I just have to post this excerpt from Sarah Dessen’s blog (25 Sept ’09):

This week, I went to do a little fall shopping for my daughter. She needed jeans, so I headed to Gap, because they were having a sale and keep sending me coupons. (How can I resist, I ask? How?) Anyway, I found a cute pair I liked and went to double check the size. Then I saw they were called … Boyfriend Jeans. For a two year old? REALLY? I mean, I get it: there are also bootcut, and flare, and skinny (which is a whole other topic, don’t even get me started on skinny jeans for toddlers). There’s just something about the word BOYFRIEND being associated with my baby that is just plain weird. I pointed it out to the guy who was working the register. “I mean, she shouldn’t HAVE a boyfriend at this age,” I said. He agreed, and added, helpfully, “And if she did, she shouldn’t be wearing his jeans.” Amen, brother. Amen!

I just thought that was really funny. Also, thanks to the book prize I got from SA, I just bought my copy of Along for the Ride! It takes place in Colby, also the setting for Keeping the Moon, one of my favourites from her. Can’t wait to read it. Lovelovelove Sarah Dessen.

Right now, I’m reading Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn, the author of the MULTI award-winning book, Sharp Objects. And can I just say that I am totally blown away? The writing style is gritty, as usual, and so much more compelling than her debut novel, which is saying a lot. It’s about this girl, Libby Day, who testified that her older brother killed off her entire family, when she was 7 (I think). Right now, broke, she chances upon this Kill Club (a club where impassioned people come together and discuss a case and try to take matters into their own hands and get to the bottom of unsolved mysteries), which is willing to fund her revisitation of the crime. As the novel progresses, Libby finds that maybe her testimony was a mistake, after all.

The thing about this novel is that it’s not just any old whodunit. It explores the dynamics of the Day family, and analyses what went wrong – is it the irresponsible, absent father who is a drunkard and gambler, or the weak mother who can’t make decisions or makes bad ones and is always waiting for someone to save her and solve her problems? Or it is simply the fact that they’re poor farmers who haven’t seen enough food or money for years now? Is that why the kids, especially Ben (Libby’s older brother) turned towards Devil-worship and became estranged from his family?

Plus, Gillian displays her writing chops by inserting chapters throughout the story in which the day on which the murder took place is told through a third-person narration of the characters (Ben, Patty – his mother, Runner – his father). Wow, that was a long-ass sentence. I apologise for that. What I mean is, chapter 1 – Libby (1st-person), chapter 2 – Ben (3rd-person), chapter 3 – Libby (1st-person), chapter 4 – Patty (3rd-person), etc. You get the idea. It’s absolutely brilliant how Gillian was able to oscillate between these different forms of narratives. It takes A LOT of skill. You have to make sure the details tally, like what Libby learns NOW corresponds with what went down that day, 2 Jan 1985. Very skillful. And Libby’s voice is consistent throughout the story – gritty, cynical, desensitised, although a vulnerable side peeks out at times.

My goodness. This woman is a genius. Thank you, wonderful writers like Gillian Flynn, Alice Hoffman and Sarah Dessen, for producing such top-rate literary works. Gillian’s Sharp Objects won two Dagger Awards, and was a finalist for the Edgar Awards. Wow. For a DEBUT. Of course, she’s probably written many more books before this and have a lot of unpublished manuscripts in her drawer. Still, her debut novel. Wow. Just wow. Go, you.

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