Hello everyone! Happy Holidays and all that jazz.
I know it’s been a long time since my last blog post. I was using every spare inch of my brain trying to finish the first draft of Book #3, so I had no thoughts left for anything else. Then the holidays came, and you know how that goes. I am now exhausted, brain-dead and overfed, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Mission accomplished! First draft of Book #3 is complete, my agent loved it, and now I’m just waiting for a couple other readers’ feedback. Then I will hunker down for another few rounds of revisions before I send the manuscript off to my editor at Simon Pulse in early spring. Then CLEAN comes out in August, and I will try to fight the impulse to hide under a rock. I’ll return to that lovely feeling of anxiety and terror at having my words/guts printed all over America for strangers to sift through, and I will pray that you don’t hate them. I guess everything’s right on schedule.
The year’s end is a time of reflection, and I imagine I’ll be doing plenty of that once I get a chance to catch my breath. But for now, I think I’ll take a break from too much depth. No Big Ideas today. I thought it might be nice to reflect on what I read this year, aided by my handy Goodreads account. I’m too lazy to ever write reviews, but I like having a place to record my books. Apparently, this is what I’ve read this year and what I thought (number of stars out of five).
- North of Beautiful, by Justina Chen Headley (4)
- Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart (4)
- Lit: A Memoir, by Mary Karr (4)
- Punkzilla, by Adam Rapp (5)
- The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, by J.T. LeRoy/Laura Albert (2)
- The Girls, by Lori Lansens (4)
- Crash into Me, by Albert Borris (3)
- Youth in Revolt, by C.D. Payne (3)
- Teach Me, by R.A. Nelson (3)
- Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen (4)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey (5)
- Pure, by Terra Elan McVoy (3)
- The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood (5)
- Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes (4)
- Going Bovine, by Libba Bray (4)
- The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga (4)
- Once Was Lost, by Sara Zarr (3)
- Paper Towns, by John Green (5)
- West of Here, by Jonathan Evison (4)
- The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron (5)
- Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (5)
- Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (3)
- No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy (5)
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan (5)
- Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart (3)
- The Girl with Glass Feet, by Ali Shaw (4)
- The Highest Tide, by Jim Lynch (4)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon (5)
- The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingslover (5)
- No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July (5)
- The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan (3)
The ones in bold are my super-duper favorites, the ones that haunted me, the ones I kept thinking about long after I finished them. A couple things I notice right off the bat is that only two of these favorites are Young Adult (Punkzilla and Will Grayson, Will Grayson). Am I harder on YA because I it’s what I write? I don’t know. But something I do know is that pretty much anything John Green touches makes my heart flip. Like literally. I had a physical reaction to this book. I think I was literally warmer while reading it, like someone was holding my heart in their hand. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved a fictional character as much as I love Tiny. I gushed plenty about Punkzilla in my last blog post, so I won’t bore you again here.
Also strange is that both of these are about boys, even though the vast majority of YA novels are about girls (and I, uh, used to be a girl a long time ago, so you’d think I’d be more interested in them). Now that I think of it, I guess I often have a hard time identifying with female protagonists in YA. I could go on for a long time about how dumb the gender binary is, but if we must use that language, I guess I find that I have more in common with the boys than the girls; I identify more with their experiences. I’ll admit to having been a particularly peculiar teenager, but does anyone else feel this way about male vs. female characters in YA? This is a huge topic that (maybe) I’ll tackle at a later date. But alas, I promised no Big Ideas today.
Another thing I noticed is that two of my favorite books are dystopian fiction (Never Let Me Go and The Year of the Flood). [Blogger’s note: I am devoted to Margaret Atwood. If she started a religion, I would follow it.] This is surprising because I am definitely not what you’d call a sci-fi fan. I’ve read the great classics, of course—Brave New World, 1984, Farenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, stuff like that—but you don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to appreciate those. They’re great literature first and foremost; they just happen to take place in a futuristic world. For me, the best dystopian/sci-fi is still about the characters above all else. The invented world with all its little details must be a backdrop for story and character development, not a substitute for it. I love the ideas that come from an imagined future, but unless they are made relevant to a character I can care about, I lose my interest quickly.
What about you? What are the best books you read this year?