The Wednesday Wars
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt is one of my favorite books despite having surpassed that reading level a long while ago.
When I first came across the book, I was in a new school with few new friends and just joining a Battle of the Books club because it was everything I wanted at the time. I would be introduced to a varriety of books I’d never have come across before and I’d be able to spend more time with the librarians around me (who were much better company than annoying kids who were either discovering or exploring the opposite sex). Plus I’d be able to compete… Yes, compete. Memorizing book titles, authors, plots, passages, and quotes… was the best year ever for me.
But I digress.
Anyways, The Wednesday Wars, I believe was the fourth or fifth book we had to read and while it looked way too easy and way too simply, it wasn’t. The plot seemed simple and yet it was packed with humor and witty verbatum, crammed with symbolism and wisdom, and of course full of Shakespeare. In fact, the novel caused me to view Shakespearen literature in a different light. (I now no longer dread it as much as I did before).
But most of all, the point, the theme, the meaning of the novel is what captivated me then and still holds a part of my heart now, years later.
Growing to be who you want to be and not what others expect you to be.
I learned that daring to have a happy ending is not as impossible as it seems.
That while the outcomes might not be desirable, it’s the risks you take that make you, you.
And it’s what journey you take that defines yourself and not the destination.
“Think of the sound you make when you let go after holding your breath for a very,very long time. Think of the gladdest sound
you know: the sound of dawn on the first day of spring break, the sound of a bottle of Coke opening, the sound of a crowd cheering in your ears because you’re
coming down to the last part of a race–and
you’re ahead. Think of the sound of water
over stones in a cold stream, and the sound
of wind through green trees on a late May
afternoon in Central Park. Think of the
sound of a bus coming into the station
carrying someone you love.
Then put all those together.”
“When gods die, they die hard. It’s not like they fade away, or grow old, or fall asleep.
They die in fire and pain, and when they
come out of you, they leave your guts
burned. It hurts more than anything you
can talk about. And maybe worst of all is,
you’re not sure if there will ever be another
god to fill their place. Or if you’d ever want
another god to fill their place. You don’t
want the fire to go out inside you twice.”
“You can’t just skip the boring parts.”
“Of course I can skip the boring parts.”
“How do you know they’re boring if you
don’t read them?”
“I can tell.”
“Then you can’t say you’ve read the whole
“I think I can live a happy life, Meryl Lee,
even if I don’t read the boring parts of The
Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.”
“Who knows?” she said. “Maybe you can’t.”
“Whatever it means to be a friend, taking a black eye for someone has to be in it.”
“Maybe the first time that you know you
really care about something is when you
think about it not being there,and when
you know-you really know-that the
emptinessis as much as inside you as
outside you. For it falls out,that what we
have we prize not to the worth whiles we
enjoy it; but being lacked and lost,why,then
we rack the value,then we find the virtue
that possesion would not show us while it
was ours.That’s when I knew for the first
time that I really did love my sister.”
“If Romeo had never met Juliet, maybe they both would have still been alive, but what they would have been alive for is the question Shakespeare wants us to answer.”
“A comedy isn’t about being funny,” said
“We talked about this before.”
“A comedy is about character who dare to know that they may choose a happy ending
after all. That’s how I know.”
“Suppose you can’t see it?”
“That’s the daring part,” said Mrs. Baker.”
“I handed the test in five minutes before
the end of the day. Mrs. Baker took it
calmly, then reached into her bottom
drawer for an enormous red pen with a
wide felt tip. “Stand here and we’ll see how
you’ve done,” she said, which is sort of like
a dentist handing you a mirror and saying,
“Sit here and watch while I drill a hole in
“And it really doesn’t matter if we’re under
our desks with our hands over our heads or
not, does it?
No, said Mrs. Baker. It doesn’t really
So, why are we practicing?
She thought for a minute. Because it gives
comfort, she said. People like to think that if they’re prepared then nothing bad can really happen. And perhaps we practice
because we feel as if there’s nothing else we can do because sometimes it feels as if life
is governed by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
“Did you find yourself?”
“What?” said my sister.
“Did you find yourself?”
“She found me,” I said.”
“I almost cried. But I didn’t, because if
you’re in seventh grade and you cry while
wearing a blue floral cape and yellow tights
with white feathers on the butt, you just
have to curl up and die somewhere in a
“I love the sound of a brand-new bottle of
coke when you pry the lid off and it starts
to fizz. Whenever I hear that sound, I think
of roses, and of sitting together with
someone you care about and of Romeo and
Juliet waking up somewhere and saying to
each other, weren’t we jerks? And then
having all that be over. That’s what I think
of when I hear the sound of a brand-new
bottle of Coke being opened”
“When 1:45 came, half the class left, and
Danny Hupfer whispered, “If she gives you
a cream puff after we leave, I’m going to
kill you” – which was not something that
someone headed off to prepare for his bar
mitzvah should be thinking.
When 1:55 came and the other half of the
class left, Meryl Lee whispered, “If she gives
you one after we leave, I’m going to do
Number 408 to you.” I didn’t remember
what Number 408 was, but it was probably pretty close to what Danny Hupfer had promised.
Even Mai Thi looked at me with narrowed eyes and said, “I know your home.” Which sounded pretty ominous”
“…and she ran out of the diesel combustion
and right to me and we held each other and
we were not empty at all.
“Holling,” she said. “I was so afraid I
wouldn’t fine you.”
“I was standing right here, Heather.” I said.
“I’ll always be standing right here.”
“I think he became a man who brought
peace and wisdom to his world, because he
knew about war and folly. I think that he
loved greatly, because he had seen what
lost love is. And I think he came to know,
too, that he was loved greatly.” She looked
at the strawberry in her hands. “But I thought you didn’t want me to tell you your
“A comedy isn’t about being funny…a
comedy is about characters who dare to
know that they may choose a happy ending
“Okay, so maybe sometimes the real world is smiles and miracles.”
– The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt.
Posted on October 10, 2013, in Miko's Corner, My Blog, Quotes & Bits of Wisdom and tagged books, daring to be you, gary schmidt, holling hoodhood, joy, life, shakespeare, the wednesday wars, wisdom. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.