"I think a book is fundamentally flawed if you have to read it twice before you can really get into it. I’d have been more impressed if Marchetta had found a way into the story that retained some of the cryptic, tragic character, but in way that made me care from the beginning."Adele of Persnickety Snark wrote a reaction piece to my review on her blog When You Find Yourself Stumped, sad and perplexed that I didn’t love the novel as much as she did.
Her post brought up some thought provoking points about how we react to negative reviews of books we loved and it is well worth checking out. But what prompted me to write this post today is a comment that the author, Melina Marchetta, left on Adele’s post about my review:
"Although I disagree passionately with Lenore when she states that a book is fundamentally flawed if it has to be read twice, I will own up to the fact that Taylor is difficult and, at times, a very unlikeable protagonist."Now I don’t at all consider this a case of an author arguing with a review, especially as she states:
"I think an important thing for us writers is that there is intelligent dialogue about our work, regardless of whether a blogger likes our books or not. The reviews written by yourself and Lenore are intelligent, if not sometimes harsh. But I like the world of harsh intelligent reviews better than a world of no reviews at all."But it did get me thinking about my statement. Because OF COURSE there are books that we have to read twice (or more) to really get into. I don’t think many people start reading ULYSSES by James Joyce thinking that they are going to understand everything the first time around. And the same goes for a great many books (the so-called “classics” especially), which become richer and deeper to us the more we spend time with them.
I realize now that my statement above stems from my expectations of what a YA novel in particular should be. One of the reasons I enjoy reading YA so much, and read so much of it, is because of how accessible it is. In general, writers for children and teens spend a lot of time crafting novels with an immediate hook to capture reluctant readers, tight pacing to keep them interested, and a clear structure to keep them from getting confused.
JELLICOE ROAD is not so accessible. But does its’ lack of accessibility mean it is flawed? Can’t YA aspire to something more? Something, that like a classic, benefits from multiple readings? Obviously the Printz committee thought so when they named JELLICOE ROAD the best book of 2009.
Indeed, I think it's about time to adjust my own expectations. Obviously, less accessible YA is not going to work for everyone (especially reluctant readers), but I'll certainly be reading YA with a more open mind in the future. Even if I have to read a book twice.
What do you think?