After a long blank spell (writing my thesis), I've been reading a lot lately. Mostly YA: catching up on some classics I'd missed, and diving into new ones.
I don't know if it's the books I'm choosing or the general kick-assness of the YA market right now, but I've enjoyed almost all of the ones I've tried. These are good books: entertaining, fun, engrossing. But you know how you read a book and you think it's really good, and then you read another book and you are just blown AWAY?
I'm going to start a new series of blog posts on those books, taking a look at why they are above and beyond for me. It's called WHY THIS BOOK KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF. "Sock-knockers", for short. (Because WTBKMSO is not a good tag.)
So today, I'm going to look at two books that blew me away for the same reason.
LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green,
and CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers.
Now both of these books are great reads for plot, for beautiful language, for interesting situations. But that's not what put either of them over the top for me.
Both of them are A++ in TRUTH. By that I mean emotional truth, the kind of resonance that makes you read and cringe because you've done or thought that very thing even when it's not a particularly flattering thought or deed. That makes you smile because you have done or thought that very thing, joking around with your friends. It is a realistic portrayal of a life, good and bad.
Neither of these authors was afraid to face darkness in their characters, in the realities they show. And because they face the darkness unflinchingly (and the light moments too), we recognize it. It's no longer superficial entertainment--it is CONNECTION.
I don't think you have to be a "serious" book to attain emotional truth, though maybe it stands out more clearly there. You can attain emotional resonance in any kind of book in the small things your characters do, in their dialogue, in their deepest thoughts. Just don't be afraid to GO THERE. Don't step back and be safe. Take a step--or two, or three--further than you thought you could.
I aim for that. I think we all should.