Most historical fiction novels are quite enjoyable. We can learn more about a period of history without having to stutter our way through a 700-page Social Studies textbook. Because it’s not that we don’t want to learn about the past, it’s that the resources available to us are long and tiring. Which is where great historical fiction stories come into play, complete with both information and a story line.

Johnny Tremain is not one of those great books.
In the 5th grade, the entirety of both classes was forced to read this book. Our teacher had never read it before but from the reviews, she was convinced that the book would go over nicely and would allow for intellectual discussion. We talked about it every week, slowly reading it chapter by chapter. And every time, our opinion would of the story would go down.
The summary doesn’t sound that horrible, just, you know, a book you read for class. Not all that great, but tolerable. The book is about a 14-year old apprentice living in Boston during the American Revolution. While making a plate or something out of silver for John Hancock, he injures his hand and is crippled for the rest of his life. Thus begins his journey of self-discovery, a cliché that apparently also applies to 18th century silversmiths.

This book features characters that nobody particularly cares about with problems that nobody cares about either. It’s an attempt to involve the reader in issues that just aren’t that relevant anymore. Nobody wants to read a book when they don’t understand the character’s motivation for doing something.

All I’ve got to say is that readers of Johnny Tremain, I’m so sorry. I sympathize. This book is a perfect example that even if you love to read and absorb every word around you, you have to (T)remain critical of what you’re reading.