Monday, June 20, 2016

An Excellent Reading Experience

We're having a little trouble with Interlibrary Loan here in central Connecticut, so I haven't been using it lately. Instead, I've been browsing the "new books" shelves at three area libraries. This means I'm stumbling upon things I might have overlooked, if I was just ordering books I'd seen reviewed somewhere.

John Stone And His Many Lives

The Many Lives of John Stone by Linda Buckley-Archer is one of those books that leaves you feeling you've read something unique. In large part, that's because it doesn't fit neatly into the YA mold. For one thing, the John Stone of the title is an adult, not a teenager. For another, though it could be argued that Spark, a teenage girl who is sought out by John Stone, is the main character, this book is really about Stone, not Spark. It's his story. She's part of his story.

On the other hand, though this book is about an adult, there's a great deal of focus on his teenage years. So we're brought again to the YA world.

Oh, but this is one of those situations in which you wish you had a third hand, because there is still another aspect of this story you'd like to consider. The aspect I'm talking about is Spark's age. She's just finishing up what we'd call high school (the book is set in England) and waiting to see what she'll do about college. She's old on the YA continuum. She's teetering into adulthood.

Years ago, when I first heard about the possibility of a new category of books, something that would fall between YA and traditional adult publishing, John Stone was the kind of story I thought would fit into that category. I thought we were talking about books about a slightly different period in young people's lives. The literary equivalent of a gap year. Then New Adult came along. Usually when I read of bloggers and writers talking about New Adult, sex and romance is a factor. There's nothing wrong with sex and romance, but what about all the other experiences people have between leaving high school and becoming full acclimated adults, say mid-twenties or so?

Well, New Adult or not, this book is a mash-up of historical fiction and scifi with a little Gothic business going on about a young woman called to an old house by a mysterious older man. A sophisticated work for an older audience by the author of Gideon the Cutpurse.

Thanks For The Trouble. Really.

I read Thanks For The Trouble by Tommy Wallach right after I finished The Many Lives of John Stone. Another elegant piece of writing with some strange stuff going on.

This is one of those stories in which two characters meet cute (main character Parker robs a young woman named Zelda) and develop an intense, emotional connection that's played out over a short period of time.Think Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist without the rock and obscenities. It was a magnetic read, though I did think it romanticized death a bit.

However, for me, the ending fixes that. I liked the ending in this case, even though I'm sure some would argue that it gave the story a frame that older readers--really older, like me--will recognize. But it also gives readers a choice, one that I appreciated.

Is There Something You're Not Telling Us, Gail?

Well, yes, there is. I'm not telling you the essential situation, set-up, what these books are actually about. I'm not putting that on the table to protect your reading experience.

I picked these things up off a library shelf with only a vague idea of what they were about. They sat around my house for a while before I got around to reading them. I no longer remembered why I was interested in them. What a great time reading that first book was. Then the second book was just as good.

And about something very similar.

I love it when this kind of thing happens. I don't want to ruin the reading experience for anyone else.

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