Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book 7: Troy High

Book 7: Troy High
Troy High, Shana Norris

Norris’ Troy High provides a retelling of the Trojan War but set in a modern high school. We view the story through the eyes of Cassie Prince, a student at Troy High, sister of Perry and Hunter, star players on the football team. Troy High’s greatest rival is Lacede High, home of the Spartans, where Cassie’s best friend Greg is a student. Greg is the younger brother of Lucas, the quarterback for Lacede and boyfriend of Elena Argos. Elena is a famous local beauty, and the recent school redistricting means that at the beginning of the novel she is about to become a student at Troy.

One key component in the story is that Elena is thinking about breaking up with Lucas before she even meets Perry. This highlights that Perry did not steal Elena, as discussed in The Illiad. Although Elena’s choice is influenced by Perry’s presence – and she does not officially break up with Lucas early enough – she wants to before she even meets him. However, almost as soon as she meets Perry she starts to date him, and then the high school version of the battle of Troy takes places. A series of pranks make the situation escalate, making Cassie and Greg’s friendship increasingly difficult while they are called to support their siblings and their schools.

It all leads up to the big football game between the schools. A few weeks before, Cassie has a dream where her eldest brother Hunter is seriously injured during the game. With Hunter out of commission, the Spartans win. Then, after the game, a float rigged to explode by the Spartans destroys the Trojan gym. The Spartans have officially won, and the war is over. As the book ends, Hunter’s fate remains unclear – a serious shoulder injury needing surgery could mean the death of his career if the surgery does not go as planned. Other than that, though, everything is peaceful again. Perry and Elena are happy in their high school romance, and Cassie and Greg embark on their own.

Use of Myths:
Norris makes her use of myths extremely clear in Troy High, as it is a blatant modern version of the Trojan War. In her author’s note at the end of the novel, she includes the list below of the Trojan War counterparts to her characters. Because they are all based on their mythological counterparts, then, they all have similar relationships and play similar parts in the action. Of course, these relationships and actions are all to scale, as Greek warriors act very differently than high school football players.

Cassie Prince
Cassandra the Seer, princess of Troy
Greg Mennon
Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus, commander in chief of the Greeks
Perry Prince
Paris, prince of Troy
Hunter Prince
Hector, the finest warrior and prince of Troy
Elena Argos
Helen of Troy, the greatest beauty, wife of Menelaus, and lover of Paris
Lucas Mennon
Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon, first husband of Helen, and king of Sparta

There are some other key ideas that she includes. For example, Cassandra was known for being a Seer, and she foretold Hector’s death. At one point, Cassie has a dream that Hunter will be gravely injured on the football field, and a few weeks later he is. However, Hunter does not die, and instead receives a troublesome shoulder injury, although it could mean the death of his football scholarship. Another similarity is the role of Hunter as the lynchpin in the Trojan forces. Like with Hector’s death, once Hunter is no longer on the field, the Trojans fall. One more similarity is the imagery of Troy burning. The loss of the football game is not enough – some Spartan football players rig a parade float to explode in the gym. Much like how the Trojan horse truly ends the war and ensures that the Greeks win, the explosion in the gym means that Troy High loses. In fact, Hunter says, “‘We lost the game, Troy burned, and I’m in these bandages for who knows how long. The war is over and Troy is defeated’” (Chapter 27). This further cements the connection to the Trojan War.

One component of Troy High that rings true to the Trojan War but also to archetypes as a whole is the presence of the star-crossed lovers Elena and Perry. Elena and Perry’s relationship brings the deep-seeded issues of Troy and Lacede to a point, much like Helen and Paris’ relationship does. Also like Helen and Paris, Elena and Perry’s relationship has much more to do with fate than anything else. Regarding her relationship with Lucas, Elena says, “‘We were never meant to be together, I see that now” (Chapter 6). Later, she says, “‘I knew it before, but I’m completely sure now. Perry is the guy I’m meant to be with. It was fate for me to be transferred to Troy’” (Chapter 7). This idea of a fated relationship is a part of the star-crossed lovers archetype. This means that no matter what happens, that couple is meant to be together. Usually, this means that their journey as a couple is difficult and means danger for them and those around them. In this case, Elena and Perry deal with the war between Troy and Lacede Highs, like Helen and Paris did with that between Troy and Greece. One key difference between Troy High and the traditional star-crossed lovers motif is that both Elena and Perry are alive and in the same place at the end of the novel, and they are not split up; they are happily together.

The star-crossed lovers archetype has played a part in another book I read thus far: Starcrossed, by Josephine Angelini. Both novels approach the Trojan War in a modern setting, although Troy High looks at retelling it along the same plot line, while Starcrossed sees the Trojan War as a part of their ancestry that has the potential to be reenacted with the same disastrous results. Both address the Trojan War, although Troy High explains the events and relationships of the war better than Starcrossed does. At the same time, though, Starcrossed better displays the traditional view of the star-crossed lovers. Most times, the lovers’ lives do not end well, or together, and so the ending of Elena and Perry might confuse students as to a key part of the archetype.

Overall, Troy High is a good book. It is quick, easy, and engaging. Students can learn about the Trojan War in a familiar environment – a high school rivalry – and enjoy it along the way. It is fast-paced, and everyone is relatively happy at the end. The content and language are accessible, and contributing to the general enjoyment factor of the novel. A book good for teaching and for pleasure reading, middle and high school teachers should be aware of Troy High and its benefits.

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