Shush!! Don’t tell my dad I’m writing about him 🙂
Recently I have been reading a LOT of young adult fiction. It started when a friend of mine asked me to take over/restart a book club for the Ladies of the Lou’ Crew. Being that we would have our first meeting in late October I asked if she would mind something scary/creepy, which she did not, and since both our names being Katie isn’t the only thing we have in common she was all for it when I suggested the post-apocalyptic zombie YA thriller The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I was so excited to start the book club I ran out to my local municipal library (1 of 3 library systems in StL, of which I am a member of 2 so far) and read it almost a month in advance of the meeting. I liked the book quite a lot: it was creepy, scary, mysterious, and had a love story to boot. The two in love were of course star-crossed – I mean, who isn’t in a post-apocalyptic society? – and doomed from the get-go, though, not just because of societal law, which I was glad of, but also because of a conflicted female lead who wanted more. No turning into a monster to be with the one you love Twilight crap for this girl. And being that I was such a fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth it again made me take up the search for THE. FIRST. BOOK.
You probably have one of these as well, dear reader 🙂 It’s that book that brought you across the threshold, the turning point in your reading: when you went from kid books to Grown Up Books. This is where my Dad factors in. My FIRST BOOK was handed to me by my Dad after one of his latest trips to the Real Library, as opposed to the elementary school library I went to with my class once a week. My Dad can spend hours in a library, looking over book after book, choosing just the right one. He has to find exactly what he wants because he’s a slow reader and a lover of dense sci-fi novels. I don’t know that I ever went to the Anoka County Library until I was at least twelve and to me it seemed like a grown up place for serious reading, somewhat mysterious since my Dad would disappear there for hours at a time.
After one such trip my dad handed me THE FIRST BOOK and said he thought I might want to give this a try. He had noticed that the reading material I had selected for myself was usually gobbled up in a few days time and consisted of The Babysitter’s Club almost exclusively. I remember being very proud when my dad told me he was impressed with how I could read three to four books concurrently and not only keep track of the individual storylines but the actual page I was on without a single book mark.
Now, he might not really remember doing this, but to me, him handing me a book from the Real Library meant I was ready for LITERATURE. I remember lying down on my parents old queen-sized bed I had in my new room at the time and having to slow down and re-read the opening paragraphs again and again until I got into the flow of this more mature writing style. The book was about a young girl who met a boy and together he was going to help her become a witch like him. The cover, I remember, was black with a ghostly pale girl with black bushy hair on the front. She had haunting eyes and stared out at you from the blackness. At the time I was really into witches and magic: think more Salem Witch Trials than Harry Potter. Unfortunately, I struggled with it and, sadly, at the end of three weeks, I still hadn’t finished it. I had half-lost interest in it which is why I think my dad returned it without a renewal.
And that was the last time I saw that book.
I moved on to other great books: Little Women and The Hobbit, the latter of which my Dad had read to me when I was younger. THE FIRST BOOK wasn’t the first or the last time my dad influenced my reading. He had been reading to my brother and me since we were really little: golden books, these great fully illustrated Disney books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tolkein, and the occasional short story by Stephen King – the one about the cocaine addict stranded on a desert island who eats his own limbs still gives me the chills. I liked every book he read, becoming engrossed in the characters, all of which he gave different voices, and loved equally the family life of the Ingalls and the grand sweeping adventures of Bilbo. My brother didn’t really share in this enthusiasm, try as my dad might, though he became an avid reader later. And it was around the end of The Hobbit that I got my own room, and story-time was done.
When my dad felt we were old enough he was the one to take my brother and me to the Anoka County Library. Many times the books I chose dealt with something supernatural – ghosts were another big favorite of mine. At one point I decided I would try to find THE BOOK. It was then I realized that I had, *gasp!* forgotten the title. I asked my dad several times if he remembered, but this was probably a couple years later by now. I was certain the book was titled simply Witch and I knew for certain the girl’s mother was named Kate, but the library didn’t carry anything that I recognized by that name. I read The Witching Hour and consequently my first novel sex scene, and other such books of a supernatural and dark nature, but never THE FIRST BOOK.
As an adult even the almighty Google let me down. Only this past month did I discover a group on the site Goodreads for those searching for books from their past. I don’t know what kind of crazy you have to be to figure out what book someone is talking about from a vague description, but it’s a crazy I like because:
They found it.
They found THE FIRST BOOK.
The ever elusive book from my childhood reading transition. The one I had been casually searching for the past 15 years or so. It was called The Changeover: a Supernatural Romance. I searched the title in the Goodreads database and there it was. The same haunted, ghostly pale girl staring out from a black cover. So I was wrong about the title, but the description stated the female lead’s mom was name Kate! And it was about a girl who meets a boy who helps her change into a witch, just like him. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited I didn’t even care that my first grownup book turned out to be a cheesy-titled YA novel – I had finally found it, the mystery was solved.
That same night, three Mondays ago, I went and picked up a copy from the municipal library branch down the street. Turns out it was a YA fiction novel which I retrieved from the “Teen Spot” marked by a neon sign that the 90’s would like back, please. Oddly enough I still haven’t finished it as I have a tendency to still try to read three to four books at the same time, only now my books are a bit more complex (YA not included) and my grownup responsibilities make it so I have to choose one eventually and stick with it until it’s finished before I can go onto the next.
I called my dad the Wednesday after I got it at the library. As I suspected, he did not remember the book, but I think it warmed his heart to know that it had been important to me. Since living in StL I talk to my parents about once every couple of weeks on average and most of the time my dad and I discuss TV, movies, and books. His long-time love of scifi still remains and he recommends different ones he thinks I’d like since my more recently discovered interest in post-apocalyptic plots and shows like “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood.” It feels like a new stage we’ve entered, being grownups and recommending back and forth, since being a teenager and a college student usually involves discovering things on your own, different from your parents.
But then I think back and realize, my dad didn’t stop being interested and then gain interest again in my tastes in entertainment. He read the whole Harry Potter series with my brother and me, and got me a copy of The Shining. He even read Practical Magic for goodness sake. I don’t know that he liked it all that much, but he read it because I liked it so much.
So, thanks, Dad, for doing what some parents can’t seem to do ever: give a crap about what I like. Taking the time to share with me and let me share back. For reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo even though you thought most of it was “dreck” and texting me scifi recommendations. I look forward to our next discussion.