Sometimes I'm not sure how to review a book (and this was a good example). Edward's Eyes (Atheneum, 2007) touched me, it moved me to tears, and yet it raised some questions for me about levels of emotion in children's literature.
In my posting where I talked about books that stick with you, I mentioned that the ones that seemed to really impact my childhood and stay with me forever are the ones that made me cry. Not all of them, mind you, but a great many.
On this particular day last June, however, I wasn't up for my heart being ripped out. Here's what happened...
June 2, 2008
Fair warning: I'm in a mood.
Tragedies. They're so depressing. Sure, these stories are touching and help us connect with the horrible injustice of the world we live in, but (heavy sigh) do we really need that? For me, reading is a pleasurable escape. I don't want the sucker punch to the gut. I want to connect emotionally, but not have my heart ripped out.
While there are many adult-reading titles that have left me reaching for handfuls of Kleenex, they don't bother me as much as the children's books.
You know the ones... they cleverly paint characters you fall in love with -- best friends, dogs, siblings, parents, etc.-- only to kill them off in some freak accident. You know, the award-winners.
So I'm reading "Edward's Eyes" by Patricia MacLachlan. (BIG OLE HONKIN' SPOILER ALERT) Actually, I'm listening to the audio book on my commute to work. This is not a long book. It's only two discs. But by the end of the first disc, I knew something horrible was going to happen.
I knew it not just because the author does a wonderful job of hinting along the way, but because she totally created this amazing little boy who was the apple of everyone's eye, could throw a knuckle ball and psychically knew his little sister would be born as a... well, a sister... and even named her in utero.
So if everyone around him, including the reader, loved him this much, I knew he wasn't long for this world. And I was right. Okay, sobbing my eyes out in the privacy of my own room is one thing, but I was driving to work trying to keep my mascara from running into my eyes while the thought screamed in my head: why do we need these kinds of stories????
To make us feel emotionally drained and empty all day? Because that's how I felt. And I haven't even finished the book yet. I'm dreading the drive home. Of course I have to finish it, and sure, there may be some higher reason why Edward had to die that gives the entire story meaning, but frankly, I don't think it will change how I feel about the book.
There are a slew of books that do this. Where the Red Fern Grows is one. Bridge to Terabithia is another. I could go on and on, but I don't have to -- you've read them, too. So I ask... Do we HAVE to kill off the children in books to make the point?
On the flip side: these are emotional, wonderfully told stories that make a strong impact on the reader. And I'm all for that. Maybe today I just didn't need to hear a hard story. Maybe today I just needed to hear that there are happy endings. That wonderful, special children are not always destined for tragedy. Maybe I saw too much of my two boys in Jake and Edward and it scared me.
FOLLOW UP POST on June 4, 2008
Finished the book. And yes. I bawled. Sobbed like I haven't sobbed over a book in a long time. Sometimes, this can be a good thing, but this time it just broke my heart. All I could think about was losing one of my boys like that. Apologies to the wonderful author, but I just don't need to think about that kind of stuff.
That said, I recommend this book but only with a big box of Kleenex. Consider yourself warned.