little Charles Bucket? His dad works bloody hard in the toothpaste factory, his family eats cabbage soup every day and his four (no doubt lethally flatulent) grandparents have to share a bed. He doesn’t want for much, only a chocolate bar on his birthday. The fable of Charlie’s story is basically a rebuttal to the saying “nice guys finish last”. Like hell they do. So be nice to your teachers and they’ll be more inclined to be empathising with you about sleeping in and having to juggle deadlines. And we can learn from Mike ‘TV addict’ Teavee’s tragedy, he probably wasn’t on track for great results…
Sample Quote: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place we can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall” (Those literary Oompa-Loompas)
The Book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
7. Holden Caulfield (The Drifter/ Icon for Teenage Rebellion)
Holden Caulfield is the original angst-ridden teenager as he wanders through Manhattan after ‘flunking’ out of school for the fourth time. He’s a seventeen-year-old boy who is only “a little concerned” about his future as he exasperates the authoritative figures around him with fantasies of running away to obscure places and pretending to be a deaf-mute. Who hasn’t done that? “Holden does not refuse to grow up so much as agonises over the state of being grown up” – something we can all relate to.
Sample Quote: “You ought to be able to stick [certain things] in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.” (Holden Caulfield)
The Book: The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
8. Winnie-the-Pooh (An Other Anthropomorphised Bear)
Winnie-the-Pooh is a very persistent bear. Perhaps some would call him a glutton, but he demonstrates valuable initiative in his attempts to secure honey when he floats up to a hive using a blue balloon after reasoning that he will blend in with the sky. And who doesn’t love a good bit of food distraction when you should be revising. It’s good not to take life too seriously all the time because, as Pooh would agree, we all need a bit of whimsy to stay sane.
Sample Quote: ‘“I have been foolish and deluded,” said [Pooh], “and I am a bear of no brain at all.”
“You’re the best bear in all the world,” said Christopher Robin Soothingly,
“Am I?” said Pooh hopefully.’
The Book: Winnie-The-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
9. John H. Watson, M.D. (The Wingman)
Dr. Watson is Leonard in ‘Big Bang Theory’, Andrew Garfield in ‘The Social Network’ and Gretchen in ‘Mean Girls’. Sherlock Holmes is nothing without Dr Watson and we get the feeling he’d make a better boyfriend. When you’re at a party next see if you can identify the Watsons in the room. They’ll be the guys who are somewhat overshadowed by a loud/arrogant/beautiful/exhibitionist boy as they act as a human crutch under his arm. Yes, Watson is the beloved archetype sidekick, but the man had a medical degree. Even Batman’s Robin got to wear a cape, despite looking a bit camp, and probably wrote a blog.
Sample Quote: “[Holmes and I] were sharing rooms as bachelors in Baker Street”
The Book: The Adventure of the Speckled Band, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
10. Jiggy McCue (The Joker; a bit of twat, really)
As Jiggy McCue would say “don’t let’s waste any time here”, you need him for some light relief. Michael Lawrence’s popular series chronicles the trials of Jiggy’s puberty, though what’s refreshing is that there is no mention of awkward ragers, pubic hair or essay anxiety because the somewhat absurd protagonist has a knack for attracting the supernatural. As well as having his life flushed down a toilet (literally, this is not a way to poetically discuss hangovers) Jiggy is the victim of a pair of evil underpants, and bitchy genie and is haunted by a dead goose. Year 13 sucks, absolutely, but presumably none of the above has happened to you and that has to be something to be happy about.
Sample Quote: “One for all, and all for lunch!”
The Book: The Poltergoose, by Michael Lawrence
This feature was written by whateverafter reader Juliette. If you'd like to write for us email your idea to email@example.com