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Booktalk This: Teary Reads

As a teen (way back in the early 1990s), my friends and I sighed over a story about one our crushes when he was in 4th grade: that was the year his teacher read Where the Red Fern Grows to him and his classmates (including our storyteller). The whole class was overwhelmed by that books’ ending, including our crush, who put his head down on his desk to hide his tears. Sigh. Actually, I don’t know a single soul who has read (or been read) this book who hasn’t cried. Unless you are me, and have successfully avoided reading it simply because I don’t often want to sob through books if I can help it. I do know, however, that there are many readers out there who love a good book-induced cry, so this list is for you! 

My Sister’s Keeperby Jodi Picoult (Washington Square Press, 9780743454537). This book is an older read, but it’s a good one. Anna’s older sister, Kate, has leukemia, and as Anna was purposely born to be a genetic match to her sister, she’s spent all of her 13 years undergoing the same surgeries – when Kate needs bone marrow, Anna goes under the knife, too. But then, one day, Anna decides she’s had enough, hires a lawyer and sues her parents for control of her own body and any future medical procedures. But what does this mean for Kate’s health? Now, I sobbed through this book from a mother’s point-of-view, but making the sorts of decisions Anna does are pretty painful from a flat-out human being’s point-of-view. Fact: Picoult’s own son read this book, and was so devastated by the ending, he refused to talk to her for hours after. 
Anna is alive for one reason, to save her sister’s life.  Year after year she undergoes surgeries, tests, needles and more to save her sister’s life.  Until the day she decides she can’t do it any more and hires a lawyer.  If you knew that you could save your sister’s life, would you choose not to?
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Candlewick Press, 978-0763639310).  Todd is pretty miserable, living in his noisy, all-male town. When you can hear your neighbors’ thoughts, day and night, and quite a few of them seem to have gone more than a little crazy…it’s no wonder that Todd would rather wander the swamps with his annoying pup, Manchee, whose thoughts, unfortunately, are also audible. And then, one day he hears a pocket of nothing in the swamp. When he investigates, he discovers that pocket of silence is a girl. The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of those books that everyone everywhere seemed to be telling me to read, but I just didn’t. And then my book club read it. And I couldn’t put it down. And it made me SOB. It’ll make you cry, too, but it’ll also make you laugh, and make hold your breath with fear and tension. This one’s a keeper, for sure.
There are no girls. None.  And the men who live can hear one another’s thoughts.  The animals too.  One day Todd enters into the swamp and hears nothing, glorious silence.  It turns out this means only one thing: Todd has found a girl.
The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Dutton, 978-0525478812). Hazel is dying. She’s 16-years-old, she has cancer, and she is definitely going to die young. This she’s managed come to terms with, but it’s the people she’s leaving behind that weigh heaviest – how will her parents get through this? Her friends? That adorable new guy, Augustus? And, why, exactly, does she have to deal with all this? What good will a cancer support group do her, really? Why does she have to have cancer at all? Hazel is a completely lovely character, funny and heart-breaking, and the journey she takes you on WILL put a major dent in your Kleenex-fund.

Pretty much any book by Lurlene McDaniel (Delacorte Press). Lurlene McDaniel books have been around for a LONG time, and there’s a good reason for that: these books are depressing. Someone is dying of something in nearly every one of her books, and it’s often right after the main character falls deeply in love with his/her one true love. Now, I’m not spoiling any endings for you, since the point of her books isn’t necessarily the plot twist: it’s the very cathartic sob-inducing situations of the characters within. And I don’t have a particular title to suggest. I just recommend sitting down with a shelf of her books and reading the back cover blurbs to get a sense of which will make you cry the most. Just last week I asked one of our teen volunteers to pick out the saddest Lurlene McDaniel she could find. She came back with four.

And finally, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (Bantam Dell, 978-0-553-27429-5). Seriously. If what you’re looking for is a cry, and haven’t yet read this classic about a boy and his two beloved hunting dogs, do it. Just make sure you’re in a safe space with plenty of tissues for your tears.  It’s a book with a dog, you know what is probably going to happen.

Karen would add Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson and If I Stay by Gayle Forman to this list.

Note: for some reason the graphics button isn’t working at the moment on Blogger.  I will go in and add pictures when it is fixed.

Why YA? Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls) as discussed by author Craig MacLachlan

Today, while author Craig MacLachlan waits for his first ya novel to be published, he spends some time talking to us about YA books as part of our ongoing Why YA? series.
I’ve had many memories and great times as an adult, but some of the most defining moments of my life happened during my teen years. I’m going first talk about why I think YA books are important for teenagers and it comes from my own experiences, so first a little history.

When I was twelve my parents divorced and my life changed forever. Any child or teen that goes through a divorce knows what a painful process it can be. It not only affects you instantly, but really never goes away. Within six months after the divorce my dad moved my brother and I twenty-five miles away where we lived with my stepmom who he had married. I lost all my friends and had to make new ones and my mom was now only available via weekend visits and holidays. Yet, after making new friends at this school, two years later we moved halfway across the state and I lost my friends and my mom was now even further away. We then lived in a rental for 4 months, I made friends at the school for three months, then we moved about thirty miles away and I started high school for the second time in those three months. Not only was I being moved around, losing my friends and my mom, I was still getting used to a new mom and would continue that through high school.
During those final four years, which were high school, we never moved so I had a small sense of stability. I met my current wife in 9th grade, made friends, but I was a far cry from the outgoing boy I had been and was shy and withdrawn. I was even bullied by a huge dude for three years of high school until I finally stuck up for myself over the center of a chocolate chip cookie when he knocked it out of my hand. Yes a cookie! Home life was a mixed bag and when I was sixteen I was given the choice to stay living with my dad and stepmom, or move and live with my mom across state for my final two years of high school. So I was given a decision I wish I had never been given and one my real mom new about. Go live with her and give her a chance to see her son and raise me before I became an adult, or stay with my girlfriend of two years and the friends I had made. I stayed, I had to give something up and either way I choice would have left me demoralized.

So the point of my story is that teenagers, for the most part, struggle and deal with instability, pressures, or problems on almost a daily basis in one form or another.

Reading is a stable activity which I used to get myself through a lot of hard times as a teenager. I read The DragonLance Chronicles, The Chronicles of Narnia, Where the Red Fern Grows, White Fang, Call of Wild, Choose Your Own Adventures, and many others.

By reading YA novels, teens are transported into another world outside of their own for a short time which can ease a lot of pain and problems they are dealing with in life. A book is always there for a teen, it never walks out on them, never divorces, never bullies, never complains, never ridicules and a book can become a teens best friend. Teens’ can get inspiration and care about characters with no threat of any type of backlash like from real people. They can learn from characters, situations and hopefully help them cope with their similar struggles. So in my opinion, YA books are a safe haven and a form of therapy for many teenagers and with social media like Twitter, author sites and bloggers. Teenagers are able to connect even better to their books which only enhance their reading experiences.

I have to admit there were (still are some) many ‘adults’ who frowned upon my not only reading YA literature, but writing it as well. Why? I can only guess it was because they thought I was being childish, not grown up and not acting like an adult. I think the biggest problem is that adults have forgotten how to be young and enjoy life. We have become a society so full of expectations concerning how we need to act and behave at certain ages that we have forgotten how to properly live. I never want to become so uptight and stuck up that life becomes all about being serious.

I love adult fantasy and thrillers and always have, but the YA genre has a special place in my heart and I feel it reaches across all ages of life. Adults need to read YA literature because I truly think it brings back a sense of freedom to their lives lost over the years. No matter how old a person is, the teen we once were is still inside of us, forgotten, hidden and locked away. By reading YA novels, adults can remember what it was like to be a teen, connect and better understand their own children. They can learn how to have fun and not take life so seriously. It also allows teens and adults to interact and understand one another on a much more personal level. With teens and adults reading the same books there becomes no sense of age difference that distances them from one another. The teen life is one of ‘in-between’ which is why teenagers feel so alone and that no one understands them. Bridging that gap is why adults should and need to be reading YA literature.

A great YA novel for adults to read, in my opinion, is one of my all-time favorites and encompasses not only family values and teen interactions, but love, loss and accomplishment.

“It’s strange indeed how memories can lie dormant in a man’s mind for so many years. Yet those memories can be awakened and brought forth fresh and new, just by something you’ve seen, or something you’ve heard, or the sight of an old familiar face.” (from Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls)
Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls,1961) may not be a current YA novel, but it has stood the test of time and appeals to all ages. It’s a far cry from the influx of supernatural and fantasy YA books nowadays. Yet, no matter what the book is about, they all deal with similar elements which are young adult lives.

Set in real life, Billy must deal with hard work to earn what he wants (2 Redbone Coonhounds), family life, teenage interactions, love and death. Rawls does a masterful job of balancing and interweaving the characters and plot. When reading the novel it feels like you are living Billy’s life. The book demonstrates how adults and children can get along, be a family and enjoy doing things together while maintaining the parental-child relationship role. Billy deals with many emotional struggles which include not only protecting his dogs, but the accidental death of a fellow kid and in the end, his beloved dogs as well. Rawls shows that with willfulness and determination a person can achieve anything they want. This is a book not only for teens, but for adults. The story shows a time when teens and adults were more connected in all facets of life. In fact, the start of the book starts with Billy as an adult and after stopping a fight between a local Redbone Coonhounds and another dog, Billy recalls his youth which is when the story truly begins. This simple element can cause adults nowadays to do the same and remember a time in their lives when they were young and what dilemmas and problems current teenagers may be experiencing.

This book helped me through my teenage years and I fail to recall how many times I read it. To this day, as an adult, reading Where the Red Fern Grows still connects me to so many elements of life.

I write YA novels because of how they make me feel inside. I want teenagers to be able to break away from their daily lives feeling connected and inspired by the characters and story. I also want adults to enjoy my writing as well because the issues and struggles the characters are faced with are similar to ones they once dealt with, or knew someone who had and which are directly related to teenagers today.
About Craig MacLachlan

Craig MacLachlan currently lives in Coeur d’Alene, ID and is married to Christina. His first completed YA paranormal/fantasy novel is Sierra Winters and the Void: Summer’s Shadow, book one of a planned series. Sierra Winters and the Void: Summer’s Shadow is due for publication in 2014 under the MediaAria CDM Ltd. imprint.
Craig is also working on a YA thriller/horror novel and has two short films, Roger and Marbles: A Love Story he co-wrote also completed. Craig recently won third place in a one act screenwriting competition put forth by The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) Creative Writing Competition.
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