OK, I’ll admit it. On the rare occasion, I read teen fiction. Just because my age is greater than the transposition of the numbers making up 16 doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a well-written book.
This weekend, I attended the Houston Writers Guild conference. The Friday night keynote speaker was Jay Asher, who spoke on use of suspense in novels. Not suspense novels, but ways of giving the reader multiple reasons to want to keep reading. I bought a copy of his book, Thirteen Reasons Why, which is about a teenage girl who has, shall we say, experienced problems.
Jay warned us that we wouldn’t be able to put the book down. He was right. I spent more than four hours Saturday night reading the damn thing, and never once did he give me a stopping place. I did stop once for a desperately needed potty break, but I came right back to my chair and that book. I even had my writer’s hat on—paying attention to what he was doing to keep me hooked into the story—and that still didn’t give me enough space to set the damn thing down. (I hope you see that I call it the damn thing in an admiring way.)
It is a well-told tale, to be sure, or all the razzmatazz in the world wouldn’t keep me reading. Even though I knew from the start of the book where the girl’s journey would end, I followed along with the other point of view character, a boy who didn’t have the courage to truly approach her, as he and I learned how and why her journey went where it did. I’ve never been a teenage girl, but I certainly saw the me of many years ago in that teenage boy. Well done, Jay. Steal that sleep from me.
Reading Thirteen Reasons Why called to mind another great book I read last year, also a young adult novel. I did something with that book that I had never done before. I got to the end of the book, said to myself Wow, how did she do that? and turned back to page one and reread it. That book was We Were Liars by E. Lockart. I’m usually pretty good at seeing twists coming, but the reveal at the end of Liars caught me completely flatfooted.
If you haven’t read these two great books, ignore your age and read them. Now.
I’ll wait right here.