Personal Responses to Fiction

Your teacher doesn’t want a summary of the novel?
Here is how to write a personal response:

Remember that the answers to these questions should be like long paragraphs in your mind. They should be so long that sometimes you have to stop reading to think and daydream for awhile. You might even forget to keep reading because you’re so busy thinking. That’s what happens to good readers. That’s why they prefer books to television: they like to stop the action and start thinking whenever they want, not just when the show is over.  

What does polished work look like?

1. includes a bibliographic entry: Author. Title. Publisher, date.
2. includes at least 250 words (honours students: 400+ words)
3. includes evidence (with page numbers) to prove your ideas
4. includes evidence of ‘deep thinking’
5. is written in perfect English (spelling, grammar, punctuation)
6. is very neatly written or typed
7. includes your full name and division number


Tell what makes the novel seem believable.

“One of the events that happens in Girls In Pants that make the story seem believable is that one of the girl’s mothers is pregnant, again. Another believable event is that one girl’s Grandpa died and now everyone is really missing him. A third believable event is that all of them are making final arangments to go to university. Those are some of the events that happen in the book that make the story seem believable. They are like real life events.” (Chelsea writing about The Sisterhood in the Traveling Pants books by Ann Brasheares)

Inkdeath, by Cornelia Funke, seemed realistic because when Farid got stabbed in the back, he actually died and didn’t miraculously survive unscathed. The story also seems realistic because time goes on even when the characters are not in their own world. It also seems real because people sometimes pretend to be a friend and then stab people in the back after being deemed them trustworthy. (Donovan)

The events in Dear Jo by Christina Kilbourne (Lobster Press, 2007) make the story believable and easy to connect to. First of all, the whole book is written in the format of a journal, with each chapter being an entry in Maxine’s diary. This puts me in the shoes of Maxine, as if all the events going on in her life are happening to me.
The major event that takes place throughout the book is Maxine’s best friend, Leah, being abducted and killed by somebody she met online. Leah has been talking to a boy, who told her he is sixteen, for a few months and one day they decide to meet. She doesn’t tell anybody and after a day of being missing, the police get involved (50). About 8 months later they find her… dead (104). These days, children and teenagers are going and putting more personal information on the internet at a younger age than before. Sometimes in real life, young girls do not realize that it is so easy to lie on the internet, especially if you are an expert, and fall for the traps. Not only does the direct family suffer from such losses, but also close friends. In this scenario, Maxine is the one who is stuck in this uncomfortable situation. She always thinks that she should have been the one this all happened too, especially since she had her fair share of online chatting. During the course of the book, Maxine goes from being an honours student to failing all her subjects, from always being social with her friends to ignoring every act of kindness they offer. She even has to see a psychiatrist because the state of depression she is going through (10). I can imagine how hard it would be to lose your best friend at such as young age and in such a disturbing way.
Because all these events and scenarios are not uncommon today, this book is much more believable than it would have been if no one had ever heard about online harassment and terrifying consequences that may follow. (Ilar)

Tell what images are created in your mind.

Tell what images are created in your mind.“… If I had to give you every picture in my head, I wouldn’t have enough space! The scariest scene is when Mark and Courtney go to earth’s flue or portal and Saint Dane, a bad guy, says, ‘Give this to Pendragon’ and throws a bag containing a human hand. I imagine that it is like meeting Jason, that guy from horror movies, in an abandoned eerie subway and seeing a dislodged hand roll out of a bag.
“Another vivid scene is when Bobby is on the planet Eelong, walks through a dense jungle and a giant raptor-like creature jumps out of a tree and chases him. It reminds me of the scene in the Jurassic Park movie when the doctor is chased by a T-Rex.
“When I read the third book, The Never War, I read about Bobby being trapped in a burning room. I picture people waiting to be rescued by firemen, except that no firemen are coming to save Bobby and his friend Gunny.
“When I read The Lost City of Fear, Bobby was in a submarine looking for his Uncle Press and hoping that he would not, instead, find his uncle’s watery grave. That part reminded me of a scared child looking for his father.” (Matthew writing about Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale)

The Usborne Book of Greek Myths by Anna Milbourne and Louie Stowell is an interesting book about the tales and legends of ancient Greece. This book was a pile of interesting stories. I learned about these while reading the “Percy Jackson” series by Rick Riordan. I got very interested in Greek mythology. I eventually ran across this wonderful book. This book is just a great “time killer” for me, but I ended up wasting too much time reading it. The illustrations are amazing and the story is told in such a way, it actually feels as if you are in the story. It tells the story about many heroes and gods/goddesses that sound very believable. When I read this amazing book, an image stirs up in my mind of what the text is saying, the illustrations add to my imagination. It is as if I am the narrator and whatever I read, happens. Now I always ponder if this is real or not… (Kelvin)

Tell what you think of the main character.

“If you read Ptolemy’s Gate by Jonathon Stroud, you might want to ask yourself how Nathaniel treats everyone else. I’ve noticed that Nathaniel treats everyone with either respect or contempt. He treats everyone more powerful than him respectfully and everyone less important than him disdainfully. He seems to do this to advance his position while showing everyone else that he’s in charge. He goes out of his way to show the prime minister unneeded respect while treating his djinni (magical servant) with even more scorn than anyone else because he is afraid that the djinni will tell other magicians his weaknesses. He treats people of other ranks with different amounts of respect and disgust: cold indifference for his master and open hostility for an undersecretary.
“Normally Nathaniel treats anyone more powerful than him politely, but there are a few exceptions: Julius Tallow and Henry Duvall. Because the prime minister holds Nathaniel in high esteem because he saved his life and has never dipped below the prime minister’s expectations, Nathaniel treats them disrespectfully. Being in the prime minister’s good books means that anyone who acts against Nathaniel will incur the prime minister’s wrath. So, after ensuring the prime minister’s goodwill, Nathaniel begins to behave arrogantly. He treats everyone – except for those whose approval he wants – with blatant resentment.
“Except for one person. Nathaniel has a strange mix of emotions for a girl called Kitty Jones: respect, resentment and wonder.”  (Jarod)

After I read the book Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, I noticed that Katniss, the protagonist, viewed the world differently than when she had her first experience in The Hunger Games. During her first time in The Hunger Games, Katniss mostly thought about Prim, her younger sister, and how she had promised that she would survive and how her aim was to win. But in Mockingjay she viewed the world differently. Her thoughts and aims changed. Now, instead of always thinking about Prim and how she promised not to die, Katniss thought more along the lines of, “How do I kill President Snow? How do I lead the rebels to victory? Will I pick Peeta or Gale when this is all over?” Personally, at the beginning of the series I viewed Katniss as the girl who would “make one heap of all her winnings, and risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss” just to save the lives of the people she loved. Now, after have I finished the last book of the series, I view Katniss more like the girl who would do anything to kill President Snow, the antagonist, and override the Capitol. (Tina)

Tell whether you would want the main character as a friend.

“I would say yes [that I would like to have the main character as a friend].
“Twig, the character in my book, is a nice person who treats everyone he meets fairly. He does his best at everything and is brave and valiant. He jumps to a task and completes it in the best way possible. Once he starts something, he doesn’t give up until he is finished. A lot of misfortunes befall him in the book, from being eaten by a flesh-eating Bloodoak tree to landing in the horrible Twilight woods that make people go so mad that they never escape.
“Even after all these hardships, Twig doesn’t get discouraged but instead continuously focuses on the task at hand. He does his best to protect his crew even in the bleakest of situations. Whether he likes a job or not, he does it for the greater good.
“I would want Twig as a friend. He has never really ever fit in with the Wood Troll villagers with whom he lives and I can relate to that because I’m new at this school. I imagine Twig would be a great friend; he would be able to help me through tough situations because others along his journey have done the same for him. And while I know it’s not really possible to be friends with a fictional character, I still find myself hoping for the best for him as I read of his saga.” (Chris writing about Beyond the Deepwoods, by Paul Stuart and Chris Riddell)

 Surprise Endings by Robin Jones Gunn is a great book about  friendship and romance. One of the main characters, Todd, would make a great friend for several reasons. First of all, Todd  gives great advice.  And he does not hold back his feelings but instead says what is in his heart.  “You look like an angel with a halo.” Todd says these words to Christy Miller just when she needs to hear  them most.  He tells what he is feeling so people do not have to be guessing what he means, unlike many other boys in this novel. And finally he surprises people. For  example, he is the type of person who is a very chill guy but then, a few times in the story, he gives Christy a rose and a bracelet.  These are some of the reasons why I would like to have Todd as a friend. (Jordyn)

I would love to be friends with Anastasia from Anastasia; The Grand Duchess by Carolyn Meyer. There are many reasons why I would want to be friends with her. Firstly, Anastasia is very brave and enduring. For example, when her family’s difficulties increase she doesn’t just complain or mope but instead decides to help and comfort her family. Secondly, she is so nice to everyone and always makes sure that no one is left behind. Even though Anastasia is the daughter of the Tsar, she still treats the peasants and servants the same as she would treat anyone in her family. Lastly, since Anastasia is one of the youngest Grand Duchesses, her sisters usually exclude her and say she is not fit to hang with them. I would be thrilled to be friends with someone so talented and skillful. (Simran)

After I read the book The Tale of Despereaux, I thought to myself, hmmm… I would really love it if the main character became one of my friends. The little mouse, Despereauxm is a mouse with a big heart. Though with big ears and small in size, Despereaux is one courageous mouse. I love people who are not self-centered. Despereaux falls in love with a princess, and thanks to Despereaux’s personality, the princess likes Despereaux in return. Little Despereaux will risk his life to save his loved one. Even though he loses his tail, and almost his life, Despereaux is glad that he is still alive. Despereaux thinks that fate kept him alive because there’s still a meaning for him to keep surviving. At the end, Despereaux saves his beloved princess from the darkness of the dungeon below the castle. With that kind of personality for a little mouse with a big heart, I would definitely want Despereaux as a friend. (Vivian in grade eight)

Tell what you admire about the main character.

Tell how the main character’s relationships change.

Tell what you have learned about a different place or time period.

“’Never ask a gentleman to hold you fan, bouquet, or gloves during a dance unless he is your escort or relative…” “…The lady of the highest rank shall enter the dining room first. The hostess shall enter last…” “Talking loudly or laughing on the street shows ill-breeding…” “…Association with a man who drinks, gambles, or engages in other ills is to be avoided at all costs, lest he should bring disgrace upon your reputation…” After reading Rebel Angels by Libba Bray, I have learned a lot about old Europe. I have learned that there are many rules you must follow as a lady, because even making the slightest mistake could cause disgrace to your family or make people shun you. I have also learned that most of the nobles in the olden times loved gossiping, spreading rumors and hearing the latest scandal. “Opera glasses are used to spy covertly on lovers and friends, to see who is wearing what, who has arrived with whom. There is more potential scandal and drama in the audience than there could possibly be onstage.” This reminds me of a lot of things that are happening now. How so many people love hearing gossip, spreading rumors and making a fool out of another person just so they can feel good themselves. (Tina)

Tell what emotions you felt as you read the story.

Tell how the story compares to other stories that are similar.

 Tell how your world view differs than the view shown in the novel.

What is considered to be the right thing to do in our society today? Rock Star is a book written by Adrian Chamberlain (Orca, 2010) and it develops this issue. In the book Duncan, the main character, is in a band. He gets invited to a house party to play in the band. At this party he gets drunk under age and loses his girlfriend and best friend because of his behavior. STOP!! Is this the right thing to do? Let’s see what happens after the party, shall we? Duncan gets his girlfriend and best friend back after only one apology, so basically what this story showed is that you can make big mistakes and then get the perfect life back after only one apology. I don’t think this is how it works.
This book and many other books are telling young adults it is okay to do bad things and that “people make mistakes”. That quote, “people make mistakes” has gone too far and I think authors need to take that in consideration when they write their books. I know people make mistakes and can ask forgiveness but there are consequences to our actions. More time in this book should have been given to showing that although Duncan’s friends forgave him there are still consequences for our wrong behaviors. (Jake J.)

Tell how the novel has changed your view of the world or of life.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton changed my view about how people are classified or how not everyone in a certain “clique” is what you think they are. At first, the main character, Ponyboy, doesn’t believe Cherry when she tries to explain to him that not all Socs- the term used to define the “West-side rich kids- jump on Greasers- boys from the East side- and beat them up for fun. “All Socs aren’t like that… You have to believe me, Ponyboy. Not all of us are like that” (34). Later, even though Johnny has committed manslaughter and he has ran away with Ponyboy, they both risk their lives to save kids from inside a burning building (92). Randy, a friend of the boy Johnny killed, says that he is tired of everyone fighting because it doesn’t do any good (117). Ponyboy finally realizes that both Greasers and Socs can do good things and change how people judge them. When Two-Bit asks, “What’d Mr. Super-Soc have to say?”, Ponyboy tells him, “He ain’t a Soc, he’s just a guy” (118). This proves that it doesn’t matter if you are a Greaser or a Soc, study hard in school or play sports, come from a foreign land or are born native to the country. Everyone is an individual. This novel helped me see that you cannot judge people by who they hang out with or where they come from, because everyone can do good in the world. (Ilar)
Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Puffin Books, 1967. 180 p.; realistic fiction.

Tell what sentences in the novel are true about life, even apart from the novel.

“One trap many people might fall into is waiting for the perfect conditions before doing something important for God.” Children of Hope by Vernon Brewer (Jasmine)

“You’re all special in your own way,” he said. “You’ve all got something to offer. You have to think about what you want then do it. Even you Zero. You’re not completely worthless.” Holes by Louis Sachar, p. 58 (Megan)

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious then laughter and good humor.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Jake)

You can find more ideas by going to these pages:
Obedience, Bullying, Emotional Needs 

Click HERE to read more personal responses.

[This page may be copied for use with students if the following credit is provided:
©2012 Sophie Rosen.]






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