Thursday, August 17, 2006

Golden Child

Sometimes the real problem with not reading is not the lack of escape, or down time, but the realization that you no longer have an excuse not to clean your house. To me, at least, getting caught up in a good book is a perfectly acceptable reason not to finish washing the dishes (it will still be there later) or doing the laundry.

You can’t do these things and read at the same time (well, you can, but it is hard to turn pages with wet hands), and you certainly can’t put down the book to do them because what if you’re just a page away from a stunning discovery. Or worse, what if you put down the book and then lose it!

Oh, the horrors I hear at the bookstore from people who have lost the book that they were reading. There they were, just about to find out if so-in-so is actually the long, lost daughter of somebody important and with that information whether or not her blood would be the key to breaking open an international conspiracy, when they had to leave the plane. Sure, you’re thinking that’s no big deal. They can pick the book up again in the taxi, on the train, or later in the hotel room.

But not if they accidentally leave the book behind.

I have about two customers a week, desperate to find a copy of the book they left somewhere. More often than not they don’t remember the title (which makes the case for why your title should be intrinsically tied with your plot and just obvious enough that this tie will register in the brain of the reader), but they are willing and able to relay all the salient plot points up until they had to put the book down. Their voices get louder, more excited, as they explain in great detail why they need this book NOW. And I’m sure, once we find the book they head immediately back to their hotel rooms, shut off their cell phones, and curl up on their beds to finish reading without any evil interference that would lead to further readus interruptus.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that when I finally found a book that captured my attention, I simply didn’t put it down. It stayed in my hand when I left the train, and I didn’t put it down when I dropped my purse and jacket on my dining room table. And after dropping my things do you think I went into the kitchen and made dinner or did my recycling?

Hell no. I was too caught up in the world that Jennifer Lynn Barnes had created in her Young Adult book Golden.

Pretty damn amazing for a book I was prepared to scoff at.

I’d noticed the book while helping a coworker shelve. We’d been discussing her reading group where they’d been attempting to read Brave New World, but she was the only one who’d finished the assigned pages (and even she was bored with their choice). When I asked why she hadn’t offered up a YA book to read since she loves them, she told me that no one else was interested.

“Well, I am,” I said, ignoring the fact that I hadn’t finished a book in awhile. I figured I could always skim to get the important points, or just turn the discussion to a dissection of the genre as whole. Besides, YA books were short, thus increasing the chance I might make it to the end.

What I did not expect was to be impressed, especially by a book that has a cover reminiscent of the Gossip Girl series.

I started Golden on the train, and was immediately introduced to Lissy James—high school student, semi-psychic (she sees auras), who just got caught drooling in her sleep by the most popular girls in her new town. Ouch. The Goldens of the title are the popular boys and girls—the beautiful people—and while Lissy isn’t sure that actually wants to be one of them, she’s not quite ready to embrace the life of a Non (non-entity, or the rest of the school population) either. What she really wants is just to be normal, but thanks to her powers going all wacky and the sleep-drool incident, her chances of blending in are looking slim and she knows it.

It’s that knowing that I fell in love with, the wry humor in Lissy’s narrative as she looks at the world. She’s not prematurely old sounding as many teen narratives can be—she acts her age—but her powers give her an edge of awareness other teens don’t have and she uses it.

For two and a half hours I lived in Lissy’s head, and experienced her feelings and her relationships. Despite that, I felt that I got a well-rounded picture of many of the secondary characters through Lissy’s observations. If I were to complain at all it would be that the climax takes place so late in the book that I worried that I would be left with a cliff-hanger (I was not), and that the second book in the series does not come out until next year (just. so. wrong.).

When I finished the book I was excited again, rejuvenated. I found the author’s website and blog, searching for more of what she’d written only to find that this was her first book (and that she’d finished writing it at age 19). Damn it! Here I was, ready to rush out of the house to an open bookstore, and there was nothing else for me to buy! What was I supposed to do?

Apply this exciting reading energy to another book.

Sure the next didn’t rate as well as Golden, but I liked it. I was able to get through it and identify with the characters (a problem I had been having for awhile). Sure, I made some comparisons, but it didn’t dampen the joy of reading again, nor did it take away from the experience. Critical reading on some level is important, I think, if only to allow you to really enjoy the craft. If you don’t have awareness of word choice, voice and rhythm, how else can you identify what you loved or hated? The problem, in my opinion (and what was happening to me a bit) was that my own voice was getting in the way.

Thankfully that voice has chosen to shut up for now.

So what about y’all? Have you ever been in a reading or writing slump? What caused it? And what kick your ass back into the world again?


SteveInLA13 said...


Nope. I tend to go into movie slumps where I won't catch anything in a theatre for months at a time, but I don't think I've ever gone into a book slump. If I find I'm disinterested in what's new, I tend to go back and re-read some old and well-loved book.


Little Willow said...

That's fantastic. You must tell Jennifer if you haven't already! :)

Marta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marta said...

Yes, I go on book slumps. Sometimes they're caused by having high hopes for an acclaimed novel and finding myself unable to give a damn. I used to force myself to finish a book, but I decided that life is too short for annoying stories.

Re: your comments about housework and reading -- you can read while watering the garden. I also read while cooking dinner. I don't recommend this for novice cooks.

Kate R said...

my ass is permanently stuck in bleh.

but you could come recommend something for my friend L. . . you have to go down a couple of entries, but she's there.

Marcail said...

Not having time to read can be a problem during the socially busy summer months. Not a real slump, but a definite piss off.

Keetha said...

I've never been in a reading slump but I'm in a serious writing slump. I've just finished a big project and *really* need another one to shake the blahs. Only I'm too blahed to find another project... I understand that's pretty common and that smart writers always have another project raring to go when they complete the first one. But not me. And the heat doesn't help.

Eileen said...

The horror of losing a book mid-read gives me that cold clammy sweat.

Literanista said...

Not usually, I always am reading something.