I shouldn’t be up right now. I should have been asleep hours
ago. But I couldn’t. I’m in the grip of a book.
Sometimes I was a kid I used to walk along the bookshelves in the children’s section, running my hand along the spines, waiting for a book to give off a…something. A tingle, a buzz, a call, a sense that this was the right book for me to read right then. And sometimes, I swear I felt it. Maybe it was just a good design, a color, a font, a word in the title that caught my attention. Or maybe it was something else, not so easily explained..
Sometimes it’s like that still;
sometimes not. There are rhythms to reading, just as there are to anything else.
I’d been floundering for weeks when I picked up The Pinhoe Egg, unable
to find anything that really captured my interest, skimming along on New
Yorkers and blog posts, and I forced my mind to focus on it despite frequent
distractions, because it’s a Young Reader’s Choice Award title and I needed to
read one, and because I love Diana Wynne Jones and her Chrestomanci novels, and
how she makes magic and its practitioners seem everyday and ordinary and funny and
this was a new one about Cat, the nine-lifed enchanter who’s both incredibly
powerful and charmingly unassuming,. And after a while I was pulled in solidly,
reading through meals and at breaks at work and sorry to leave that world when
it was over.
Then White Sands, Red Menace came in on hold. I read the first book about these characters, The Green Glass Sea, last year, skeptical at first about whether it was going to be one of those books that grownups think are so beautifully written but that don’t have much to offer kids, but it’s not; beautifully written, yes, that, and also about an Important Historical Topic, but Ellen Klages doesn’t bog down in that; she keeps you caring about these two girls, Dewey and Suze, all the while the weight of the historical moment—the time just after explosion of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima--hovers above and all around them. The first book leads up to that momen and the second reels in its impact, as do both girls, and Suze’s parents. But they’re still teenagers negotiating their way in the world, awkwardly and messily and sometimes comically, and I was glad to spend time with them again the way I’d be happy to see friends after summer vacation.
But before I’d even finished that book, The Hunger Games came in, and I swear when I plucked it off the reserve shelf I felt that feeling, that tingle. I’m not immune to buzz, and maybe that was it, because I’ve read enough rave reviews of this book already. But now I’m in the midst of it, right there with Katniss in the brutal and murderous Games that are part “Survivor,” part gladiators and lions, part…I don’t know what. It’s reminding me of dystopias and survival stories and coming-of-age tales from back to my own adolescence all the way up to last year: House of Stairs and Rite of Passage and Hatchet and the Uglies series, and the author Suzanne Collins’s own earlier book, Gregor the Overlander, and even dystopic adult stories like Oryx and Crake and The Lottery, and yet it’s entirely its own. I had to stop reading halfway through when my eyes started to droop, because I was afraid I’d get impatient and start skipping through to the end, and I don’t want to ruin it for myself.
So I have to stop writing soon,
and get some sleep. Because I have to pace myself; all my holds are coming in
at once. Starclimber,
the third book in the alternate-world series about Matt the airship cabin boy,
that started with Airborn,
is sitting on my night table, and I know someone else will be waiting for it
when I’m done. And I just got the e-mail notice that Paper Towns, John Green’s
newest young adult novel, is waiting for me on the reserve shelf, and I don’t
think he is capable of writing a book that doesn’t have at least the minimum
daily requirement of Awesome.
I know this wave will end, eventually. It always does, now that I’m a grownup with a hundred competing distractions. But for now, I’m riding the current, in my element.
And maybe I’ll just read one more chapter of The Hunger Games before I go to sleep…