“So you’re setting us up for failure?”

Brian’s Note: I know this is a book blog. Please know that almost all of my posts will be book reviews, or some sort of book-related meme. However, this one is not. But this is my blog, and I’ll post if I want to. Post if I want to. Poooost if I want to. You would post, too, if it happened to you…

What happened was the title of this post. Those words came out of my student’s mouth. I think her next words were something along the lines of “What?” In between, I had said one simple word.


Now, this exchange took place in my Pre-Algebra class, where failure is a bit easier to define than in a literature class (if you’re curious: they were going to be attempting to find out how to find the a-value of a quadratic function in vertex form. They had never encountered quadratics before). But my response is the same in nearly all cases: “yes, I am setting you up for failure.”

Of course, there are some words omitted from my thought for effect. My thought in these cases goes something like “yes, I am setting you up for [short-term] failure [so that you may have long-term success].” But they don’t hear that. Even if I say it. They hear “failure” and get so scared, they’re actually happy they wore their brown pants that day.

That is how we are failing them.

I can’t imagine a world full of people afraid to fail. Fortunately, we won’t have that. But we might have a country full of them. Some of these students have been spoon-fed for so long, they don’t even know they can pick up their own utensil to eat. So when we do put something in front of them that they can salivate over (like the richness of If You Come Softly, which I am currently reading to some of my 8th graders), they don’t even know how to dig in. They’ve never had to try.

We must cut the decades-long umbilical cord. It’s doing nothing but keeping them in orbit, when they need to explore the future.

(Am I mixing enough metaphors for you yet?)

We learn by failing. Simple as that. We learn other ways, too, but none of them seem to be nearly as good as failing in a safe way, then figuring out how to succeed. We must continue coming up with creative ways for our students to fail. And then help them back up.

If you’re wondering, nobody was able to figure out how to find a. At least not a rule for how to find it in all cases. It’s unlikely that any will. But there are at least 3 theories going around. And they were talking about it across the table groupings, hearing people say “I’ve got it!” and then flocking over to them to hear their idea. Those ideas were wrong. They realized they were wrong. And then they went on to something else.

Also, all of my 15 students (yes, I know, I have a 15 student math class; you are correct to be jealous) had enough work done to receive full credit on the assignment. None of them figured out a, but they all did figure out everything else. I told them they could turn it in at the end of class, or they could take it home to continue working on it.

Only one was turned in.

Failure works.


Requiem by Lauren Oliver


Before you say anything, just stop. “Dude, aren’t you a little old and male to be reading these dystopian books with female protagonists?” See? I can ask the question myself. If you’ve watched any of these shows or movies, I want you to stop even thinking that these books aren’t okay for a guy my age to read:

  • The Bachelor/The Bachelorette
  • American Idol
  • Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
  • Duck Dynasty
  • Swamp People

Okay, my list ends there because I can’t think of anything else, because those shows are awful. Yet people watch them. And enjoy them. And they have good moments. In fact, some of those shows might actually be really good, but they get lumped in and judged with the others.

What am I talking about? Right. Requiem. YA dystopian fiction with a female protagonist. Oh, and it’s also about love being a disease, the government ordering people to be cured when they’re 18, but of course we have our rebellious ones who believe too strongly in the power of love (not to mention the power of freedom). Totally the book for a 28-year old man.

Oh, just one thing: that last sentence was not sarcastic.

This book is AMAZING! It’s the third and final book in the Delirium trilogy (“Oh, really, a dystopian trilogy? Didn’t see that one coming.” Can it.), so I’m going to try not to give anything away. But Lena is on the run with some of the other Invalids, and they’re basically trying to figure out what to do. The cities are coming after them. They can’t stay hiding. They must fight back. How can they possibly win? How can their belief in love and freedom win?

Well, I’m not gonna tell you. Read the booking book.

What I will tell you is this: this book is powerful. There are emotions you will feel when you read it, and that’s absolutely okay. You might laugh. You might cry. I think I laughed, and got a little choked up. But the ending. Oh. The ending. Some books, when I get to the end, I want to throw them against the wall because they’re just awful. Requiem, on the other hand, has an ending that is like the book pulls you in and spreads a warm blanket around your shoulders to keep you warm on a chilly fall evening. It’s just that perfect.

But. My favorite part of the book is Hana. Hana is Lena’s childhood friend. We haven’t really heard much from her, as Lena is our narrator. But in Requiem, we hear from both Lena and Hana. Now, normally, I hate dual narration. I think it adds a lot, but I think it just ruins things overall. Here, though, because the characters are where they are and so separated, it’s incredibly well done. It’s vital to the story. And it shows us things in Hana that we’d never know. And it shows us, for the first time in the series, what it’s like inside the mind of a Cured. It’s amazing. Hana is heartbreaking and beautiful.

With all of that, though, there’s probably some of you out there thinking, “Well, yeah, sure, but isn’t this book written for teenagers? I want something written well, not just a good story.”

Batman Slap


Since when are those two things mutually exclusive? Requiem is both a great story and written beautifully. This is not grade-school work here, people. This is a master work of art carefully crafted by someone with a MFA from NYU. It reads that way. Yet a 12-year old can enjoy it. Now that takes talent.

Am I off topic enough here? Just. . .just go read this series. It’s worth your time. I loved it, and I think you’ll love it, too. When you’re done, let me know. I want to talk with you about it in ways I can’t here because they’re too spoilery. So go. Read it.

My rating: 5 out of 5 fish.FishFishFishFishFish