Tuesday, November 14, 2017

{Review} Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

Language and literature are my high school daughter's favorite subjects. Over the years we have tried various literature programs, with a few hiccups along the way. This school year we thought we had settled on the perfect literature plan, that was until we were offered the chance to review Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson

Review of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. A high school literature program from Writing with Sharon Watson

My tenth grade daughter, Amber, and I previously reviewed the first Writing with Sharon Watson high school literature course, Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. After that review, Amber was distraught that it was the only in the series, since it was her absolute favorite literature program. Over time we made other programs work, but nothing lived up to Illuminating Literature in Amber's mind. When we had the chance to review Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis, my daughter celebrated for several days.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis is a program written from a Christian worldview designed for high school level students in roughly grades nine through twelve. Although I mentioned we previously used the first Illuminating Literature course, the sets can be used in any order and in any high school grade. This particular set consists of a student guide, teacher's guide, quiz and answer manual, and a free downloadable novel notebook.

Review of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. A high school literature program from Writing with Sharon Watson

Student Guide

The student guide is written directly to the student in an easy-going, conversation style of writing. Each piece of work focuses on different literature terms and facets. The student is walked through the mechanics of literature, while also learning to understand how literature evokes emotion through the characters.  Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis guides the student through reading the following novels and shorter works:

  • A Jury of Her Peers - a short story
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Silas Mariner by George Eliot
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (Amber is looking forward to this)
  • An assortment of short works
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Biography or Autobiography of the student's choice
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Review of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. A high school literature program from Writing with Sharon Watson
Student book samples
Each unit provides a background on the author, and helps the student prepare for the main assignment through examination of other readings and discussion of the literary terms emphasized. The student guide provides spaces for students to write answers to questions posed or record their thoughts.

Both the student and teacher's guide list a recommended version of each novel, which will be the easiest to use with Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. The short stories are all included in the student guide, but you will need to purchase the novels. We already had Frankenstein at home since Amber was scheduled to read it through her other literature curriculum, however it was not the recommended version for Illuminating Literature. Although some of the questions direct the student to a specific page in the novel, Amber was easily able to find the correct spot through chapter and paragraph instructions.

Teacher's Guide

The teacher's guide for Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis is much thinner than the student guide, but no less helpful. A possible book club schedule is given up front, and then a schedule to use the curriculum as a full year program is built into each unit. The teacher's guide includes a strip down version of the information provided to the student in each lesson, however does contain copies of all questions asked in the student guide along with the answers. Thanks to the teacher's guide, even if you have not kept up with your reading, the teacher is able to thoughtfully discuss the current reading assignment. Finally, the teacher's guide has a sample grading rubric if you need help assigning grades for literature lessons.

Review of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. A high school literature program from Writing with Sharon Watson
She took this everywhere, even waiting rooms and the hospital.

Quiz and Answer Manual

The Quiz and Answer Manual provides three types of quizzes for almost all of the reading assignments in Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. The "Yes, I read it" quiz checks that the student remembers the key points from the reading. The Literary Terms quiz reinforces the literary lessons from each reading assignment. Most of the questions in the first two quizzes are multiple choice. Finally, the Opinion Survey gives the student a chance to discuss how they felt about the reading. There are no wrong answers to the Opinion Survey.

Writing with Sharon Watson kindly allows us to make as many copies as we need of the quizzes for personal use. Answers are also provided for everything except the opinion quizzes.

Students can also take the quizzes online through a special gateway Writing with Sharon Watson has setup for Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. The students are given the link and password to each quiz in their student book. Personally, Amber prefers to take the quizzes online, which is very unusual for her. Still, she likes to answer them online where they are automatically graded, and the responses are sent via email to the teacher (or whichever email address the student enters). I must say, the online quizzes saved me a couple of minutes of grading.

Novel Notebook

Finally, there is the free downloadable Novel Notebook. Amber looked forward to using this Novel Notebook from the moment we began Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. The pages are colorful, but work equally as well being printed in black and white. We have chosen to print the Novel Notebook in color and comb bind it both times we've used Illuminating Literature. Amber especially appreciated that lines were provided on each page, instead of blank open spots. The Novel Notebook is intended for the student to use while they read the novel or short story. The questions help the student see the literary mechanisms in action, ensure the student is following along in the story, and help the student learn to read thoughtfully.

Review of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. A high school literature program from Writing with Sharon Watson
Novel Notebook samples

Our Experience

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis lived up to Amber's every expectation. We have completed A Jury of Her Peers, including the quizzes, and Amber is finishing the reading on Frankenstein. She happily used the Novel Notebook questions with both readings and, as predicted, loves having her Novel Notebook back.

I've appreciated the assistance in getting Amber through Frankenstein. She has found it to be more difficult to understand than she expected, but the questions in the Novel Notebook guide her to the proper meaning along with the summaries of every chapter listed in the student guide. Because of Illuminating Literature, Amber is making her way through Frankenstein without anxiety and even is able to cite examples of the literary techniques taught in the lessons.

Review of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. A high school literature program from Writing with Sharon Watson

Although my daughter has already studied a couple of the planned novels from Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis and won't be re-reading those novels, she still is happily anticipating Much Ado About Nothing. Amber is a huge Shakespeare fan, and can't wait to use her favorite literature program to study a Shakespeare play. I've had to promise her that Much Ado About Nothing is next after Frankenstein.

Amber is now hoping that Writing with Sharon Watson will put out one more Illuminating Literature  course prior to her high school graduation. Still, we are absolutely pleased and learning more than ever with Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis.


If you are still on the fence about Illuminating Literature, Writing with Sharon Watson is unbelievable generous with the samples available on the website. Check out samples of both Illuminating Literature courses at https://writingwithsharonwatson.com/illuminating-literature-free-download/. In truth, we used the samples for the first portion of Characters in Crisis while waiting on the delivery of our books!



Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew also reviewed Illuminating Literature. Please follow the link in the graphic below to read their thoughts.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer


  1. In your opinion, does this program work using it out of order or skipping books that have already been covered?

    1. Yes. While it might not be what the curriculum author intended, it does work skipping novels already covered. If you are concerned about missed content, the literary devices lessons are easily marked for each novel. You can have your student read through those and incorporate them into another novel.

  2. Thank you for your review, Christy! I love all the photos you included and am so glad to see Amber's work in the Novel Notebook on "A Jury of Her Peers." And, wow, working in the waiting room and hospital--that's dedication!