Wednesday, November 30, 2011

YA Highway: Road Trip Wednesday #2

This week's YA Highway road trip question is: What's the best book you read in November?

I had to choose two, because one was the best book I read as a reader, and one the best I read as a writer.

(Image courtesy of TamaraWarren)
I read Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby because my work in progress is a YA thriller/horror novel, and I wanted to check out one of the classics to see how it’s done best. My favorite scary movies are from the 60s and 70s—The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Jaws, Alien, The Exorcist, and The Stepford Wives (another Levin book, incidentally).  Having loved the movie, I figured it’d be helpful to check out the book. The most useful thing I took away from the novel was how subtle the disturbing parts are.  The evil in the plot is established early on, and the bad stuff that happens is foreshadowed, but Levin surrounds the supernatural with so much normalcy. Of course, that’s the point—the contrast between the two heightens the impact of the horror.  I don’t think I can wholly apply this idea to my WIP, because the commune setting is inherently a couple clicks away from normal for most readers.  But I’m really trying to create a contrast, a sense of the everyday life, normal to most of the characters, that gets shattered. 

(Image courtesy of

As a reader, my favorite was Holly Black’s Red Glove. I love the Curse Workers series so much. I think there’s only going to be one more, but I wish it could be like the Sookie Stackhouse series—an endless flood of books that lets you continually live with your favorite characters.  The world is so well established, all of the characters (even the minor ones) are interesting, and the inner struggle between the flaws and of the main character, Cassell Sharpe, is fascinating.  If I ruled the world, I would decree that Curse Workers immediately become a TV series (with the creator’s blessing, natch). Wouldn’t Patricia Clarkson be perfect as the mom? If you haven’t read Red Glove, or the previous book, White Cat, I highly recommend them.                        


  1. I haven't read either of these, though the Holly Black one looks kind of intriguing (creepy red glove). I like to read books that help me get into the right frame of mind for my writing as well. I think that's why I had a hard time getting into THE SCORPIO RACES as the Fall Book Club pick for this month (through Tracey Neithercott's blog).

  2. I'm not a big Stephen King fan (and I've said that a lot recently for one reason or another) but I do have some of his books on my shelf because he is considered the master of a genre I don't ever intend to write--horror. So why read him, especially if I don't intend to write horror? Because anything that can teach me and make me a better writer at what I *do* write is fair game for my bookshelf. And horror includes elements that will be a part of most stories--suspense, drama, and just plain ole good storytelling.

  3. Haven't read those, but will check them out. Thanks for the recs!

  4. I have not read those yet...Rosemary´s baby has been on my list for awhile. I will have to check out Red Glove...

  5. Speaking of 70's horror movies (and Stephen King), another one I think is pretty great is "Carrie", because even though there are elements of the supernatural in the story, most of the horror is in the mundane details of Carrie's life -- like, the supernatural elements are the least awful part of the story. That central inversion -- that the normal stuff IS the horror stuff -- is what's unsettling about many (if not all) of these movies/books, and its lack is why a lot of (especially modern) so-called horror movies aren't really horrifying. There's the normal, decent people, and there's the monster, and the monster tries to eat the people and there might be scares in that, but there's also comfort in knowing who's who. Probably my favorite horror movie is "The Fly" (the 1986 version), and even though there's a monster in it, he's such a sickly, malformed one that he's scarcely a threat to anyone -- and the monster IS the protagonist.

    A modern horror movie that I thought was great is The Ring (the American version). It's full of unsettling imagery and that, but it's the ending (that I won't spoil for you if you haven't seen it) that's so powerful and really spells out that horror not only exists in the world but somehow belongs in it, and can't be defeated by an act of heroism -- just maybe deflected a little. But I've gone on too long!

  6. I've actually never seen "Carrie" or "The Fly"--I don't know how I've bypassed them so far. I'd say I'm going to add them to the Netflix queue, but I broke up with Netflix by mail.

    I loved and was totally freaked out by "The Ring." I actually went on to read (in translation, obviously) the trilogy that the Japanese movie is based on. It was really good.

    And you didn't go on too long. Feel free to expound.

  7. Well, as for "The Ring", the mom behaves in a way that's unimpeachably heroic, and more, she acts with humanity -- I mean, she doesn't just try to destroy the evil, she tries to understand it and to heal it. For a moment she seems to win the day, but the evil or the corruption or whatever at the center of a real horror story must be impossible to dislodge. I think that's the essential difference between a horror story and any other kind: the hero (and the reader/audience) gradually realizes that her actions are of no consequence. And specifically in "The Ring", when Naomi Watts becomes aware of that fact, she does something that's so awful and so human -- she passes the buck along to the next guy. She saves somebody she loves at the expense of somebody she doesn't. Awful. WONDERFUL. Man, now I feel like watching that movie again.

    Luckily for you, both "Carrie" and "The Fly" are available on Netflix streaming!!

  8. I want to watch it again, but it really terrified me, as much as I liked it. Most horror movies seem to hint that the evil hasn't been conquered, but "The Ring" makes it more explicit.

    In the couple of months after I gave birth, I went around saying, "She never sleeps!" People looked at me funny. When I explained it was a line from "The Ring," they seemed even more weirded out. But really, it's very applicable to newborns.

  9. If it is, years later, any consolation, I think that's pretty funny.