Monday, May 26, 2008
Since I've spent the past few days with my ankle elevated (as well as my anger--I hate being limited!), I've had little to do other than read or watch TV, and TV got pretty boring pretty fast.
Fortunately for me, I'd just received a big box of books from Scholastic--including the first three books of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series!
I'd been holding off on reading this series. I know they're wildly popular and have reached the almost-impossible-to-reach MG/YA boy audience, but they didn't seem that interesting to me. The covers didn't grab my interest, and I had a hard time figuring out how a modern re-telling of Greek gods could be worthwhile. Retellings of fairy tales--I love them--but Greek gods?
Which just goes to show how wrong I can be.
This series is fantastic. I loved them so much, I've read one book a day for the past three days. They made me forget my throbbing ankle. They made me forget lunch. They made me forget to sleep. All I've done is read these books. I didn't want to put them down! You should have seen me hobbling down the hallway, one hand on the wall so I wouldn't fall over, the other holding the book in front of my face.
As a reader, I loved this book. As a writer, I wanted to know why--and how I could emulate that in my own writing.
1. Voice. Agents and editors talk about it all the time. It's something I struggle with, and something I suspect that all authors struggle with. Here's my conclusion: When I read these books, it wasn't just some random person telling me a story. It was the hero, Percy Jackson, telling me the story. Everything--from description to dialogue--was in his unique voice. He could write an essay on Steinbeck, and I could still tell it was his voice.
2. Layers. This book had a great story in and of itself. However, if you knew something about Greek mythology (and as a world lit teacher, I credit myself with knowing quite a bit) it added a whole new layer of fun to the book. If you didn't know all the backstory about the Greek gods, the story was still fun and nothing was really taken away (it wouldn't be confusing for someone not familiar with mythology)...but if you did know it, there was some laugh-out-loud moments.
3. Genre. I have long believed that the best kind of books are the ones that can make you laugh and cry. An adventure story doesn't need to be--and shouldn't be--all adventure. Through in something to make the reader laugh, through in a taste of comedy. Mixing things up keeps it real--and interesting.