Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you’re doing well, enjoying your candy, your classic and not-so-classic horror movies, hiding under the cover reading THAT novel. You know the one, the one that makes you shiver, makes you quiver, makes the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up and then when you’ve put it away infiltrates your dreams.
Now normally around this time of year, I try to read something scary, or horrific. I try to find books that make me want to turn the page as quickly as I can and simultaneously make me not want to, so I can hold onto that feeling of fear for just a little bit longer.
This year however, I found myself not doing so. I didn’t even pick up a vampire novel until last night. Strange isn’t it?
Instead I read two books that hurt, and when I say hurt, I mean you care so deeply, so infinitely about these characters that you wish you could take care of them yourself.
The first book is one I loved, hated, and loved to hate but nevertheless is extremely well written, and I suppose is scary in its own right for how much it rings true.
In the Woods by Tana French
The first book in a series, this one has been on my list, and on a lot of lists for some time. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t see Tana French mentioned somewhere, so when one of my book clubs picked this for the book of the month I leapt at the chance.
You’re twelve years old. You’re playing in the woods with your two best friends. Something terrible happens. And the other two are never seen again.
Twenty years on, Rob Ryan – the child who came back – is a detective in the Dublin police force. He’s changed his name. No one knows about his past. Even he has no memory of what happened that day. Then a little girl’s body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. For him and his DI partner, Cassie, every lead comes with sinister undercurrents. Rob’s own private enquiries are taking a toll on his mind.
And every trail leads inexorably back…into the woods.
Now if that can’t convince you to read this book, let me see if I can. Because it deserves an audience. If there is one thing that people care about, it’s an anti-hero. It’s someone who is so normal, that there can’t help but be something wrong with them. Rob Ryan is one of those people, he is living the best life he can and has moved on, or so he thought. His memories are lost, and he doesn’t seem to realize how much they’ll all mean until they’re investigating the death of a child.
These characters, Rob, and Cassie are deeply flawed. They are heroic. They are neurotic. They are obsessed but they are so delicately pieced together you can’t help but love them. And if you care enough about them it isn’t too long into reading that their pain becomes your own.
The second book hurts in a way that growing up hurt. It’s awkward fumbles with your first love. It’s rebellion against any and all authority while still trying to love your family.
Kingdom of Scars by Eoin Macken
Okay so he’s an actor. We’ve seen him on our TV screens as Gwaine, we’ve seen him work The Night Shift as TC Callaghan. He’s been at our conventions, on our Twitter feeds and now he’s on our bookshelves.
He directs, he produces. He’s an actor, and a humanitarian. An entertainer. But a writer?
I’m beginning to think that everything Eoin touches turns to gold.
Sam Leahy is a shy, fifteen-year-old boy navigating two social worlds: the uptight bullies at his all-boys’ private school and the small uncouth gang in his neighbourhood.
This gang of five follows the typical teenage-boy pattern: they drink, smoke, cause fights and vandalize property. Sam desperately wants to be accepted, but he soon finds that the only way to gain respect amongst the crew is to fight violence with violence. And it hurts.
When it comes to girls, Sam is clueless, but when he inadvertently meets Antoinette, the girl of his dreams, who is perfect, blonde, slender and sexy, he is enamoured . . . only to learn that falling in love has a price.
But being a teenager is all about redemption and recrimination, small events becoming catastrophic, and seemingly huge moments eventually meaning nothing. Through these events that shape a teen, Sam discovers the boundaries of sexuality, friendship, authority, and the possibility of death.
Now that’s a blurb. And it’s one, that initially upon reading made me go, “Okay, so…do I risk it?”
I’m glad that I did though. Because Sam is flawed in the way that all teenage boys are flawed, in the way that all teenage girls are flawed.
We are, after all, invincible when we’re young, are we not? And Sam is no different. Until bad things start to happen, and then good things.
What is in this book, is basically a version of everyone’s teenage-hood. Of everyone’s childhood. There will always be the gangs. There will always be the class struggles that shouldn’t happen. There will always be love, so fast and furious and painful that still burns years later.
There will always be those people you do your best to fit in with, even though you don’t really belong.
This book hurts in the best possible way, because even though I’m a girl, there is always that familiar, lingering pain of what it is to grow up.
It’s great. You should read it. Trust me.