After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr.
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
I was looking for a love story with some reality to it. I wanted to read a YA love story that didn’t end with the perfect couple, after a few fights, lasting forever in their fairy tale. So I checked some reviews and settled on After the Moment. Here are some of the reasons why:
“The author’s feel for character and voice has never been better.”
“Leigh narrates with deep intelligence and heightened feeling.”
“The story focuses on the teens’ emotionally wrenching senior year, which begins in love before a possible date rape sets off escalating tragedy.”
Now I’ve been reading. And this got me to thinking. Because:
100 pages into the book, as the reader, I’ve met Maia, the girl half of this couple in love, long enough to see her eat a piece of cake and bring a suitcase full of sheets and books to a grieving girl. And here’s what I know:
It doesn’t matter that every professional reviewer raved about this book or that the first two pages of prologue are a real hook and that eventually I will get to the heart of the story (but God only knows when). I am never going to get a non-reader hooked on this book. The pace is way off. It has gone on so long about neighbors and their brothers, about what color the protagonist will paint his second bedroom and . . . If I recommend this book to any student who isn’t already a constant reader, I’m doomed. S/he won’t read the book past the first ten pages. And worse, that student will never trust my recommendation again.
That’s why I need to read all these books before I chat them up in the library.
Which got me to thinking some more.
What is one of the best books out there can make a non-reader read? One that has good writing, a great (even important) idea behind the story, but also has a rapid-fire plot line and lots of adventure? Yes, of course, The Hunger Games. But that trilogy is still wildly popular right now, so I don’t need to convince you to read it. Instead, let me move backward a few years because you might have been too young to read this trilogy when it came out: Uglies by Scott Westerfield.
Uglies is one of the best, fastest moving, constant action, suspense-filled YA books I’ve ever read. In the future world of Uglies, all people have an operation at age sixteen to make them ‘pretty’—that is, they all are changed to be perfect, or what is deemed perfect by society. Big-eyed and full-lipped, they appear childlike for the rest of their lives. And for some reason, their intellect remains rather childish, too. (Sinister plot elements ahead!)
While Tally is awaiting her operation so that she can leave Uglyville and join her best guy friend, Paris, over in Pretty Town, she meets a girl, Shay, who has the same birthday as Tally and therefore, should be made pretty on the same day. But Shay doesn’t want to be like everyone else, and her escape propels Tally in a direction she never would have thought possible. Tally has some exciting escapes even before she decides to fight the system, but once she does, danger is around every corner.
A bonus in this novel is that Tally’s method of transportation and escape is often bungee jumping—or even more often, hover boarding. Hover boarding is like skating, surfing or snowboarding. Tally has to be balanced as she quickly evades her pursuers. But she’s not on the water or the snow. She’s flying through the air, and a wrong move can mean death. If you skate, surf or snowboard, you’re going to be able to relate to Tally and Shay immediately.
So, I can recommend books like After the Moment to students I know well enough. We can talk about Leigh’s feeling about the Iraq War and how they relate to the more personal violence that becomes a part of his life; about how he is trying so hard to be a good guy, and how that doesn’t always work. But if you’re just trying to find that first book that will hook you into reading, I’m going for Uglies. And when you finish it, you can go on with Pretties, Specials, and Extras. And then you can move onto other series by the same author. And then books by other authors with similar themes. And then books about other things.