Over the course of the years I have become an author’s worst nightmare: the fickle reader. Between the magic-behind-the-curtain that daily life requires and my own writing, I have so much less time than I’d like to devote to reading. So, like a kindergartener with ADHD, there’s a very limited window of opportunity for a book to grab my attention and keep it. And because I’m a writer, it’s even tougher for an author to make me forget the mechanics of storytelling, to stop my inner editor from mentally rewriting sentences and picking apart plot holes.
A lot of writing books exhort the importance of the first five pages (there’s even a book called The First Five Pages devoted to it) because that’s about how long a writer has to hook a fickle reader like me. In May, I’d picked up a copy of The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han based on a blog recommendation (and because it sounded like a memoir about my fifteenth summer). The first few pages started out well enough, a breezy read, with a hint that some of my favorite elements (i.e. romantic yearning, an ordinary girl, lost soul hero) were involved, but nothing that was going to keep me turning pages till 4 AM. Until I got to, sure enough, the very last paragraph of page 5 and Ms. Han hit me with this:
Conrad was the older one, by a year and a half. He was dark, dark, dark. Completely unattainable, unavailable. He had a smirky kind of mouth, and I always found myself staring at it. Smirky mouths make you want to kiss them, to smooth them out and kiss the smirkiness away. Or maybe not away…but you want to control it somehow. Make it yours. It was exactly what I wanted to do with Conrad. Make him mine.
Hook. Line. Sinker.
People, I stayed up till 4 AM, hiding under the covers with my book light, until I’d finished. Got up, drove straight to my local bookstore on the way to work, bought the sequel, It’s Not Summer Without You, and stayed up again until the wee hours. Then lathered, rinsed, repeated the next day with the final, just-released conclusion, We’ll Always Have Summer.
This is what a great storyteller does: poses a worrisome question--will the ordinary girl make the lost soul hero, Conrad, hers?—and then dares you to put down the book until you know the answer. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the series, but suffice it to say, this question worried me enough that I got only twelve hours sleep over three days. So worth it.
This series is superb. One of the best—and tensest—love triangles I’ve ever read. Seriously. I usually pick my horse right out of the gate in a love triangle, but this one had me rethinking my choice until about mid-way through the final book. So much so that when I had about thirty pages left till the end, I became so nervous and excited to know how it would turn out, I couldn’t take the anxiety and had to walk around the block before finishing it. I’m not kidding.
If you haven’t read the series, I dare you to pick them up and see if you can make it without skipping ahead to the end to know.
What was the last book you read that gave you goosebumps you loved it so much and stayed up all night to finish?