November 26th, 2009


November Book

I thought it would be appropriate to give away my November book on Thanksgiving. Now, of course, to me Thanksgiving is a strange and exotic thing, like 'cheerleaders' and 'prom.' As a child, it pretty much just seemed like something made up for the movies.

As a grown-up, I have celebrated Thanksgiving twice, and I enjoyed it very much both times. There is a whole pile of delicious food, you guys. There is DERBY PIE.

What is Derby pie, you may well ask? I will tell you. It is chocolate chip cookie dough pie.

I can best describe the amazingness of this pie by describing to you my vision of a Truly Good Time.

SARAH: *is on her cherry-red sofa curled up with a new book, possibly either Kelley Armstrong's The Reckoning or Megan Whalen Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings, and a bowl of hot Derby pie and cold vanilla ice-cream*
DOORBELL: *rings*
SARAH: *answers door*
ERIC FROM THE TV SHOW TRUE BLOOD: Sarah, my beloved, at last! I have fought hordes and crawled over broken glass, broken women and broken men to be at your side! Come away with me and be my Queen of the Night.
SARAH: Uh. I'm a little busy right now.
ERIC: But only you can truly warm my cold undead heart - and only you can look amazingly fabulous at the helm of the yacht I have purchased for you.
SARAH: My ice-cream is melting, so if you would excuse me...
ERIC: Let me introduce you to a world of dark pleasure and unimaginable luxury.

Derby pie is that good.

'Sarah,' you might at this point say suspiciously. 'What have blond vampires and pie got to do with your November book? Are you not straying A LITTLE OFF THE POINT?'

You shouldn't doubt me. I am as on point as a ballerina or a stake. For my November book of the month is Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margi Stohl.

It may seem eccentric to have a book that comes out December 1st as my November book, but a) it is so good I could not wait! and b) It fits in with Thanksgiving in a key way I will discuss later.

For now, I will say this. I love books set in the South in the same way that I think people love books set in Ireland: it's very strange to me (never been) and there's a rich culture there, and a really different way of doing things. I love other kinds of media set there too - I love the Gone With the Wind movie as well as the book and I love the TV show True Blood. (You see how my earlier mention of True Blood's Eric the Vampire is relevant now, don't you? All my vampires are relevant - I would never present you with gratuitous vampires.) All of them have seeeveral issues, but I love them nevertheless. I love Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird and Saundra Mitchell's Shadowed Summer. So when I was presented with a 600 page teen fantasy novel set in the deep South I was beyond thrilled.

A plentylot (Yes, that's a word. I'm a writer, we know these things) of YA fantasy books are set in Generic Small Towns/Generic Suburbia in the US. I am against this, because - well, because we are all against generic stuff, aren't we? Few people pipe up and say 'What I really like is for my food to be bland.' Gatlin in Beautiful Creatures is a small town that is the furthest thing from bland - even though Ethan, the narrator, feels stifled by the small town atmosphere we get a vivid image of what the town is like, and from the start we know the town is much more interesting than Ethan thinks. It's atmospheric enough to roll around in.

And then there's Ethan. He's a boy. Okay, Sarah, quit rocking our world with your amazing information, say the peanut gallery, but there is a real scarcity of boy narrators in YA fantasy. Now, this is not the same as my generic towns complaint - I love that girls get so much of a voice in my favourite genre, but it is at a point where one looks around and cries softly because one is all alone... I like boys to get a voice sometimes, so they don't seem like Alien Creatures. And I like seeing girls to be awesome through boys' eyes as well as through their own. It is always nice to have variety.

Plus I am glad not to be all alone. *sob*

And not only is the boy our narrator, the girl is the supernatural one who the boy is drawn to. And Lena is awesome, through Ethan's eyes or not - I like her being off-beat but anxious to make friends, but immediately ferocious when challenged. I like that she wears black nail polish and absentmindedly writes on her own hands. She's great - both a teenage girl unsure of who exactly she is, and very much her own person. And Ethan is very much his own person too: I like very much that he's a jock who loves to read.

I really love the romance in Beautiful Creatures because, in spite of the fact there are supernatural complications, incubi, secret libraries, dark pasts and curses to make the whole situation High Drama Angsty, the main characters are also huge dorks about their romance in a way we can all empathise with. (Possibly just me...)

ETHAN: Lena, even though we are TELEPATHICALLY LINKED, I am not sure if you like me!
LENA: I REALLY like you.
ETHAN: Really like like REALLY like?
LENA: Yes.
ETHAN: So - just so I'm clear on this - you like like me. In that special sort of type of way.
LENA: Yes.
LENA: Yay!
EVENTS: Tragic long-dead soldiers, evil relatives, family curse, did we mention incubi?
LENA: Ethan, even though we are TELEPATHICALLY LINKED, I am not sure if you like me...

It is a sweet and really believable romance. They are such dorks, you want to hug them both.

I also very much enjoy that the book is long: I read fast, and especially with such an atmospheric book, it felt right to be able to sink right in and be totally submerged, whether fighting off evil curses or enjoying descriptions of extremely delicious-sounding Southern food. (See, Thanksgiving and pie was just as relevant as the vampires.) The book gives itself time to explore its minor characters, too - my very favourite is Marian, who came along just when I was thinking I'd like to see a cool lady besides Lena. She's a librarian with secret supernatural knowledge! She's a lady of colour and it's not a big deal! I like Marian even more than Lena's Uncle Macon, who is sort of like Edward Rochester cast in the role of Boo Radley. Plus I think it is cool that the book was co-written: I have co-written myself and it is such an interesting process.

To make a long story short, if I was curled up with Beautiful Creatures and Derby pie, I might not even answer the door to blond vampires. Who wants Beautiful Creatures? I'm afraid I can't offer anyone Derby pie.