Okay, so I know I’m for reals behind on posting on here about books I’ve read and life in general. I’m now going to hit you with a few paragraphs about what I’ve been reading and how it’s impacted me and my quest to write the next great American (YA) novel.
The last book I wrote about here was “The Spectacular Now”, which was a bunch of books ago… so here’s what I’ve read in the past few weeks:
“Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan – I flew through this book because I seriously could not put it down. (I posted a summary/recommendation of it on the Fandom For Equality blog – I urge you to check it out here.) There were no chapter breaks, yet the story bounced around between several storylines that mostly revolved around two boys (high school ex-boyfriends) trying to set a world record for longest kiss. The story was beautifully told via omniscient narrators (gay men who lived/died during the AIDS epidemic) who punctuated the plot with wisdom and a constant reminder that there is so much potential for positive change. This was the second thing I read from Levithan (he wrote the half of “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” that John Green did not…) and I fell more in love with his writing style. This book was heartbreaking and hopeful in the best ways possible and definitely made a lasting impact on me.
“Love is the Higher Law” – by David Levithan – See, I told you I was in love with Levithan’s writing style. So much so that I immediately sought out anything else he wrote. The library only had this book, so I grabbed it as fast as I could and plowed through this in a couple days. This book takes place during and after 9/11 and is told from the points of view of three teenagers whose lives all intersect because of school or mutual friends. It was an interesting read because the characters were about the age I was when 9/11 happened and the story took place in the neighborhood in NYC where I presently work. (I lived in Ohio in 2001. After moving around the Midwest a bunch, I ended up in NYC in 2012.) The book had a lot to do with relationships forged in the time of tragedy. That’s not to say that those relationships don’t mean anything, but people bonding over a shared experience of pure terror is definitely a unique way to meet, for better or worse.
“The Order of the Poison Oak” – by Brent Hartinger – I was unaware that this was a sequel to “The Geography Club” (which I haven’t read), but I was able to glean all the relevant information I needed from the exposition. I would like to go back and read the first book to get a more in-depth feel for the protagonist’s experience about coming out at his high school (as that’s something I’m writing in my own book), but I liked this book just fine. The main character decided to go work at a summer camp with his friends so that they could get out of town and he wouldn’t have to deal with being a novelty in his own community. Though he planned to stay in the closet at camp, he developed a crush on another camp counselor (who may/may not be bi). Despite the predictable story line (I guessed the plot twist well before it happened), I thought this was a decent read. Hartinger’s writing style, like Levithan’s, hooked me right away. Even if I wasn’t completely blown away by plot, I definitely wanted to keep reading because of the phrases he used and his ability to write awesome description. I’ll be on the lookout for other books by this guy.
“David Inside Out” – by Lee Bantle – This book was a great example of how not to write. While its subject matter was relevant to what I’m writing (gay/questioning high school boys on a sports team), I thought this book was pretty awful. And it pains me to write that because I would be heartbroken if someone told me what I wrote was pretty awful, but I was not a fan of a majority of the characters (including the protagonist) and I thought the writing itself was not engaging. I didn’t care about what was going to happen and I didn’t think the book really went anywhere. Instead of feeling any sort of merit having finished the book, I just felt disappointed. I post what I read on Instagram, so I clicked on the hashtag of the book’s title and one other person posted about it. He (baritoneblogger) wrote, “Worst YA book I’ve read in a while. Definitely not gay literature.” The book’s jacket was praising it as something special, but it was mostly just cringe-inducing. The one thing I did find interesting was that it was set near where I used to live in Minnesota. So, every time the author name dropped some lake or landmark, I knew what he was referring to.
“How to Say Goodbye in Robot” – by Natalie Standiford – This book just about broke my heart. It’s the story of a girl named Beatrice (Bea) whose family moves to a new city for her senior year in high school. She befriends the boy she sits next to at morning assembly (Jonah) and they form a friendship that everyone around them seems determined to define for them. Bea and Jonah love each other, but it’s purely platonic. (Other people question if they are dating or if Jonah is gay, etc…) Their love for each other is strong and substantial – they are outsiders, but since they have each other, they aren’t really alone. Both are going through some serious shit with their immediate families, so their friendship is really a lifeline. As much as they love each other, though, that’s not enough. They fight, among other conflicts that arise, and it’s painful to read about them drifting apart and finding each other again only to have your heart hurt as the book drew to its conclusion. I picked up the book because of the title and didn’t really realize what kind of nostalgic horror I was getting myself into. But, I’m so glad I read this book. It was great to read about a strong relationship between a girl and a boy who have complete (unromantic) love for each other. I found it refreshing, even though it was ultimately quite heartbreaking.
“Paper Covers Rock” – by Jenny Hubbard – This was about boys at a boarding school who had to deal with the unexpected death of one of their classmates. The protagonist, Alex, and one of his friends was there for the other boy’s death and Alex spends the bulk of the book writing/talking about what happened and his part in the whole thing. Alex has a huge crush on his young English teacher, who also happened to be there during the aftermath of the accident that caused Thomas’s death. As the book progresses, she tries to get Alex to expand on his knowledge of the situation through his writing and by talking to her. I wasn’t expecting to get much out of this book, but it turned out to be a great learning experience because the book itself was filled with passages about how to write better. That is what I will take away from reading this story – that I can be a better writer if I make the best choices I can with the words/phrases that I choose to use.
“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)” – by Mindy Kaling – I took a break from reading YA for awhile to cleanse my palette, but it turned out that this was just another great, inspiring read. I really look up to Mindy Kaling and reading about her path from childhood to college to where she is now was really educational. I found myself relating to her a lot (she didn’t have a crazy childhood or college experience either, among other similarities) and enjoyed reading her stories about the people she knows and how stuff relating to the entertainment industry is definitely not as glamorous as we perceive it to be. She’s a great writer and I’ve been a fan of her work for awhile (I used to like The Office and I definitely love The Mindy Project) and she’s just all sorts of inspiring. She points out on numerous occasions that she is not stick-thin and that she maybe gets one hour of productive writing done in an eight-hour window. See – those are things that I can relate to! What it really boiled down to, for me, was that I just need to keep at it. I don’t want to have my own television show like she does, but I do want to finish my book and I do want other people to love it as much as I am thus far.
And that’s all the books I’ve finished in the last 3 weeks. I just started reading the latest Bridget Jones book, but I’m only about five pages in, so I can’t tell if it’s v.g. or not (see what I did there?).
I’ve been working on my own book when I can (though I will admit to being a little lazy with writing this past week – I’ve been so exhausted from work). I did get a few more pages done (I’m up to 55 thus far), and I plan on writing some more tonight and tomorrow in between other stuff I have to do (a blog post for FFE, trying to sign up for healthcare, cleaning my room a bit, etc…). During a phone call with one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world the other night, she said she wanted to read what I wrote. She was one of the few people who read the script I wrote last year, so of course I’ll let her read this and I said she could read the start of the second script I’m working on (I have 80 pages of that completed, but it still has a ways to go). Last night I texted her, though, and explained that I’m afraid to show her what I wrote because I’m afraid she’s going to think it’s bad.
I’ve read and reread what I wrote so far. I know it needs help (my ability to write description and add colorful phrases and whatnot is nowhere near on par with Levithan or John Green, or any of the writes who I wholly admire), and I know it’s nowhere near being done… but what if she thinks it’s bad? What if I just spent months writing something that is just awful?
I’m probably my own worst critic, and to be honest, I don’t think what I wrote is terrible. I’m proud of my outline and I think what I’m writing has potential to be something. (Note that I didn’t say “something great” or “something earth-shattering”… just “something.”) And I have read some less than stellar books over the years in the genre I’m writing, so my theory is that if those people can get published, then there is a chance I could too… but there is always that legitimate worry of showing someone your literary baby and them just scrunching their nose and handing it back to you like said baby just soiled itself.
So, yeah. I’m going to keep writing. And I’m going to finish my book.
But I’m also going to keep reading. I’m so, so grateful that I actually have time to read. (Yes, I’m crazy busy with work, but ten free minutes here and there can turn into chapters read, you know?)
After the holidays, I’m definitely tracking down “The Death Cure” (I loooooved “The Maze Runner” and “The Scorch Trials” and need to finish that series!) and then try and get a hold of more stuff written by Levithan and Hartinger.
If you have any book recommendations, please send them my way!