Tuesday, May 13, 2008

my three readers

Maybe it's just me, but I feel awkward giving out galley copies of Ghost Medicine.

I guess I got over it as capably as I can, because I've given out plenty of them to librarians, teachers, and, most importantly, kids.

Remember... I've been doing a lot of talking and research about getting boys to read, about bringing them back into the curriculum of reading and writing. After all (and my good friend Kelly, a fellow author who went to high school with me will agree) reading and writing were not considered girly pastimes when we were in high school, but they largely are today.

Hmm... I have some thoughts on why that is, but I'll get to that part in a future blog. But let me digress momentarily and say this: a couple posts ago, I put a link to a Publishers Weekly blurb about "hotly anticipated" YA debut novels. There were seven listed at the top of the article, and I notice a few striking things about that group of debuts... but I'll talk about that later.

For now, let me tell you about three kids who read Ghost Medicine:

1. Boy, Age 16: This kid told me that he never read anything on his own unless he had to for school. He is bright and intelligent, but he has never picked up a book and read it unless there was a carrot on some stick somewhere. I honestly did not want to give him Ghost Medicine, but he asked for a copy... ugh! ... so I did. He finished it in three days. And during that time, he came to visit me a couple times to tell me about where he was in the story, what he liked in the book, and to ask me questions about where I got certain elements of the story. I was surprised. This kid was excited about reading (and it's a pretty long book, too). The day he finished the book, he came to see me and he told me, in a very shy and reserved way, "I really liked that book." Then he asked if he could keep the galley and loan it out to some of his friends (guys). And he loaned it to...

2. Boy, Age 17: I REALLY did not want this kid to try to read the book. I'm embarrassed to say I just didn't think this guy could get through it. He is an absolute non-reader. He does not read books, and finds clever ways of not reading them even if they're required in school. But, he picked up Ghost Medicine and started reading it. He finished it in about 10 days. And... when he finished, he told me exactly what he liked about the story and he asked if my other books would be like it. He said he would read anything I wrote if I kept writing stories about being outside and having adventures and getting into trouble. Of course, all these are "boy" things, but he told me he'd never had any reading at school that offered him that kind of content.

So, my target audience "gets it." But... during the past few weeks I had been bugged -- asked almost every day -- by reader number three if I would PLEASE let this reader have a copy. I finally gave in to Reader Number...

3. Girl, Age 17: OK... here's the problem. This girl is super smart. She reads constantly... probably a book every couple days. I've seen her tear through everything ever written by Stephanie Meyer and Jodi Picoult... so, yeah, she's a girl. Oh... and she also just got a Congressional appointment to begin West Point in the fall.

Needless to say, she is one intimidating reader.

I gave her an ARC on Friday. On Monday morning, she read the last few pages in front of me. I didn't say anything. I tried to pretend like I wasn't really looking for any kind of reaction or expression from her (but, of course, I was).

Then she said, "This is my favorite book I have ever read."

Now that was huge. I said, "Thank you very much. I loved writing it."

I asked her, "Did it make you cry?"

And she put her hands on her face and her eyes welled up with tears... and she began talking about particular parts where she cried (and I won't reveal). Then she asked me if she could keep the galley and if I would please sign it for her.

Okay. I'm pretty happy with the girl-boy reaction so far.