It was, of course, the cover that calmly requested my attention.
I don’t think of myself as a pink and gold person - yet, I must be. But I avoided this book. I avoided it for weeks because I did not want to read a contemporary story. I wanted to read about dragons and pirates who could take me to an imaginary world away from this real one.
But reading this book reminded me that the real world can be just as magical as the imaginary one I am constantly being drawn to in my head.
“Penny had been writing all the time, for years now. She’d never stopped even if she showed no one. Stories, lists of ideas, and strange chunks of amusing dialogue that came to her while she ignored whatever else was going on in her actual life. She knew she was decent. Only she wanted more.”
And I loved it. I loved it because it reminded me of what its like to display your words to the world. I loved it because it reminded me of my fiction writing professor in college who made me feel like I really had it. Maybe I already have more.
“You know how you can make a sound on a piano. Anyone can do it. Intuitive. You hit the keys, they make noise. Writing and reading then rewriting and then editing is how you make a melody. It’s the same for everyone. It’s not about raw talent. Or having such a big ego that you think what you have to say is so important. Or who your parents are. And what they do. It’s the practice of it. Doing it until you’re good.”
I loved it because it reminded me how unsure I still am of myself. I loved it because it reminded me of the way I felt the first time I thought John was going to kiss me, standing in his room as his eyes darted over me, lingering on my lips long enough for me to linger over his. And I loved it because it reminded me of the excruciating feeling that crept into my gut when it didn’t happen. I love crushes. I fucking hate crushes.
I just don’t think I’ve read a contemporary story in a while with characters who I felt were this real. Who have actually done similarly terrifying things in their lives:
“Let’s just say when I was little and my mom was out, I’d go to bed with a ketchup bottle.”
“I already love this story so much...”
“It was a foolproof plan. If the bad guys came in I could douse myself and they wouldn’t kill me because I was already dead.”
“Jesus, I can’t tell if that’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard or the absolute most sad.”
And I think that this one hit home for me because not only did it touch on how painfully awkward life can be, especially in front of the people you love, but also on what it is like to be a person feels and feels and feels.
“It’s fucking art, man. You don’t choose it. It chooses you . If you waste that chance, your talent dies. That’s when you start dying along with it.”
Or what it is like to be lonely in your own world.
“I like knowing that you exist. It doesn't make me feel any less lonely, because life is lonely, but it makes me feel a lot less alone.”
And all I can do is write about the writing and how it made me feel, because that’s really the point of this entire story. The way words and people and moments in your life make you feel. And how that’s everything.
Oh, and by the way, what happened to you counts.