My cousin Duncan recommended Ender’s Game to me when I was about twelve. He let me borrow his copy, which was one of the most battered-looking books I’ve ever seen: it was in at least two pieces, held together by a rubber band. It was also signed by Orson Scott Card, so despite its terrible condition, he obviously wanted it back. Even though I finished reading it within a few days (I remember reading it while visiting another relative’s house, staying up into the wee hours of the morning, eating lemon drops out of a dish on the nightstand of the guest room, completely glued to the book), it took me quite a few months to send it back—I didn’t want to part with it.
I eventually got my own copy. This one, like Duncan’s, was well-used and well-loved, though all still in one piece. The summer before my first year of college, I lent it to my now-ex boyfriend, who, to the best of my knowledge, still has it. Too embarrassed to ask for it back, I suffered through about a year and a half of Ender’s Game-less existence before finally buying a new copy at The Strand, the best bookstore ever, in New York City during spring break my sophomore year. This is the copy I’ve lent to several other people, including my roommate and my boyfriend, and gotten them hooked on it as well. It’s currently in the possession of another friend, who also loved it. This is one of the first books that comes up in conversation about favorites, mostly because most people have heard of it but not all of them have read it, and it gives me a chance to reinforce whatever other recommendations they had been getting about this awesome book.
Ender’s Game is set far in the future. Aliens (or “buggers”) have already attacked earth twice, and the second time, Earth’s victory was only just barely snatched from the jaws of defeat. Now, in preparation for the Third Invasion, genius children are whisked away from home and sent to Battle School to learn to be military commanders. Ender Wiggin is the smallest and youngest of these children, but also perhaps the smartest. Able to see weaknesses in the system and exploit them, Ender soon rises to the top of the Battle Room standings, much to the ire of his older peers. However, Ender perseveres, and ends up changing Battle School—and life as they know it—forever.
I loved Ender’s Game when I was twelve because it was about genius kids, and while I didn’t fancy myself a genius, I was definitely part of what you might call the “nerd herd” at my school. My cousin was the same type of student, although definitely a ton smarter than me, and I idolized him (still kind of do, actually). So another part of the reason I loved the book so much is because I knew he loved it, and that he wanted me to love it too. And I did.
Unlike other books I was reading around the age of twelve (lots of V. C. Andrews), Ender’s Game has been a lasting favorite of mine. Other than the Harry Potter series, I don’t think there’s another book that could be considered a favorite of mine for that long. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, the story itself is enduring. Who hasn’t wondered once in a while if there’s life elsewhere in the universe, and whether or not aliens would be peaceable? The book is rather short but intense, rarely giving the reader a break to breathe, staying true to the breakneck pace of Battle School. It’s an adventure, and it’s one that almost everyone can relate to: everyone was a kid once, and everyone has wondered about the possibilities of life beyond our own home planet.
Second, the characters, for the most part, are drawn realistically. Ender and the other main characters are all dynamic, well-developed, round characters—and even the more minor characters are pretty lifelike. Watching their exploits, their successes, and their failures is like watching my own friends (and let me tell you, I would love to be friends with a lot of these characters if they were real). I sympathize with them and cheer them on as if they really are my friends, and I think it’s terrific when an author can really make characters come alive like that. It was also comforting that as I grew up, they stayed the same. Throughout a rather tumultuous adolescence, I could always turn to Ender’s Game and be soothed by the familiar words…and also the fact that the kids I was reading about were a ton younger than me and had much bigger issues to deal with than I did: they had to worry about saving the world, while all I had to worry about was getting good grades and surviving my parents’ divorce. I could probably say this about a lot of my favorite books, but only Ender’s Game was there throughout almost my entire adolescence.
This post is already too long, so I’ll stop here. But if you’re ever skeptical about Ender’s Game, just talk to me and I’ll make you not skeptical. I don’t care who you are, you should read it, and you will enjoy it. I promise.