Remember “edgy?” Okay, the word is still here. And I like it–I like edgy books. I admire the strength these authors put into their words, the sharp and almost painful voice with which their narrators tell their stories, and the power that pulls me in and keeps me turning the page, at times faster than I can really keep up with.
I also like books that AREN’T this way. Lately, I’ve heard the word “quiet” tossed around. People are talking about it on Twitter & Facebook. Writers are trying to figure out what it means, when they hear it from publishers and agents, and they’re trying to figure out–I think–if it has to be a bad thing. Because I think there is some sense out there that it may, indeed, be something that, well…won’t help your book get picked up and sold.
Honestly, I hope that’s not true. Not only because I suspect that my own writing may be more quiet than…edgy? Loud? Whatever that other thing is? But because–if my understanding of quiet books is right–I value them so much for the reading experience they bring me that I don’t want to see them go away.
I’ve been thinking about a few authors whose books I’ve read–some recently, some not so recently–books that I think of as “quiet.” (Some of these authors have also written what I’d called edgier books that I also loved, but I’m not talking about those today.) I’m going to name these books, and I want you all to take this labeling as a STRONG recommendation to go out and read them. Because they’re all incredible, powerful writers. Just…in a different way.
- Sara Zarr—Story of a Girl, Sweethearts
- Jennifer E. Smith—You Are Here, The Comeback Season
- Susan Taylor Brown–Hugging the Rock
- Jo Knowles, Jumping off Swings
- Mary Pearson–The Miles Between
- Kathryn Fitzmaurice–The Year the Swallows Came Early
All of these books, like the edgy ones, deal with teens who face problems. BIG problems. MODERN problems. The two things that seem to be different, to me, are the pacing and the voice.
These books don’t rush. I’m not sure the edgy ones do, either, but I find myself rushing through them, often, to find out what’s coming next. These “quiet” stories don’t feel slow, I just feel like I have time to sit with them, to follow the explorations the author is making into character and choices and connections and to make my own explorations at the same time.
The narrative voices in these books also give me time. Somehow, there is a strength of character in the hero (even if they’re not 1st person, we’re almost always getting the story through the hero’s perspective) that makes me feel confident and safe. I’m not saying I read their stories knowing that they’ll be okay, or expecting a predictable ending. That’s not it. It’s that somehow I believe the hero has the strength to make it through their pain and their experiences, and that strength lets me breathe a bit more slowly and read for HOW they’re going to do that–to watch their choices with curiosity, sympathy, and hope.
I’m not doing this very well–telling you what I like so much about these books, without sounding like I’m putting down the others. Honestly, I like them all. I just get sad when I hear writers worrying about whether they shouldn’t write these books. I want to stand up and shout, wave my arm frantically to get their attention, and say, “Yes! Please! Keep writing!” I want to tell them that I crave their kind of story, and that I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Am I? 🙂