Monday, February 28, 2011

the middle road

I am back.

If there is a thread that weaves together some kind of unifying message through my books, it is this:

Probably the most compelling thing about writing books for young people and with young characters is that kids kind of experience the events occurring in their lives with a sort of detached ambivalence to all things good and bad.

Because kids really don't have any breadth of experience with which to compare their condition, they assume everything that happens to them is completely normal.

So, whether it's Troy (from Ghost Medicine) attempting to account the ledger of things he's given up in exchange for the dubious benefits of adulthood, Simon and Jonah (from In the Path of Falling Objects) getting into a car with a murderer, Jack (from The Marbury Lens) questioning his grip on reality and blaming himself for all the consequences of his ignored and unnoticed life, or Stark McClellan (from Stick) trying to be an obedient servant to all the weird rules and absence of love he and his brother have to contend with at home -- these kids, in their detached yet wide-eyed wonder at all the weird, magnificent, and frequently unjust things that happen, take their paths as being immutably and normally the course of life for everyone.

When adults read stories like these, because we have these grown-up filters that come with all the assumed calculations of good and evil, morality and a sense of balance -- of what life should be like -- it is often the case that the effect of the tale is greater on us than on kids.

That's exactly what I want to happen.

I've said it before: I don't write books for kids. I do not write children's books. I write books for readers. And I like to write about young characters for that exact reason: the ambivalent, wide-eyed, inexperienced wonder at things we adults just can't handle.

I had more than a few people who wanted to speak to me about this thread after my talk on Saturday night at the SCIBA dinner, so I thought I'd throw the idea out here on my blog this morning.

I'm glad it connected with the grownup readers in the audience.