Through novels, discovering real life
No one in the tony town of Fox Glen reads for pleasure. Students dissect literature like a lab animal, as high school student Carley Wells says, and adults skim respected works in a literary version of keeping up with the Joneses.
But when Carley writes in an English assignment that she's never met a book she liked, her parents decide to "fix" their daughter and display their own commitment to the arts by commissioning a book designed to her specifications--one she's sure to love, not just like. The irony is great; Carley's mom Gretchen is the type of person who buys books to decorate with, not to read.
Besides, Carley isn't as ignorant as her parents and teachers believe. Although she misuses her SAT words and hates to read, Carley rewrites stories constantly. If an exchange with her best friend, Hunter Cay, doesn't go as she'd like, she'll re-imagine it later in a game she calls "Aftermemory." By contrast, Hunter is so deeply enchanted by words that his daydreams are populated by writer crushes. It's Hunter's love of reading and a desire to pull him out of his self-loathing, drunken state that eventually convince Carley to give the author her parents hire, failed novelist Bree McEnroy, a chance.
When Carley finally says what she means, without relying on Aftermemory to rewrite her script, she recognizes the appealing attributes of words. And when Carley points out that the characters, not the literary devices Bree uses to mask her insecurities, are the point of stories, Carley is essentially explaining this story. It's not about books or reading, after all, but about people and relationships. Isn't that what the best stories show us?
In her debut novel, author Tanya Egan Gibson crafts a tale filled with nuanced characters. Though it's populated by teenagers, like the best literature, How to Buy a Love of Reading transcends age classifications to appeal to teens and adults alike.
Carla Jean Whitley writes and reads in Birmingham, Alabama.