Tuesday, January 5, 2016
I picked up a book written by an online friend recently. Her name is Angela Lynn and I think we met on Twitter back in 2012. Honestly, I'm not really sure when we "met", but at some point we connected and stayed connected so I consider her a friend. She released her first indie novel in December and since it was the holidays and I had some extra time on my hands, I thought I would give it a try. I'm going to admit right now that I went in with low expectations. First, because I don't usually read young adult fiction, and second, because there are a lot of books out there now that are not ready to be published. But this particular friend had been very supportive of my own work, and whenever a writer friend who's been kind to me releases a book of their own with no publisher to back them and has the courage to put themselves out there for all their friends and family and the world to judge, I try to do what I can to support them. Because I remember what that felt like. And it was scary as hell.
I picked up her book, All the What Ifs, a few days ago and was totally caught off guard. Right away, I cared about the main character. I cared about her struggles, her fears, whether or not she was going to be able to escape the situation she was in. I wanted her to win. I needed her to win. It's been a while since I was so absorbed in a book that I could not stop thinking about it when I had to put it down to do other things. In my mind, that is the mark of true talent in commercial fiction. Everything else in writing can be taught, but the ability to pull a reader into a story, to get them to turn the page, to get them to care, is what really matters. If you have me, as a reader, thinking about your character after I put that book down, you have done your job. You have succeeded. But that is not why I am writing this post.
I'm writing this post because I think I finally understand young adult fiction, or at least the romance part of it. Young adult love stories represent that first uncomplicated love where anything is possible. It brings you back, as a reader, to that time in your life when you had no fears--about love, at least. I write adult romance. I write stories about men and women in their late twenties and early thirties who have already loved and lost, who have been heartbroken and wounded by love. That is a very different story to tell. When you have been wounded by love, you can never see it the same way as you could when you were a teenager. It will never be that easy, that simple, that fearless again.
Reading this book made me want to love again, fearlessly, as if I were seventeen and the boy of my dreams had just pulled me into his arms for the first time, and the only thing in the world that mattered was the two of us. What would it be like to love like that again? To be that free of all the wounds and the heartbreaks and the fears? What would it be like to trust again, like a seventeen-year-old girl with her first love? I don't know... But suddenly it seems like the most important thing in the world to find my way back to that place. Thank you, Angela Lynn, for writing a book that made me feel so deeply and remember so well a time in my life when I was free of my wounds. When I was free of my fear. If I do nothing else in 2016, I want to try to find that girl again. And if I do, I will do everything in my power to reclaim her.
What if...we could be fearless in love again?