Thursday, June 16, 2011

Read these NOW.

In the past few weeks, I've read two (yes, TWO) books meant for adults. I know. It's crazy. But they were fantastic reads... certainly two of the best I've come across in a hot minute. Seriously. Read them.

FirstThe Raising by Laura Kasischke

The Raising is a ghost story. But not. A coming-of-age story. But not. A love story. But definitely not. Or is it? You never can truly tell. The book opens with a car accident. A boy cries over the body of a girl. She dies. The campus sweetheart. And while her sorority and what seems like the rest of the campus cries out Murderer!, boyfriend is left grieving the only girl he's ever loved, barely able to talk about what happened or sort it out, even a year later. At the same time, his best friend and roommate has a huuuuge secret. And no one will listen to the woman who saw the accident that night and knows what really happened. And another professor on campus, a specialist in cultural customs associated with death, ghosts, and the like, is brought into the mix when the girl's ghost is spotted on campus. Gritty at times, with crass (realistic) characters and language, I was most impressed by how believable each outlandish situation seemed.

The author switches narrators as well as chronology, an effective tool in this case to keep you guessing until the very end. Perhaps it had been too long since I'd read a good mystery, but I sure didn't see it coming. If you like to read "by season," save this one for the late fall, when the first chill hits. Though the events span throughout the year, you can't escape the fall feel associated with a college campus. I stayed creeped out, but thoroughly invested, until the very last OH CRAP moment. Fun stuff.

Next, and I cannot emphasize this one enough:
One Day by David Nicholls

This book nearly killed me. My heart could barely handle it. I picked it up after reading a review months ago, left it unread on my dresser until it was due back to the library, only to see a trailer for the upcoming movie and knowing I must read it. I'm so so glad I did.

I won't say much, except that this book broke me in a way a book hasn't broken me in a very long time. I took my time with it. For once I didn't want to rush through just to get to the resolution, to find out whether there was a happily ever after. I enjoyed taking my time and pondering... which I think is the biggest difference in GOOD fiction and fill-the-void fiction.

Nicholls writes beautifully, but more importantly, cleverly sets the book up in a way that keeps your interest in the characters while leaving you helplessly unable not to compare the characters to yourself and the people impacting your own life. In the 20-year span covered in the story, the characters grow and change, love and lose, become both disappointed and enchanted with life, and with each other. Beginning on the day they meet, on the day after their college graduation, each chapter chronicles the lives of Emma and Dexter on July 15th from 1988 to 2007. Your heart breaks for them time after time, and yet you also find yourself smiling at the touching moments shared between the friends whose relationship evolves as they grow up and grow older, examining that heartbreaking gap between the way we were and the way we are. The characters are very real. Likeable and not, at times. Full of British quirk. I won't give a thing away about the ending, though, as I was a good little girl and for once didn't read ahead or sneak peaks, finding myself completely shocked with the chain of events... again, didn't see that coming. But I'm glad for it.

But I sit now, having just finished. And my heart aches. I feel sick to my stomach, and I am crying at my desk. And I want to re-read it tonight. Go. Pick. It. Up. Now.

Here's the trailer for the movie, if you'd like to watch. Looks like they stayed true to the story, but we'll see in August. I hope they don't ruin it.

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