Thursday, December 30, 2010

FIVE: Books That Had A Personal Impact

For me, reading is an intensely personal thing. There's not much better than finding a book, character, or even just a passage, that I can truly relate to and that seems to speak to me. I love books that help me understand people better, understand myself better, or, best of all, give me that aha moment. You might know what I mean: Aha, I'm not the only one! That feeling.

Here are five books I read this year that became incredibly personal to me, in no particular order. Warning: Mild spoilers below.

1. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
Erin McCahan
I mentioned in my review of this book how much I hated Bronwen's mother. But there's more to the story than that. I hated the way her mother treated her, the way she didn't seem to like her and sometimes didn't even seem to love her. As if Bronwen was this annoyance that she had to deal with and she should just make herself as unobtrusive as possible. I hated that she made Bronwen feel as if her needs, wants, and opinions didn't matter. The way she totally neglected her. I'm lucky enough to have an amazing family -- parents that I get along well with and who are completely supportive and a sister who is my best friend. I have always known that what I want and what I think is important to my parents and have never been made to feel unloved or neglected. But I know that not everyone has that. And I know that sometimes what's even more painful than outright abuse is the more insidious neglect of a son or daughter. It's possible to be neglected even with a roof over your head and food in your stomach. It's possible to be unloved in a seemingly perfect and normal family. And it sucks. This book reminded me so much of someone I know who did grow up in that kind of family and, yes, it helped me understand them a little better.

2. Some Girls Are
Courtney Summers
I know I've already talked about this book so much on the blog, but it warrants another mention. In the last two years I lost two people who I considered my best friends, including one whom I had been best friends with for a decade. And by "lost" I don't mean that they died. I mean that we were friends and then we weren't at all. Both of the friendships had been bad for me and by the time they ended I realized that. They were extremely toxic friendships that made me stressed, sick, feel bad about myself, and second-guess a lot of the things I said or did around these friends. I didn't (thank goodness) go through the type of bullying that happens in this book, but I still had friends who didn't understand me, who thought they knew how I should act and what I should say and what I should wear. Friends who lied to me. Who gave backhanded compliments. Who made me a very confused and messed up person. I'm not blaming them; I truly think that some people just don't work as friends, but no matter where the blame lands the fact is that they were very, very bad friendships and I saw that experience of toxicity reflected in Regina and Anna's friendship and it helped me realize - again and again - how important it is to get out of those types of relationships, whether they be romantic or platonic.

3. Mockingjay
Suzanne Collins
I don't know what it was about this book, but it really and truly blew me away. It was, in my mind, the perfect ending to the Hunger Games trilogy, but more than that it was just really, really amazing. It broke my brain. It gave me a reading hangover. It showed me how powerful a book can be. I don't know how to explain it except to say that it had been years since I had read something that - through sheer force of story - made me feel so much. It's so rare for a book to come along that I not only love and think is amazing, but that somehow seems to reaffirm the power of the written word and of story. And the fact that this happened in the genre I adore, the genre I want to write in (YA, not dystopian) is even more amazing to me because it proved that YA matters and made me proud to be a part of the YA community. I know it sounds crazy, but Mockingjay made me a little crazy.

4. The History of Love
Nicole Krauss
I'm going to be honest here and tell you that it's rare for me to find a mainstream novel that I love as much as most YA. A lot of the mainstream or literary books I read leave me with a 'meh' feeing. This book is the exception. As the title says, it's about love. About all kinds of love, from romantic to friendship, to family. Everything. And there's something about this book that's so incredibly beautiful, so raw and honest and amazing. As if a little piece of my heart fell into place when I read this book; it's that good. The writing is beautiful, the stories are great, but it's the raw, raw emotion that really got me. It made me so happy and so sad both at the same time. It's one of those books, one of those reading experiences, that there really are no words for.

5. The Unwritten Rule
Elizabeth Scott
This book touched on a couple of issues for me, but the main one was, unsurprisingly, the friendship between Sarah and Brianna. Though the situation with me and one of my friends was completely different, this book helped to explain everything I'd been trying to explain to myself about what went wrong in that friendship. In a lot of books someone is right and someone is wrong and friendships either last forever or fall apart and the girls end up enemies. They don't always show that sometimes the friendship needs to end but it doesn't mean that your feelings for that person end. It doesn't mean you don't still care about them and want the best for them. There's a lot of confusion that goes along with ill-fated close friendships, and this book did an excellent job of laying that confusion bare for the reader.

Fall for Anything, by Courtney Summers


  1. What a great idea for five post. I too have friendships fall apart and it is painful experience. I wish when I was a teen I read books like these :)

  2. I love this list! I actually have a post similar to this - books that inspired my writing this year - that I was going to put up later.
    I'm glad you shared this!

  3. I've heard wonderful things about The History of Love. Must read it soon. I love books that leave you at a loss of words.

  4. awesome list, i've only read 2 and 3 and loved them. And im glad you loved Mockingjay (like me!).. i didn't really realize how many people were disappointed about it since i stayed away from reviews for a while!