I just finished THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE
by Jandy Nelson. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend this book. Here's a quick summary:
Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town. While Toby can't see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it's up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs—without Bailey.
Here are the lessons I learned from this beautifully written story:
The power of pacing--The author skipped ahead to parts that mattered. When she wanted the reader invested in a scene, holy cow, she slowed it down until each touch, breath, and heartbeat was savored at an agonizingly slow pace. I literally held my breath during some scenes, and felt all tingly. If you've read the book, you know what I mean.
Antagonists can be ambiguous--Craft books suggest that stories must have an antagonist, or an opposition character. I still can't nail down who the antagonist was in this story (if you've read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this). Was it Toby, Lennie's sister's boyfriend? Was it grief? Loneliness? Fear?
An author can find clever ways to reveal character--Lennie's thoughts were not journalized in an ordinary way. Her poetry was written on the backs of candy wrappers, on discarded coffee cups, and carved into trees. We learned her innermost thoughts and fears through her words. At first I thought this was random, but in the end, the author tied these moments together in a beautiful way.
A story's climax doesn't have to be a shoot-em-up chase scene--It can simply be a scene where we wonder, Will he forgive her? Will they come together and accept the past and forge ahead? Can this "companion pony" brave a new world without her "thoroughbred" sister?
What's your opinion of these lessons? And what has a great book taught you?