Ender’s Game for me represents the loneliness of childhood when you’re different. I first read this book when I was 9 years old and just starting the 4th grade. I was the only kid in my small class in the Gifted program at that point, which set me apart. I was an odd child, athletically challenged and socially inept and physically awkward. I had teeth too big for my head, ears too far large for my face, and hair that pencils could get lost in. My only true friends at this stage in my life were family members and books.
“Because never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along―the same person that I am today.”
So when I came across Ender’s Shadow and Ender’s Game, I felt understood (by someone unrelated to me) for the first time in my life. Here were kids who were different, who were often hated and belittled by other children because of those differences, but who discovered that those differences were actually their strengths. That was an incredibly inspirational possibility that I clung to for years after reading the books for the first time, and that I still cling to when I feel like I don’t fit in somewhere.
“I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”
My copy of this book is tattered. Pieces of the cover are missing. The spine is broken. The pages are yellow. And I won’t trade it for a newer copy until it falls completely to pieces. I just read this book for the 8th time. I read it in elementary and junior high and high school, once every couple of years, just to remind myself that what made me weird could make me strong. I read it in college when I got married younger than most people and wasn’t living on campus, and was viewed as an odd duck by my classmates. I pushed it into the hands of kids I could see myself in when I became a teacher.
“Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf.”
I lead a small monthly bookclub for teenagers at my local library, and was thrilled when they chose Ender’s Game as October’s book. I hadn’t read it in about five years, so I was a bit nervous that it wouldn’t hold up to yet another reread, but I dove in anyway. Never have I been happier to be wrong. This book packs just as much punch for me 19 years later as it did the first time I cracked it open.
“Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.”
Ender Wiggin is a genius, wise beyond his years, and he is thrust into impossible situation after impossible situation. Adults are the enemy, seeking to isolate him and push him to his breaking point. But he will not be broken. He adapts and overcomes, making friends in spite of the establishment’s best efforts. However, a time comes when he has to put the mission above his relationships, and has to stand alone. His empathy and drive and monstrous intellect are awe-inspiring, but are they enough to keep him from finally shattering beneath a weight too large for his small shoulders to bear?
“There are times when the world is rearranging itself, and at times like that, the right words can change the world.”
This is not a children’s book, but never in my childhood did I read another book that I related to more than this one and Ender’s Shadow. I honestly feel that this book is appropriate for all ages. If you know anyone who is different, who just can’t seem to become part of the crowd and always seems to stand out and stand alone, please find a way to get this book into their hands. Be they child or adult, this book will make them feel less alone. And if you yourself are different, if you march to the beat of your own drum even when the world demands your silence, read this book and feel understood.