Tag Archives: the Boston

in which I take photos

So I’ll just say right off the bat—I don’t really like getting my picture taken.

I used to be a big ham when I was a kid. I loved getting photographed and was always striking a pose when a camera came around. But at some point something changed and I got camera shy. Aggressively camera shy. I hate photos. The idea of taking a selfie gives me a panic attack. I try to move as far to the back of group shots as possible. For a long time, my picture on Twitter and this blog had half my face covered1 because I just don’t like looking at pictures of myself.

I’m really not a photo person.

So you will not be at all surprised to hear that when told I had to take a headshot/author photo that would go on the back flap of my book, I was, to put it generously, not excited.

I put it off for a long time. Griped about it on Twitter, then felt bad for griping about such a lucky problem to have. Went through all the photos on my computer hoping I would miraculously find some professional but not horrible looking photo of me. Prayed someone would randomly snap a candid of me that would work.

But, at last, with the deadline looming, I had to admit defeat. Fine, I said. I will take an author photo for the book. I will do it…but I will not enjoy it.

Being in possession of a rather fine camera, Marx agreed to take the photos for me so I didn’t have to stare into the lens of a stranger, which would make the whole thing exponentially more uncomfortable. Together, we began to scour the interwebs trying to find somewhere cool to take the photos, my hope being that a great background might distract from….well, me. All the standard Boston engagement photos locations were too conventional. A blank wall was too boring. We needed somewhere cool. Unique. Subtly steampunk. I know, it was a lot to ask. After a time, we started to think it was maybe impossible.

And then we found the Boston Metropolitan Waterworks Museum.

And everything changed.

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YOU GUYS. The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum is AMAZING. Like, my new favorite place in Boston2 . It’s the old pumping station near the reservoir that used to supply the city of Boston with its water. It’s no longer functioning, but is now a museum, dedicated to the preservation and display of these massive, beautiful, industrial engines which I don’t understand, but I love love love looking at because they are just so gorgeous. Also, the museum is free, and the management is incredibly kind, and basically let us run amok in the place. We even got to climb on top of the giant engines3.

Marx took many great pictures of the waterworks.

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Less great pictures of me.

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The half face strikes again!

After a few excruciating hours of me grimacing into the camera and Marx doing a valiant impression of not being annoyed by this fact, we deemed we had enough great pictures to work with.

They were all of the engines. But that’s beside the point.

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If you would like to visit the amazing Waterworks Museum, which I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re ever in Boston, please visit this website here4.

Oh, also, I should probably mention here, I now have a proper website, which features these beautiful photos. Visit here, if you’re interested.

  1. I tried to send that particular photo to my agent when she needed a picture of me for something sales related. She then showed it to one of her colleagues, who asked, “Why does she have her collar up like that? Is there something wrong with her face?” No, just my brain.
  2. Rivaled only by my first great love, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
  3. This is also where I learned—a mere week before we went to Switzerland, which is basically comprised of high places—that Marx is desperately afraid of heights.
  4. One more waterworks photo. For good measure. (All photo credit to Marx!) 10672183_858089884202569_6797749548370404008_n
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in which I dig in the dirt with a spoon

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself crouched beneath my neighbor’s window, using a kitchen spoon to frantically scoop dirt from their garden into a ceramic mug, all the while poised to bolt if the door opened.

And I thought to myself, “Self, how did we come to be crouched beneath our neighbor’s window, using a kitchen spoon to frantically scoop dirt from their garden into a ceramic mug, all the while poised to bolt?”

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, one of my roommates moved out, and my friend Marx, who you may remember from some of our previous shenanigans1 moved in—huzzah! However, when the first roommate moved out, I discovered that everything that was useful in this apartment was hers, and everything that was a Cat in the Hat pennant and three copies of 500 Days of Summer on DVD was mine. So me, Marx, and our third roommate, who is making her blog debut so I will call Galactica2 have been left to refurnish what a few weeks ago was a completely furnished apartment.

Now something I relearn about myself every time I move is that I don’t like living in a state of flux. There is no gradually buying the things I need, no slow acquirement of necessities and then luxuries, no operating out of boxes until I find the time to unpack. I need a decorated apartment and I need it NOW.

So over the past few weeks, we have furnished our apartment in what can only be called a frenzied manner. The most notable acquisitions include a hundred year old steamer trunk purchased from Craigslist3, a flaming red foot locker, a free TV because Galactica has great friends, a World War II propaganda poster, a slightly incorrectly sized frame for said poster, a blue lantern in the style of Paul Revere, and some sunny yellow paint to cover what was once ghastly pea soup-colored benches.

Also some plants. Those were my idea.

You may remember that last summer I played mother to two lovely office plants, Sherlock and Mycroft. Being back in an office for the first time since then has made me yet again pine for greenery, so I made a snap decision to invest in two hanging baskets, some fern-ish things, and a flowery bush for our back deck. Then I ate a lot of food in jars with the thought I would repot the fern-ish things into these jars and be super Antorhopologie-esque5.

Except it turns out to repot something, you need dirt. Which I failed to consider.

You also, it turns out, need nerves of steel to nick this dirt from a garden that might not technically be yours but is on your property, except it’s technically not your property because you just rent the second floor, and the garden on what might or might not actually be your property is mostly cultivated by a downstairs neighbor who for no apparent reason dislikes you. Also the dirt in question just happens to be located directly underneath his office window6.

And that, kids, is the story of my now furnished apartment, my repotted plants, and my crouched spoon digging in the dirt.

 

  1. Such as the Ikea trip from Hell and our iFrankenstein opening night escapade.
  2. Because of our shared affinity for most things nerdy and awesome
  3. And a failed acquisition of a hundred year old piano, because apparently I wasn’t a “serious buyer.” Whatever that means4.
  4. Though I admit, my entire plan of how to get this piano back to our apartment was a set of bungee cords and the roof of Marx’s petite Mazda.
  5. It should be noted that I sincerely meant to take pictures of all these things to accompany this post, because a picture is worth a thousand words, or so I’ve been told, but somehow I forgot to set my alarm this morning, so blog pictures sort of slipped down the priorities list.
  6. And by the way, he has this fantastically cool pop up model of St. Basil’s Cathedral on his desk. Neighbor, you and I would probably be friends if you did not insist on hating me.
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in which people who are not me run 26 miles

Happy Marathon Day!

As you may remember, some really terrible things happened in Boston around this time last year. But some really awesome things happened last year too. In fact, there were far more awesome things than bad things. Far more people being kind and heroic and brave than being cruel and cowardly.

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This time last year, after living in the city for almost eight months, this was the week I really fell in love with Boston, and I’ve been smitten ever since. In the wake of a tragedy, everything seemed really united and hopeful, and I felt very much a part of a coming together of different people inhabiting the same space, and through that coming together I fell in love with that space. I had a similar moment of intense Boston love while walking around my neighborhood this morning1. Everything was blue skies and sort of warm after being neither of those things for so long, and I thought, you couldn’t pry me out of this city with a crowbar.

I love Boston. It feels like home.

So let’s celebrate one year—hundreds of years really, but this one in particular—of being awesome and resilient and good and BOSTON STRONG2!

 

  1. On a quest for Diet Coke, because my regular place was closed and it is apparently really hard to find Diet Coke within walking distance of my apartment on marathon day.
  2. The phrase ‘Boston Strong’ has become so overused in the last year that it now can only be written or spoken in all caps. However, after a year of feeling it was worn out and cliché and laughing everytime someone used it, every time I’ve seen it this past week a small part of me has gone “Aw.” But that’s sentimentality for you.
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in which a friend visits

When you move around a lot, there are lots of people who come into your life, and then when you leave, they sort of drift out of your life without much consequence. Being apart is too hard, or too far, or you change and become too different to like each other as much in the present moment as you did in the past.

And then there are the people that stick with you. That no matter how far apart you are, it never gets too hard.

For me, this person is 14.

14 and I met in seventh grade health class1. The random seating chart set off a chain of events that shaped a good portion of my life. We were friends all through middle school. Took the same classes in high school2. We did theater things together. We went to our first school dance in the same group. We were roommates in college, tested out papers and outfits and flirty texts before we sent them to our crushes on each other.

And then I went to Chicago. Then Boston. And then 14 went to Norway. Then back to Salt Lake. And after spending almost every day together for years and years and years, suddenly we were far apart.

But with 14, the distance didn’t matter so much like it did with other friends. Sure, it sucked to have to synch our time zones for a phone call or to not be able to invite her to do crazy stuff with me. And yes, I missed her, but I never felt like we lost anything because we were far apart.

Last week, 14 came to visit me in Boston. As my mom pointed out, it was the first time the two of us have been around each other for an extended period of time since we graduated from college. There was lots of potential for things to go wrong. What if in our time apart we had both grown into different people that weren’t compatible anymore and we didn’t realize that until she was off the plane?

But it just felt like picking up right where we left off. Like nothing had changed3.

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14 and I are really different, but that’s never really mattered. Being friends with her has always been so easy. And that’s how friendship should be.

Here’s wishing you all a friend like 14.

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  1. 14 is the only good thing I got out of seventh grade health class.
  2. And often sat by each other often because we both have end of the alphabet last names
  3. Except we were exploring Boston instead of Salt Lake, and Boston is awesome. Though we could have done without the freezing rain that plagued the city all week. However, we still did some really awesome things. Like getting enlisted in the War of 1812 Navy. Here we are on board in our bunks:

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in which I celebrate valentine’s day

For the first eighteen years of my life, I lived in the same place. Same city. Same neighborhood. Same house. The biggest move I made was from my upstairs bedroom to the downstairs one.

But then I moved away to college, and never really stopped moving. In the last five years, I’ve moved five times. Salt Lake to Logan, Logan to England, England back to Logan, Logan to Chicago, Chicago to Boston. So I’ve lived in some great places, and had some great times, and met some amazing people.

But when you move that much, you don’t have enough time to really make friends. You find people you have things in common with, have some wild adventures with them, but then you leave and fall out of touch, only occasionally communicating on Facebook. I have friends from childhood I still talk to pretty consistently, the friends of the life-long variety, but even that’s different when you only have texting and emails.

This is not necessarily a bad way to live. I met some really amazing people and had some great times, but it also taught me to be self-sufficient—I learned to function independently, go to things on my own, and be my own emotional crutch when things went south.

These last two years in Boston have been the longest I’ve stayed anywhere in a while. And I’m starting to feel like I actually live here instead of just passing through. I know the subway system. I’m no long alarmed when traffic seems to be coming from twelve directions at once. I have heard the phrase “wicked hard” used ironically. I know what people mean when they say Allston Christmas.

And, as I realized the other night, I have friends here.

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Real, great, honest-to-God friends. Friends who I drag on my crazy adventures. Friends who laugh at my references even when they don’t get them. Friends who do more than tolerate me, friends who are friends for more reasons than just shared classes or living in the same place.

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Friends who sit on my bed and eat ice cream with me when I had a crummy day, or talk me down from my anxiety, or encourage my weirdness, or don’t make fun of me when I really let my fangirl show. Friends who pick me up from the airport. Friends who listen to me. Friends who like me.

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So this year, on Valentine’s Day, I’m celebrating my friends, who I love and adore and am so thankful to have in my life. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone—here’s celebrating all the weird kinds of love in your life.

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in which I make November Cakes

So I really like books. In case you’re new here.

There are many things I love about books, and many reasons I read as much as I do. I like stories. I like magic. I like imagined things. I like the feeling of being in many places at the same time, simultaneously on the train or in my bedroom but also far away in another state or country or world. I like living many lives through books.

But the real reason I read is because every once in a while, I find a book. A book that does more than just provide a few good hours of being somewhere else. Even more than just a book that makes me hold my breath or turn pages faster. It is the sort of book that takes me over. That makes me feel deeply and profoundly for people and places and things that do not exist. A book that makes me look at the world differently.

When I read books like this, the first thing I do is take several deep breaths and just bask. Then the second thing that usually happens is I feel inspired to create. Great things make me want to create something, and usually that something wants to exist in the same world as whatever book just moved me. I love people who create things based on things they love. This is why I love things like fan art. Fan fiction. Cosplay1.

And, in a new subgenre of fan culture I invented on Friday night, fan cooking.

Recently I have become thoroughly and passionately obsessed with a book called The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It is a rare and exceptional book2. You should go read it3. It was introduced to me by a colleague at the bookstore, who feels just as passionately about this book. It was her initial enthusiasm that made me pick it up, and I was not disappointed.

Now in the book, the main characters eat a lot of something called November Cakes. Though what exactly November Cakes are is never actually explained, the small details of them appear again and again until you don’t even know what it is but oh my gosh you just need one so bad!

For example:

“Finn finds my left hand, opens my fingers, and puts a November cake in my palm. It oozes honey and butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of my hand. It begs to be licked.”

See? How could you not want one of those immediately?

Unfortunately you can’t just go to any bakery and say, “One November Cake, please!” This is not the magical island of Thisby. So my bookstore friend and I decided to try and make them ourselves. On Friday night, we tracked down a recipe created by Stiefvater herself and we endeavored to make November cakes worthy of the Scorpio Races.

They turned out…fine.

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Mostly they look like squashed brown cupcakes. Not the sort of food that begs to be licked4.

But we made them. And we ate them. And we had a wonderful time doing so5.

But what struck me most about the evening was that this one little book had inspired the creation of something else. We both feel so passionately about these people and place and food that does not exist that we had to bring this fiction into the realm of our real lives.

And honestly, that’s why I write. With the hope that someday I too will write something that, to quote another book I am obsessed with, “takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words6.”

 

  1. While I don’t really take part in any of these things, I love scouring the internet for them.
  2. OHMYGOSH it is SO GOOD. Not to over hype, but it is SENSATIONAL and will make you FEEL SO MANY THINGS.
  3. WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS!? GO FIND AND DEVOUR IT AT ONCE!
  4. Though we certainly did do a lot of licking of frosting off fingers and plates.
  5. We also lit a towel on fire. But that’s a post script to the story, really.
  6. That’s Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Another good book7.
  7. OH MY GOSH why why WHY are you still reading this GO BUY THIS ONE TOO WHILE YOU’RE OUT GETTING SCORPIO RACES. GO GO GO NOW!
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in which I dress up in strange costumes

So one of the dorkier things about me is how much I love dressing up in weird and awesome costumes. This week gave me a lot of opportunities to do so.

First of all, we had a Halloween Carnival at work, which meant I spent most of the day hanging out in Harvard Square dressed like this1:

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Then, as previously discussed, I spent most of Thursday and some of Friday dressed as the Hero of Canton, because Halloween:

Image And last night, Milton2 and I dressed like this:

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Why? We attended the Inter-Dimensional Vaudevillians’ Cosmic Sideshow.

What is the Inter-Dimensional Vaudevillians’ Cosmic Sideshow, you may ask? Honestly, I’m not totally sure. It was one of the weirder nights of my life. It included everything from extreme pumpkin carving to a magician to screamo rock bands to a burlesque show3. People were there dressed as Dia de los Muertos, clowns, dark circus vaudevillians, steampunks, and then there were a few people randomly wearing really fuzzy neon mittens. It was a strange crowd.

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Unfortunately all my pictures suck because it was very poorly lit.

Milton and I opted for the steampunk vibe, because I am steampunk obsessed at the moment and Milton is a good sport. Pretty impressive for costumes for being pulled together exclusively out of things from our closets4. We also garnered the attention of more steampunk gentlemen than I’ve ever had vying for my attention at one time. I got a lot of cards. I wish I was this good at real networking events.

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You can’t tell what’s going on in this picture so let me explain: an intense metal band is playing on a stage filled with pumpkins while a girl hulla hoops with a glow in the dark hoop. Like I said, a weird night.

All in all, it was a weird fun night at the Worcester Palladium. And really, I’ll take any excuse to dress up in weird clothes and have a bizarre cultural experience.

  1. I should point out my hands are not painted green because my job at said carnival was face painting, and I did not want to get green smudges on the children. Though that probably would have been an improvement over what I actually painted on their faces. Spoiler alert: I am not as great at face painting as I thought I’d be.
  2. You remember Milton of the New York trip?
  3. In the middle of which I got an email from my bishop. Irony!
  4. Except for Milton’s tiny top hat. That was graciously lent by a friend much cooler than us.
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in which a portrait is painted

Right now there is a great thing going on in Boston called We Art Boston. It is a coming together of a bunch of amazing picture book illustrators to raise money for the Children’s Hospital.

I am all in favor of helping hospitals and children, but mostly I’m in this because OMG PICTURE BOOK ILLUSTRATORS!!!!!

The latest in a series of events happened yesterday at Porter Square Books. The general public of Boston was invited to bring their children and their children’s favorite stuffed animals to the bookstore, where those stuffed animals could be sketched as a memento of childhood to be treasured for years to come.

I have no children, but I am in possession of a once-white-now-dingy-brown stuffed Snoopy, affectionately named Noopy, that I purchased at the Charles Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, California many years ago1. Noopy has gone all over the world with me. I love him very much, and have cried many tears and spilled much Diet Coke into his fur2. He’s a little worse for wear after so many years of love and adventuring, but more than worthy of a portrait commemorating our time together. So yesterday, I took him on the train with me to Porter Square Books, and had his portrait sketched by Barbara McClintok, author of Adele and Simon, among other adorable picture books.

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 photo courtesy of Porter Square Books

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Isn’t he a beautiful boy? And the portrait itself is very Ernest Shepard, don’t you think?

It was one of the most fun things ever, and fun to see all the kids coming out with their beloved animals3. Noopy is very pleased with his portrait4, and so I am. It shall be prominently displayed in my home5.

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  1. Though it was after the age it was probably appropriate for me to still love stuffed animals that much.
  2. I was also once advised by the MT not to use him as a means for transporting drugs when I went to college. She clearly had a high moral opinion of me.
  3. And fun elbowing them out of the way for my turn.
  4. It made him feel like a Victorian gentleman to be sketched so.
  5. It should be noted I have no pictures of any members of my family or friends displayed in my apartment. But a portrait of my stuffed dog—you bet.
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in which I protest taxation without representation

Last Saturday, a group of Bostonians1 dressed as Mowhawk Indians snuck aboard the British ship The Eleanor and dumped over a hundred crates of tea into Boston Harbor in protest of unjust taxes without representation.

Here’s photographic evidence of the event:

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Okay so what actually happened is that the Shark and I went to the Boston Tea Party Museum and got to reenact the Boston Tea Party. Including the part where you throw crates of tea into the harbor while causing a ruckus. We were really good at that part. We were also really good at the part where we were asked to vocally show our support to Samuel Adams’s speech about the tyrannical British rule. There was much foot stomping and pew banging and shouting of “Huzzah!” and “Fie!” in turn.

I haven’t done a lot of touristy things here in Boston. I keep waiting for someone to come visit me so I have an excuse to do them. But the Tea Party Museum was the Shark’s birthday gift to me, since we have both been insanely curious what was going on every time we walked by the harbor and saw tourists throwing tea into the water.

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The Boston Tea Party Museum is awesome. Mostly because it is not the sort of museum where you walk around quiet galleries and read long signs and look at artifacts you have no context for looking at. It is the sort where you get to attend a Sons of Liberty meeting, put feathers in your hair, board a replica of the ships that were in the harbor, and fling crates of tea overboard2. It’s living history, which is the best kind of history. If you find yourself in Boston anytime between now and the end of the world, you should go to the Tea Party Museum and take part in a historic event. It is well-worth the treason charges and possible hanging.

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Saturday was such a good day, for a lot of reasons. Before we went to the museum, the Shark and I got lunch on the waterfront. While walking around with our sandwiches, we stumbled upon one of the many colorfully painted pianos located around Boston3. We ended up sitting by the water and listening to this handsome young man play the most beautiful song while people gathered around him and little kids danced. And the sky was blue, and the sun was on the water, and it was that perfect fall sort of warm, and my sandwich was delicious, and I was just completely overcome with how wonderful the world was in that moment.

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This month has beaten me down a little bit. I’ve fallen hard-core in love with Boston, which has been great, but there’s been a lot of disappointment, and a lot of things didn’t go as expected. It’s been a little discouraging. But this moment, this beautiful moment and the whole lovely, mad day that followed, was a peculiar sort of answer to a prayer. The sort of moment that makes you wonder how you could be sad in a world so bright and lovely.

 

  1. Mostly tourists and non-natives.
  2. And at the end you get to sample the types of tea that were thrown overboard by the Sons of Liberty. All I will say is it was good that I was not a Colonial tea drinker. Those things would clear your sinuses with a sip, they were strong!
  3. This is exactly what it sounds like. Pianos are released into the wild around the city and anyone can play them.
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Four Book Friday: Rebecca Wells

Welcome back to Four Book Friday, a continuing series where writers and readers tell us about four books that changed their life! This week’s post comes from Rebecca Wells. Rebecca is a bookseller and writer and one of my Simmons girls. Here are the four books that changed her life!

Walk Two MoonsWalk Two Moons by Sharon Creech – If all the books in the world were burning and I could only save one, there is a good chance it would be Walk Two Moons. Is this book perfect in every possible way? No. But it does contain the most perfect depiction of dead-parent grief I have ever read. Salamanca Tree Hiddle’s journey was painfully recognizable to me because I had gone through exactly the same thing. The first time I read Walk Two Moons, my first thought was “How did Sharon Creech know?” (I still don’t have the answer to that question, by the way. Even though I finally met Sharon Creech this year and cried. Twice.) I’ve since read my copy to pieces. The circumstances by which I make my way back to these familiar pages don’t matter — in every encounter, Walk Two Moons makes me feel less alone in the world. And isn’t that what extraordinary books are supposed to do?

Snow White, Blood RedSnow White, Blood Red edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling – Books like this make me infinitely grateful that my father exercised no parental control over my reading habits whatsoever. I was probably eleven or twelve when I picked up Snow White, Blood Red at our local Borders (RIP) and asked my father if I could get it. I have no idea what went through his head when he looked at the (fairly mature) cover, but he bought it for me. Snow White, Blood Red may not have begun my love affair with fairy tales, but it was definitely the first book that hooked its claws into my flesh and refused to let go. The stories in this book aren’t the ones you remember from the Disney movies. They’re darker, bloodier, sexier, and utterly captivating. Snow White, Blood Red opened my eyes to the ways in which familiar tales can be twisted and broken to form new wholes — a lesson in writing that I carry with me to this day. I devoured this book and promptly spent the next several months hunting down the other five titles in the series, even the out-of-print ones. (It speaks to how young I was that this was the first encounter I remember having with the idea of “out of print.” What do you mean, I can’t get every book I want?)
Sabriel (Abhorsen,  #1)Sabriel by Garth Nix – I have a hard time saying anything about Sabriel other than SQUEE. The world is captivating, the story compelling, the characters entrancing. There’s a certain air of different-ness in its pages that I’ve since come to associate with Australian authors. But what really drove me to include Sabriel on this list was the romance. Too often I see young adult titles in which the main characters are together because they’re just perfect for each other, and that’s that. In many ways Sabriel is the anti-typical young adult romance. The relationship that is forged is built on complex characters who each have their own agenda. They both have places to go and demons to banish, and the idea that they may end up together is not the primary motivating force behind their actions. Sabriel taught me that there was no law in young adult mandating its romance be bubble gum perfect — instead, its romance is complex, deep, and never obvious.

The Truth About ForeverThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen – …But even though complex is great, sometimes you just feel the need for bubble gum perfect. Sarah Dessen is one of those universally acknowledged Queens of young adult, and for good reason. Sarah Dessen books are familiar, comforting, and identifiable — like a root beer float on a hot summer day, or afternoons spent lazing in a hammock with your best friend. I’ve read most of her work, but the one I return to any time I need a pick-me-up is The Truth About Forever. I completely identified with Macy’s perfectionist-student role, as well as her complicated feelings regarding her father’s death. This book made me want to be Macy, to join a catering company, and to find (and kiss) my very own Wes. I’ve read The Truth About Forever so many times that its spine is now broken, but it never fails to cheer me up and restore some of my faith in the universe.

Rebecca Wells is a California transplant now living on the east coast, where it boggles her mind that it’s possible to cross states in less than a day. She wears many hats, including those of writer, graduate student, and bookseller. You can find some of her other internet musings at http://elephantsontrapezes.blogspot.com, or on Twitter at @rebeccawriting, where she maintains the unpopular opinion that dogs are infinitely superior to cats.

Want more Four Book Friday? Here are more posts in the series:

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