Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Love, Loathing, and Indifference

I loved Paper Towns, by John Green, from page 232 to page 284. Fifty pages of awesomeness; one sixth of the book. I didn’t hate it before that (or after) – I was mostly just indifferent. As a reader, that is.

As a writer, I as captivated by the whole book. I loved the idea of exploring character through the perceptions of everyone around her. (Of course I did, I have a blog about character.)

When Margo Roth Spiegelman disappears, Quentin starts his own hunt to find clues to her disappearance. She’s disappeared before. Usually she shows up a few weeks later with a new unbelievable, but true, story. Searching through Margo’s clues makes Quentin sure he is the one who must find her. These clues are personal.

Along the way he learns all sorts of things about Margo, and none of them are what he expected. Every person she came in contact with had another concept of Margo. Quentin has to piece them all together to find the girl behind the one he thought he knew.

As a character study, this book was fascinating. So why was I so indifferent to it? For the first two-thirds of the book, I just wanted Quentin to get up and DO something. He was searching, but in a lackadaisical way. He let his life interfere too many times to keep me spellbound as a reader. Things perked up on page 232.

For the next fifty pages, things were great from this reader’s standpoint. Green kept the beautiful character study going, revealing bits of Margo (and Quentin and the gang) as Quentin and his friends headed out to rescue her. Then they found her.

Let me just say, John Green does a fabulous job of creating characters. I had real feelings about them all through the book. Through the course of the book, all of those little pieces added up to a flawed individual. Usually I like that. Unfortunately, I discovered at the end that I loathe Margo Roth Spiegelman. I wasn’t indifferent to her. That means Green did his job extremely well.

That is my goal. I want to be able to evoke feeling in my readers. If that means they hate my character, well, bring it on, I guess. Just don’t put down the book. Love me, hate me, but please keep reading.

What do you think? Where is the line drawn between beautiful characterization and a book you end up putting down for good?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Duff

I mentioned in an earlier post that I "attended" WriteOnCon in August. There was a lot of buzz about The Duff, a new book by Kody Keplinger. I have been (im)patiently waiting for the kindle version to be available and then for an Amazon gc with which to order it. On the day I finally have both, I find out there's a contest to win it! So here's step 2 of my entry. You can enter, too, at Coffey. Tea. And Literary - as long as you do it before midnight tonight.

I think it may be midnight Pacific, so you've got a bit longer than I thought to enter. Good luck!

David vs. Melinda

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a novel about a girl who draws into herself and stops speaking after a traumatic experience. (I don’t want to give it away! Read the book!) Melinda speaks only as much as she has to, to keep parents and other adults from having her committed. Melinda’s character is rich and well-drawn, so that I can’t do it justice in a short blog post.

But don’t you just love a book where the secondary characters are fleshed out and well-written? David Petrakis was my favorite character in Speak. Even more than Melinda.

David is Melinda’s bio lab partner, and he really only makes a few appearances in the book. Those appearances, though, are beautiful. I was impressed with Anderson's ability to convey his character so well in such brief snippets.

He stands up to an autocratic teacher, then helps Melinda stand up to him as well. When Melinda complains that she still got a poor grade, David tells her, honestly, that she deserved it.

I have friends like that, and I love them best in all the world. They stand up with me against a foe, then stand up to me because I was wrong. I may not agree at first (neither did Melinda), but we’re better friends because of it.

David was quietly there for Melinda throughout the book. He never pressured her, but he was supportive and made it clear that he liked her, despite her problems. I was rooting for him throughout the book.

I wish there were a sequel about David. I’d read it in a heartbeat.

I am reading John Green’s Paper Towns, now. I just got several new books on writing, so I can satisfy my nonfiction cravings, too.

What are you reading?