I started a new post weeks ago, all about my favorite Romance authors beyond the Pacific Northwest. It was full of enthusiasm and excitement and some outright pleading to y’all to give Romance a chance.
And then I realized it would run in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day and I just couldn’t bring myself to be that clichéd. So I scrapped it. Not entirely, of course. It lives on in a drafts folder and will eventually see the light of day. But, for now, I’m pretending it doesn’t exist.
The problem being, though, that I found myself stuck. I’ve been reading a lot, as always, but it’s mostly been YA with a smattering of Romance novels for variety. Which, in itself, isn’t a problem. But, it made me recognize something about myself: Working at a children’s bookstore, I seem to have lost the knack for reading Adult titles. I mean, there are exceptions–of course there are–but it used to be that I could pick up a recommended work of literary fiction and, even if it wasn’t my cup of tea (which most of it wasn’t), I could find some hook to keep me invested. Whether it was one character in whom I was interested in knowing more or well-crafted prose or rich historical detail or clever dialogue, there was always something to keep me reading. Now, however, I expect both more and less. I want more drama and magic and plot and less wordiness and brooding introspection.
In short, I want my Adult titles to read like Young Adult titles. I want authors of Adult titles to realize that they don’t need 800 pages to explore grief and mental illness in a deep and realistic fashion, because All the Bright Places did it in half that. Character studies are all well and good, but stuff has to happen, like in Andrew Smith’s Winger. Historical detail is great and I love to learn new things while I’m reading, but it needs to be in service to the plot, not just because an author found a nifty fact and wanted to share it with the world. Stacey Lee’s upcoming Under a Painted Sky had enough period detail to give the story texture and verisimilitude, but not so much that it started to feel like a dumping ground for research.
And, yes, I am well aware that this is a failing of mine, and not of the books that I’ve been picking up recently. I am sure that they’re the kinds of books that will garner critical praise and that my other bookseller friends will be raving about to each other. My contribution to those conversations will go something like this: “Oh, yeah. I started that. Couldn’t get into it. Too much ennui, not enough ‘splodey bits. But, have I made you want to read Martha Brockenbrough’s The Game of Love and Death yet? It’s brilliant and it has Love and Death as characters and they bet on the love between these two teens in 1939 Seattle and one is white and one is black and there are jazz clubs and the heroine wants to be an aviatrix and it’s just amazing and you should read it now, even though it’s not out until late April.” (And, in my defense, it only has one even sort of ‘splodey bit. So there.) [Ed. note: You can preorder through any local bookstore!]
I really need to get past this. I need to find my passion for good Adult titles again. I’ve tried reading books with teen protagonists, like The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, which I quite enjoyed, but it hasn’t enabled me to follow-through on other books of its ilk. I’ve tried reading fantasy like Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King and science fiction Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, which are Adult titles with great teen crossover appeal, but realize that genre fiction isn’t my problem. I don’t know what to do to get myself back to a place where I can engage with Adult titles again. I want to, because I know I’m missing out on so much good stuff, but I have yet to find the book or books that will help me connect again. Do you, kind readers, have any recommendations? Which Adult titles do you feel are so good that they’ll allow me to get past their lack of ‘splodey bits (or swordfights or sexytimes) and help me re-engage with the world of books written for (or at least marketed to) the Adult reader?
Billie Bloebaum is a blogger and bookseller with an immense reading list and enviable bookshelves. She contributes regular columns for nwbooklovers.org to spread the good word about great books and get recommendations back in the comment section.