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I don't know about you, but I like the characters in the stories I read to seem like real people. Realistic characters have strengths and weaknesses, they talk in everyday language, they joke with their friends. A story can have an interesting plot, gripping suspense, life lessons, but if the characters don't seem like real people, the story is less effective. "Heights," by Jaida Johnson, age 12, in the November/December 2013 issue of Stone Soup, paints a portrait of two friends who seem very real.

Addie and Conner have been best friends for a long time. That's clear from the easy way they have of bantering with each other. Addie teases Conner mercilessly about his fear of heights. Then she reveals a softer side when she sees how scared Conner really is. "Don't worry, we only have ten rungs left," she says. Conner's sense of humor comes across in his thoughts, such as this one: "My mom would be so proud. Oh, wait—I snuck out of the house past curfew, climbed up an old water tower, and was now praying it didn't fall down. I don't think she'd be too proud. Win some, lose some."

Just when we think Addie is so brave, nothing can ruffle her feathers, the tables are turned. Suddenly Conner is teasing Addie about her fear of drowning. "Hey, Adds, wanna go to the pool tomorrow?" Now that we know these two so well, we know that Addie's final words, "Oh, shut up," aren't meant to be mean. It's just the way real friends talk to each other, friends who are comfortable with one another and whose friendship runs deep. Isn't it amazing how Jaida was able to bring Addie and Conner to life for us in just over two pages? Because we believe the story, we also learn a lot, about friendship, adventure, and overcoming fears.




Reader Interactions


  1. I just wanted to say that the moment I read this story, I could totally see that it was inspired from Divergent by Veronica Roth. If the author didn’t read that book, than it was a major coincidence. For one thing, Addie is just like Tris, not afraid of heights and afraid of drowning. And for another,Tobias (Four) Eaton is very afraid of heights in the book, but of course he’ll do anything for Tris, even climb very high. In the book, Tobias and Tris climb the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier in Chicago. In this story they climb a water tower. Not very different. Also, in this story Conner says to Addie, “Are you human?” This happens in Divergent when Tobias says to Tris the same thing. It also mentions that Addie is short, just like Tris.
    I just wanted to point this out. I like this story, but I am also annoyed with the author that they almost copied part of Divergent (intentionally or unintentionally) and got away with it. But I’ll admit this to Jaida–Divergent is an awesome book and if you did base your story off of it it was a good book to learn from. Veronica Roth is an author I’m sure many of us would love to be like.
    *Anyone else read Divergent?? Excited for the movie in March? I am!:)

  2. Hi Lauren, I appreciate your comment. I was in fact inspired by Divergent. I loved the scene, but I wanted to see how I’d write it myself, in my own words and with my own characters who have different personalities. (I didn’t mean for Addie to turn out short, and, originally, she was afraid of spiders, but I changed it because it sounded weird.) But I promise, I’d never copy word for word. I know how it looks, though, and the circumstances are a lot alike, but that wasn’t my intention.

    Divergent is one of my favorite books and I really like Veronica Roth, but I don’t want to seem like I copied her. I’m sorry if anybody thinks this way. If I read this from someone else’s point of view, I’d probably say the same thing, so I’d understand if some people were annoyed. I wrote this story for enjoyment and thought I might share it with others through Stone Soup.

    I am excited for the movie. The trailer was awesome.

  3. Thank you for replying, Jaida! I don’t know if you will come back on here, but if you do, I just wanted to ask if you were as angry and depressed as everyone else is at the end of Allegiant. I thought it couldn’t have ended any other way, although I felt bad for Tobias-especially when he tried to wipe his memory of Tris! It was hard to keep from crying at the end.

    The strange thing about me is that I hated, hated dystopian and science fiction before I read Divergent. Now I realize I’ve been shortsighted-there are great dystopians out there! I’ve also read the Hunger Games and if you have any other recommendations I’ll certainly check them out!!

    Some of my favorite books are The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, 13 Treasures, Emily of New Moon, and anything by Madeline L’Engle. I have a huge stack of books in my room right now, all waiting to be read.

    Since you could argue that Harry Potter was inspired by The Lord of the Rings and The City of Bones was inspired by Harry Potter, I think it’s great you were inspired by Divergent and I wish Veronica Roth knew that! She would be really happy, I think. By the way, here’s some awesome links to a speech she did and her jumping into a bathtub filled with marshmallows (weird, right?).



    http://www.amazon.com/Free-Four-Tobias-Divergent-Knife-Throwing-ebook/dp/B008B11K04/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390524283&sr=1-1&keyw-this is an excerpt of Free Four, chapter 13 told from Four’s perspective.

    Again, thanks for replying!

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