Friday, February 6, 2015
Children's Author and Illustrator Week: Alex Is Reading Megan Whalen Turner
So these books, up here in this fuzzy picture, are my copies of Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings. They're four books of a proposed six-book YA series that are less fantasy and more...alternate Greco-Roman past world with a slight chance of interfering gods. The central character is a deeply obnoxious, incredibly talented thief who lies to everyone--including you, the reader--CONSTANTLY, and his ideas WORK but always have AWFUL CONSEQUENCES. The other main characters include a) the best and scariest and b) the best and most relatable queens ever in books, ever ever ever. OH, THEY ARE GREAT.
The books are really subtle, and funny and UPSETTING and incredibly smart. And patient. Like, I don't think I've read hardly any other books that sit on their plot twists as comfortably as these do, only to throw them at you at the perfect moment and leave you going, WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHY HOW DID YOU, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, YES!!!! YES!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO BOOOOOOOOOK and so on until your mom comes and finds you and gives you funny looks.
So as books, the Queen's Thief series taught me a heck of a lot about how far you can push characters, how many lies your story can tell and still come together at the end, and how to balance stuff in a book that seems like it should never, ever work. But that's not the best thing about these books, for me. Even my deep, abiding, undying, fire-like love for the characters is not the best thing about these books--for me.
The best thing about these books is people.
See, everywhere I have gone, these books have brought me people. When I read The Thief in seventh grade, I passed it around to my friends. We talked about it at lunch, my pal got a juice stain on Queen of Attolia and I was REALLY mad, we got closer as friends, because of books. When I was in college and King of Attolia came out, I read them all out loud to my roommates--there was no escape for them, not even a small chance of escape--and we've had built-in in-jokes ever since.
And I found people online, people who loved these books as much as I do. I've met a bunch of them in person. (Ask Your Adult.) We've exchanged stuff through the mail: card, books, socks, art, candy. We sent books like chain letters, leaving notes in the margins for the next reader. I met Megan a couple of times. Ten years later I'm still in contact with fans in Australia, England, and the U.S. I still have my friends, friends I have because these books brought us together. In fact, I'm reading Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta along with one of those friends right now, even though she's in Alabama. There are threads of these relationships running through my life all over the place in unexpected ways.
But there's one friend in particular that I'm grateful for. She died a couple of years ago. We were friends for eight years, and during that time, she went from a friendly name online to one of dearest people to me in the whole world. I could fill a book with just my memories of that friendship, filled with love, family, and books, and all the uncomfortable ups and downs of being alive. She made me a better writer and a happier person. Every time I read a book, I think of what she'd think about it, and every time I write, I try to write well enough for her. I try to write as well as the book she wrote and left behind.
So I got that from these books, family, friendship, excellent reading recs, pride in my writing, wild enjoyment of obnoxious protagonists, undisclosed shenanigans in the name of Queen's Thieves, and buckets and buckets of memories I would never want to let go of and people I would never want to un-know. You probably will not have this exact experience if you read these books (which you should, because they're great), but you will probably have experiences like this because of some book, some time, because that is what books can do for you. Books can give you life.