This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer shares her take on John Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Natlie L., Teen Reviewer

grapesofwrathBook Title: The Grapes of Wrath

Author: John Steinbeck

Format: Book

Year of Publication: 1939

Will appeal to fans of: nonfiction, history (American; Great Depression), classics

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Great Depression came with more than just economic difficulties, drought, and changes in the agricultural industry; it also came with a figurative boot to kick farmers off of their land and turned them into migrants wandering the country in search of work. The Joads were a family of these farmers-turned-migrants who then set their eyes on California, the golden land of peaches and promises. The Grapes of Wrath chronicles the story of the Joads as they travel from state to state to reach California, encounter people from all walks of life, and receive lemon after undesired lemon from life itself.

All puns and jokes aside, this novel is a bit of a downer. For starters, it’s set in the Great Depression, which, as told throughout the book, was a time of great hardship for pretty much everyone in America. The story is told from the perspective of out-of-work tenant farmers, who arguably had it the worst during that time, and it clearly depicts the struggles of those who were broke in a time when money meant power. It was painful for me to read about people throwing away, if not their dignity, their lives for the sake of earning a few cents to keep their family going for just one more day. What astounds me more than the tragic life led by the people is that, within every single chapter of the book, Steinbeck was able to convey the sense of desperation and turmoil that the migrant families experienced. The approach that Steinbeck took to tell the story was fascinating; he alternated between writing from the perspective of the Joads to writing from the perspective of an omniscient third-person narrator who I assumed was applying each specific situation experienced by the Joads to every migrant at the time by the use of generalization. That’s what kept me engaged with the book.

It took me a while to get into this novel—seven chapters and a quarter to be specific—and I probably would’ve dropped it if it hadn’t been required for school, but ultimately I’m glad I didn’t. It provided me with an insight into the lives of those who struggled to get by in the past and made me realize how appreciative I should be of my current standing. That is why I recommend this book to teens who are ready to get a bit introspective or to people who want to learn about a rather saddening slice of American history.