Friday, February 27, 2009

New Authors. An Admission. (No Stones Please)

I admit, shamefully, I am shallow when it comes to introducing myself to new authors' work in a bookstore. I'm not talking about word-of-mouth books, or the book reviews we all read and think I must read that author. I'm talking about wandering into a bookstore with no book in mind, stumbling onto a narrow spine which has never had its cover turned toward the aisle, or a little 'Recommended Reading' note inserted under its base. For this purpose I have devised a system, albeit a shallow system, of adjudication.

First. Covers. Recently at a party a friend leaned over the table, wine on her breath, and whispered a dirty little secret. She bought and read books based on their covers, wasn't she horrible! Well, no, I told her. I did too. Is the cover shiny? Yes? Then no, I won't read it. Is it a rip-off of J.S Foer's covers? Oh that glorious freehand anti-font. Oui? Then no, I won't pick it up. Does it feature pastel flowers or a photograph of a troubled teenager? Again, not a book I like touching my precious fingers.

Second. The blurb. Either it sounds interesting or it doesn't. If the blurb is only praise and quotes from reviewers or other authors in their publisher's stable, count me out. I don't need someone to tell me I should read a book because they liked it. I flip that book over to see if it might appeal to me.

Last but not least, it must pass the random flick test. The writing must be up to scratch. Not just the first page or the first overly-written three chapters. Come on writers, we're all guilty of slacking off immediately after the words Chapter Four. If it is well written, and it is under $30, it is likely I'll buy it.

Which brings me to Susan Hubbard's The Society of S. Despite the Zorro-esque cover of the golden S and featuring Society in its title, I let slide my first rule. Afterall it was matt black, a colour (or non-colour) I respect. Onto rule two. The blurb sounded familiar to my novel, so of course I was both impressed and nervously curious. Rule number three passed when I read a page 2/3s in and it wasn't blooming adjectives and it was written in convincing first person.

I was ultimately deceived. My formula wasn't fail proof. Gasp! Clutch my heart! The novel I thought was about a thirteen-year-old girl and her mysterious scientist father, was in fact about vampires. Since Stephanie Meyer's onslaught of everything vampire I shuddered, and admit thinking I'll finish this but I'm not going to tell a soul. Thankfully commonsense prevailed and I no longer care if people know I've read one of those books. After all Dracula remains one of my favourite books in terms of atmosphere and style. Far from cliche-land, this novel is shaping up to be one of the best YA books, realist or fantastical, that I've read since Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now. So, perhaps my system does work. It just allows for hidden surprises.


LiteraryMinded said...

Ooh, hidden surprises are fun! I :-D

Amy Jackson said...

Indeed! This one is a gem. It's getting a lot a flack for not being fast paced or vampirey. But it's so well written and in parts has a 'Holden Caulfeild' feel to the character. If you get a chance, it's a must read for YA writers, in my opinion.