Saturday, August 2, 2014

Author Crush: Kiersten White

I have three qualifications for an author crush:

1. The author must have written something inconceivably awesome that makes me wildly jealous that I didn’t write it and may never write something that awesome.
2. The author must have some other quality that makes him/her shiny-spiffy aside from said inconceivably awesome book(s).
3. In most cases, the author’s awesome books must be books I can recommend to other people (therefore, generally fairly clean of swearing, sex, gore,* and general ickiness**).

I don’t have a lot of author crushes, but Kiersten White has made that list.

Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, #1)It started with Paranormalcy, which was an awesome title. This was a fun book—not mind-blowingly awesome to me, but a fun, clean, fantasy read. Plus it involved a girl who is so sparkly pink you kind of want to barf on her—in a happy, loving way. Because she has things like a sparkly pink Taser, and really, who doesn’t want one of those?*** The other two books in the series were fun too, though Paranormalcy was my favorite.

So I kind of loved Kiersten White a little bit already.

Partially it was silly things—like the way her character said “bleeping” instead of swearing (and she had a backstory for this, so it fit the character). Partially it was that in a realm of YA fantasy/paranormal wherein sex and sexual tension always kind of made me gag, roll my eyes, or want to throw the book in the trash, here was a paranormal that felt like good clean fun.

Mind Games (Mind Games, #1)But if it had just been the Paranormalcy series, I probably wouldn’t have loved Kiersten White enough to gush about her here. What really did it for me was Mind Games. I bought it on a whim, on a Kindle deal, because I knew the author’s name and suspected I could trust it to be not trashy. It turned out to be so much more.

I thought Mind Games was unequivocally amazing. It’s a psychological thriller with a bit of scifi/magic (it depends on how you look at the powers involved—reading people’s thoughts and such; there’s theoretically science behind it, but that doesn’t matter to the story—so it’s essentially magic).

Why was it amazing? The essential brokenness of the main character was, I thought, well-written and believable. The plot, the complexities the characters had to deal with, and the eventual resolution of the difficulties—awesomesauce. When you’re sitting there looking at the characters and screaming with them at what they are dealing with, that’s good stuff. Also, the switching between timelines kept me on my toes, heightened suspense, and made me want to see what happened next (my dishes and laundry did not thank White, but oh well).

If Mind Games wasn’t enough, its sequel, Perfect Lies, was equally gripping. Everything just got worse and worse for the main characters (and I was happy to see Annie, who I didn’t really like in the first book, get super-cool by the end of this one). And then it got resolved! Hoorah! But there were still scars, still problems that the characters would have to deal with—probably for the rest of their lives. Which I think is fair and fitting and, for me, deeply satisfying. To have suffered so much and come out unscathed would have felt fake.

Speaking of the suffering, I will add this caveat: I have recommended Mind Games to some others, and I know that for one, the story and the psychological trauma and violence was too much. So it’s not exactly gentle. But I thought it was incredible.

Okay, so now I’m hooked on Kiersten White’s writing, but who is she as a person? When I like someone’s writing this much, I sometimes like to know a bit about what they’re like in the real world. It turns out that, judging from her tweets and blogging, she is funny, delightful, supportive, and kind of sparkly. So she’s awesome. Check. I will now read pretty much anything she writes.

Which brings us to the next book, In the Shadows. This was quite interesting, simply because of its format. In the Shadows is part regular novel and part graphic novel (that part is written by Jim DiBartolo). It alternates between two stories that are clearly linked, but the linkage is not explained until very near the end. I spent a great deal of the book having no clue how the two stories matched up (this is partially due to the fact that I was hung up on “Maple Leaf Rag,” which was not even remotely written when I thought it was—but that’s beside the point). It took me longer to get into this book, probably mostly because I’m not very visual (it was about a third of the way through the book before I realized that the character in the graphic novel section was all the same guy—even though he clearly had a scar through his eye that I just never noticed—because I’m observant like that). I enjoyed it and was happy to see White do something very different and have fun with it.

The Chaos of Stars
Also note: All her covers
are so pretty you could pretty
much crush on them too.
Since then I have also read The Chaos of Stars, a lovely story about complicated family relationships, a dreamy boy, and also Egyptian gods. Here’s another event that shows my love of Kiersten White: I wanted to read it without ever having read the book flap. If you know my reading habits, you know how unusual this is. I read cover copy obsessively; I read front matter—heck, I even read the copyright page!*** I never choose books without knowing what they’re about. Ever.

So far, even though I have not loved all her books equally, I have enjoyed each of them. I also love that she has tried out some different ways of telling stories (most notably in In the Shadows). And not once have I felt icky from reading them, which is a big deal to me. It’s lovely to have an author you love and who feels morally good. It’s hard to describe what I mean here, but it’s something I appreciate. So go buy her books—lots of them! Or at least go read them and talk about them and make other people buy them too.

Kiersten White has at least one new book coming in the fall (Illusions of Fate), and I’m super excited to read it. I may even buy it early (which is a huge compliment because even though I love books I’m also pretty cheap, especially if I haven’t read the book yet). I will also continue to internet stalk her in a friendly, nonpsychotic way, because I think she’s shiny. And someday, should I get the chance to meet her, I will probably say something incredibly stupid like I did that time I literally walked into Shannon Hale.***** Because that’s just how cool I am.

* Violence is okay; gore is not so much.

** Don’t ask me to define this. It’s totally subjective.

*** Okay, I don’t want one of those. But I appreciate the contrast so much that I kind of love it even when I don’t.

**** I’m not kidding.

***** Here’s what I said: “You’re Shannon Hale.” Here’s what she said: “Yes, I am.”