Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Books that impacted little ariane

Most of the bloggers here at Tangled are starting  "first" theme this week, but I missed my chance to write about books that impacted me when I was growing up, so I'm going to revisit that theme with today's post!

When I think back to the books that made the biggest impression on me, it's strange now to see that they were all so very different from each other.  They weren't even really in the same genre. Is there a common link that ties them together?

Casey and the Coach by Holly Simpson
 My mom found this book for me at one of those used library sales and I must have read it about 3,000 times. I read it several times a year growing up. This book taught me early on how important it is for young girls to have characters they can relate to.  I was a gymnast, and so reading about gymnasts really resonated with me.  This book also features a key tension between Casey and her dad, who is also her coach.  My Dad was my kung fu coach when I was younger, and that was a really hard position to be in.  This book made me feel less alone because I could relate so clearly to Casey’s position. I write with that in mind, these days.  One of my only clear goals in writing is to provide relatable characters for less spoken to groups, like Jewish young adults.  This book also had a really cute love story. To this day, I curse Casey for forgetting to wear her skeleton t-shirt on Halloween.

 The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley .  We all have a McKinley book on our lists, right? (If you don’t, you’ve got some wonderful reading to do.)  This book really did a number on me. I read it in on day, beginning on the school bus on the way home and ending in the wee hours of the morning long past when I should have been in bed. The thing that’s always been so remarkable to me about this novel is the tone of it.  It’s so heavy.  Two scenes in particular stand out: When Aerin is climbing the steps of the tower forever, and when Maur’s head is wreaking miasma all over the palace. I haven’t read this book in at least a decade, and I can still remember those scenes so vividly, they’re so potent. I should really go back and dissect them and try to figure out how McKinley does it on a sentence level.  This book also has a great love story... or two great love stories.  Growing up, I was always a big Aerin/Tor shipper.  Now that I’ve aged, I have a greater appreciation for Luthe... but most of all I now understand why Aerin must delay one and love the other for a time.  I feel like this is a book that means so many different things to me as I age, and if I read it again in another ten years I’m sure I’ll discover new sides of it.

 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.  Man, this book also did a number on me.  I did not expect the ending at all when I first read it, and when I reached the ‘twist’ I balled like a baby.  All night. I just wailed. A few years later, I read it out loud to my mom, who was unsurprised by the ending. She said “of course. I am a mother.  How could it be anything but that, Ariane?” And again, as I age, I see what she means.  As a child, that ending is unimaginable.  As a mother, it’s the only explanation. This novel really taught me how powerful a twist ending can be... although looking back I wonder if Creech even intended for it to be a surprise.

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. This book has influenced me more than any other in my life. It was first read to me by my 6th grade teacher, and then I read it to my mom (the first in my tradition of reading to her while she cooked).  I found a dusty hardcover with illustrations in my brother’s room that I cherish to this day.   It has my favorite opening line: “The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”  (There, now this entry is about Firsts, as well!) And my favorite final line, too. It introduced a question to me of which I’ve never grown tired: Is reality, with all of its pain and dark, worth sacrificing to escape? I didn’t intend for my first novel, ETHER, to be so similar to THE THIEF OF ALWAYS, but when I finished it I saw the links so clearly. I chewed and chewed on this question since 6th grade, when I was Harvey Swick’s age, and spat out my answer in ETHER when I was 23.

Some other books that impacted me a lot were AFTERNOON OF THE ELVES (Janet Taylor Lisle), TUCK EVERLASTING (Natalie Babbit), SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (Alvin Schwartz), LAND OF FOAM (Ivan Yefremov), and I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS (Livia Bitton-Jackson).

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