As I have complained, October was a crap month for writing. Most of November was too. Then last week, while I was sitting at work, wallowing in self-pity and plotting a way to not be working at the same place this time next year, my muse came back. I don’t know where she went off to, but boy was I glad to see her. She showed up, I got a new idea, and then it was like that scene in some movie (The Lion King? Fern Gully?) where rain falls on the dried-up earth and suddenly, flowers start growing again. That’s what it felt like. Not only did I receive a new idea, but old withered ideas took on new life. I wanted to stand on my desk and tell everyone that I did not run out of ideas, that I will not one day die of a heart attack in my cubicle like previously feared. Oh no my friends, I am a writer. I plan on one day dying in a hotel room of alcohol poisoning. God, hopefully not. Though after experiencing life muse-less, I can see how that might happen.
The idea. It’s new. I have been working on it. I have 3,000 words all from this weekend. I feel good. I feel vibrant. I feel like maybe it is worth while to go to the gym. I’m not going to say anything about it now, except that it involves a teenage girl. It’s been a bit since I was teenage girl so… to the library! (I suppose I could re-read my old journals. But last time I did that I about spontaneously combusted from embarrassment)
I was concerned that any book about a teenage girl would involve a fair amount of whiney, obsessive, oblivious, stalkerish blather about boys. I re-read a book I read in the eighth grade that spent a great deal of time detailing how the main character really was falling in love with a boy even though she was oblivious to the whole thing. Which, I’m sorry, but have these girls not ever seen a movie? Any movie? How are they so oblivious? The answer is maybe they aren’t anymore. I’ve read two books recently, both told from the point of view of teenage girls, both opposite from each other, both nothing like mine, but both with incredible teenage girl voices.
The first was The City of Savages by Lee Kelly. This book was awesome, oh my gosh. It roasted points of view between two sisters, Phee and Sky. They live in Manhattan which, after a World War that has gone on for as long as they can remember, is now a refugee camp ran by a ruthless warden. Things seem normal for the two sisters until strangers show up at the camp claiming to have sailed the Atlantic to see if anyone else is alive. I know that teenage girls living in a dystopia is nothing new. But the voices of these characters… they sounded like how real live well-rounded girls living in a refugee camp would sound. They were tough, scared, hopeful, funny, annoyed, sad, smart. There were some boy things, but it was part of a greater story. I enjoyed reading the various strong female characters in the novel. This is a very female-centric book without it feeling that way. I didn’t really notice it in the same way I didn’t really notice that Moby Dick is chockfull of men. This book was so good. I think now would be a great time to read it. It’s a good winter book and a great way to cut some of the artificial syrupiness of Christmas.
The other book I read was If I Stay. Now, I know I am behind in reading this book now. I didn’t read it when it first came out because it looked stupid and then they went and made a movie out of it. And while I knew the premise was about a girl who is in a coma after a car crash and has to decide if she stays in her body or not, and I thought that the idea was interesting, I still avoided it because bleh. But it is not bleh, not at all. I read it in a day. I was very much surprised to find that the voice of this character was not a whiny teenager, which is impressive considering that she’s almost dead. I mean, if there was any point at which some whiny-ness was allowed… Instead, I found myself reading a book about a girl who was pretty secure in herself and what she wanted. Mia, the narrator, is a cellist. She has a best friend with no drama, a boyfriend with very little drama, and a great family. There’s no overblown existential crisis except, you know, the death bit. Gayle Forman, the author, moves between the present Mia in the hospital and flashbacks. The action and emotion through this book stays balanced, but really it’s the voice that carries the book.
I also picked up The Fault in Our Stars and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before so we’ll see how the teenage girl voice continues for those.
PS I am reading The Rook now which is not a book about teenage girls. It is, however, awesome and getting more awesome all the time. This is told through the point of view of a thirty year old woman who is quite witty.
So now I’m off to work on my teenage girl voice even though I just realized I am only procrastinating editing my other book and that my first 3,000 words are filled with an awful lot of whining.