Max Brooks’s novelization of Minecraft: The Island, and Julie Lythcott-Haims’s Your Turn: How to Be an Adult, target widely differing audiences—yet each addresses the ongoing struggle to personal agency. Brooks’s character must survive on an alien, sometimes hostile, world; Lythcott-Haims’s readers need similar strategies to attain adulthood in our “real” world.
Lythcott-Haims’s How to Raise an Adult was a NYT best-seller. Now, “Fresh off of a book about how we parents can inadvertently rob our children of agency and resilience when we do too much for them,” her publisher wanted “something about adulting“.
Although former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford, holding a Stanford BA, Harvard Law JD, and MFA from California College of the Arts, Lythcott-Haims still suffered the pangs of “pretending adulthood” addressed in Your Turn.
Lythcott-Haims assure readers:
“I am not wiser than you.
I have been broken. sad, scared, bewildered, worried, and ashamed.
I try to help humans make their way in life.
I’m rooting for all of us to be okay.”
Lythcott-Haims suggests the chatty, frank text may be perused in various ways and times. She stresses, “This isn’t a generic adulthood we’re talking about, it’s yours. Whatever I have to offer you, equally valid are your own hopes, fears, plans and dreams.”
Brooks, son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, author of World War X, told an interviewer, “When I first started playing with my son, I knew that this was not just special, but this is potentially world-changing … I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think that Minecraft has the potential to be the greatest teaching tool since [the] Gutenberg printing press.” He novelized Minecraft: The Island in 2017, and just out, Minecraft: The Mountain.
In Island, a drowning person thrashes his way to a sandy shore, his body morphed into Lego-like blocks. He must seek immediate shelter, find food, evade murderous night-beings. And he does. Initially bereft of skills, he learns from potentially fatal mistakes, inching into agency, his only interlocutor a blocky cow, communicating in nuanced Moos. Chapter headings, also listed from his journal, highlight his learning: “Panic drowns thought,” “Fear can be conquered. Anxiety must be endured,” “It’s not failure that matters, it’s how you recover.”
Plenty of action; dead skeletons and zombies to absorb the young player, but, like Your Turn, solutions emerge without didacticism. Both narrators, named and anonymous, are direct, sharing experiences with an emphasis on thinking, fending for oneself, and the inevitability of consequences following every action.
Writing to an older group, Lythcott-Haim cheerful reveals her own past missteps, and ends each chapter with “Don’t Just Take My Word,” where young adults share experiences.
Agency; Practice; Persistence form the foundation and framework for both books, and apply to all ages. Fantasy or Reality, no one always succeeds. Practice is paramount: You don’t become anything in one try, so both authors urge: Never give up, you’ll fail, but it’s your response to failure that shapes your growth. Step up and take your turn.