Once in a while that one book comes around that is exceptional. This is that book.
I’ve been hearing about this novel for years but had put off reading it due to its subject matter. (I’m a wimpy reader and movie watcher sometimes, which is kinda strange considering I’m writing a YA about werewolves.) Recently, I was reintroduced to it again, by a family member, and was emotionally prepared to give it a read.
1) Melinda’s situation is so tragic, from the very beginning, you can’t not feel empathy for her. This also created an aspect of mystery which raised a very dramatic question that needed answering: What happened to Melinda? How did she go from being well liked to despised? This alone glued me to the page because this predicament is super primal for human beings: Being outcast and ostracized is frightening to almost everyone.
2) Laurie’s initial use of symbolic representation of trees, and b story character (her art teacher) all reinstate the theme of growth, which mirrors Melinda’s character arc. This is done subtly, but it is powerful.
3) The pacing is perfect: lots of conflict and action followed by short quiet reflective moments (scene and sequels).
4) The transformation of the main character is extremely satisfying. Melinda starts out broken, but by the book’s end, embraces her empowerment, and we’ve been able to see this conversion every step of the way.
5) The voice is stellar. I couldn’t help but think that this really captures a teen’s thoughts and actions. So this amps up the believability factor of the story. (I think I read that in order to capture the voice Laurie hung around fast foot restaurants and malls.)
6) One of the most important goals of any book is that once it’s opened it won’t be shut, under any circumstance, till its end. And night reading puts the book to the test. If a book keeps me from sleeping, when of course I need to be up early, then it’s winner. So this book passed the test. I kept trying to put it down and couldn’t. I was up till three trying to finish it.
With that said, her short chapter approach reeled me in. Simply: Short chapters are addictive, and when I’m about to stop reading I will immediately check to see how long the next chapter is. If it’s short, then I can’t help but keep reading. If it’s long, I will close it.
7) The book is very transferable to real life situations and can be used to empower young women against abuse.
8) As a reader, I felt the emotional spectrum cross into many colors: sadness, anger, frustration, joy etc. and as we all know, good stories evoke all these.
I must say I was a little shocked to read on Laurie’s website that she had complied over one hundred rejections when she was starting as a writer. Her website has an FAQ section where she discusses her process and if you’re feeling like you can’t quiet your critical side, I highly recommend taking a peek.
There many other ways Laurie crafted this book that are monumental, but these are some of the top reasons I think this is destined to be a classic.