I have a book problem.
I love to read. When people ask me what genre I favour, I usually laugh and reply, “A little bit of everything!” I read mostly classics and YA fantasy and and sci-fi and poetry and biographies and histories and the occasional romance. I read quotes and blogs and magazines and dictionaries. I read the backs of cereal boxes and labels on people’s clothes. I read some books that are popular and some that aren’t.
I like adventure and discovery and a strong female character. I like small towns and bookworms and tall, dark, mysterious strangers. I like star-crossed lovers and ill-fated relationships and I like reading about the banter between siblings. I like flirty things and daring things and weird things and sometimes murderous things. I like make believe worlds and real worlds, and I like wise, old mentors with beards and witticisms.
Prince Charmings with a dark side, collections of exotic teas, and funny uncles with top hats and awful comb-overs. I like scarves and rain boots (which sound so much more poetic than rubber boots) and something that won’t take a lot of energy to read but will still make me think about life differently. I like sexy things but think sex in books is a bit unnecessary. I like things that are realistic but don’t like reading about things that go against my strongest morals.
I like books that remind me of mellow music, elegant music, angst-ridden and pure sadness music. Books that remind me of bleached out photographs from the ‘70s and old radio shows and my childhood.
My favourite books are the ones that taught me something, whether it be a moral or an idea or a word or character development. Some of them are just pretty. They sit nicely in the nooks of my brain. Not all of them are deep, dark, disturbing novels, but some of them are. Some of them are light and fluffy and simply easy to read.
I like elements of Alice in Wonderland (“It’s a vegetable. It doesn’t look like one, but it is.”) and Pride and Prejudice (“They parted at last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again.”) and Harry Potter (“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”) and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place (“Uncle had learned long ago that obeying a rule in fact but not in spirit was very hard on people who say we for I and who do not allow dogs on their premises.”) and Fade (“So he endured. Did not cry.”).
These are things I like in books.
I know it’s a tall order, and that’s why I’ve yet to find ONE book that contains ALL of these things. If I found a book with these criteria, I daresay it would be my favourite book of all time.
The books I turn to when I’m bored or feeling a little blah are the books I read and read again when I was a pre-teen: A Riddle of Roses and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place and Walk Two Moons and Stargirl. They aren’t particularly deep and don’t leave me exhausted like Game of Thrones or Emma, but instead leave me refreshed, rejuvenated, in love with life again, and maybe a little poignant that life doesn’t turn out for everyone.
I love these books. I still read them, still love them.
I want to read books like those books, but for a YA/NA audience. Give me a 17 or 19 or 21-year-old Margaret Rose Kane of Outcasts or a Stargirl as a university undergrad, with the same tone of voice the original presented to my pre-teen self.
So, to suit my picky, aimless search for the perfect book, I think I may just end up writing it. I want the whimsical, witty themes of my favourite pre/early teen novels with more mature content. I want to read it and be changed but not scarred or exhausted. I want to laugh and maybe cry at its pages. I want funny uncles and dark prince charmings and adventure and feminism and bleached out photographs of the ‘70s.
These are what I want in a book.
And I’m taking matters into my own hands and writing a book I want to read.
I mean, to write a book and have it meet the standards I described as “my favourite book ever” is only a wee bit pretentious, but if I want a book like I’ve described, I imagine a couple other people out there would like to read it, too.
What do you look for in your own “perfect book?” Have you found it? Have you written it?