Sunday, December 13, 2015

Jodi Picoult Novels Anonymous

I recently started reading my fourth Jodi Picoult story. I admit that for a long time, I never even thought about picking up one of her books. I saw her novels everywhere, and her name is always very prominent, like it always is when an author becomes successful. It's a promise to the reader as she peruses the shelves at the bookstore, or at least the book section in Target: "Remember? This is the author you like alot. This story will be amazing because SHE wrote it. You need to buy this NOW!" And the author photos of Picoult, with her copper curls and serene face look like they're going to come to life and ask me if I'd like a cup of tea (to which I'd reply "sure. that's be great", and then I'd be trapped into having a four hour long conversation).

And since I saw her novels all the time, and couldn't keep count of how many were out there, glaring at me from the bookshelves as I passed them by to ooohhhhh and ahhhhhhh at picture books and YA novels, they all became part of the background to me.

But in 2009, Picoult's book My Sister's Keeper was made into a movie. Not a Lifetime original, or a Hallmark Channel one, but an actual film that starred Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin. It's not like I raced to the theater to see it, but it did make it onto my "Well, maybe sometime I'll rent it" list. I did end up watching it, and I enjoyed it, but I figured it was a one time deal. It was a heart-wrenching story about a teen who sues her parents for medical emancipation so that she will not have to undergo any more radical treatments in the interest of saving her older sister, who is renal failure due to leukemia, alive. Of course the masses are going to be touched by a story involving children and cancer. Cancer has become the scariest reality for us, one form of seemingly every kind striking anyone of any age from any part of society.

For me, I needed a bigger reason to read more, and once again, censorship saved the day. A couple years back, a highschool in Gilford, NH made headlines after some parents called for her book Nineteen Minutes to be banned after they became aware of the story content. 

****SPOILERS AHEAD**********

Interestingly, it's not the part about the horrific school shooting, a horror story which has become all too real for us in recent years, it's about the sex. It's always about the sex. Picoult's book has approximately three pages (gasp!) which these parents deemed 'pornographic' because they detail a scene in which a girl has non-consensual sex with her boyfriend. In simple terms, she is raped. I knew we had this book in our collection at the middle school, and I knew some of the 8th grade girls had been reading it so I decided to read it as well, both for that part in case anyone challenged the book, and also because it must be a good story if so many teens were interested in reading it.

I'm not going to get into the controversial plot points simply because that's not the focus of this post. What changed my mind about Jodi Picoult novels is simply her writing. In particular, the way she captures motherhood in her writing. Perhaps the reason I was initially prejudiced against her books is because I always saw Moms reading them, along with Nicholas Sparks books. Some authors become so popular among middle-age women that they're like the literary equivalent of mom jeans.

"Something that says I'm not a woman anymore, I'm a MOM!"

But now I know why the Moms are always reading Picoult novels: because she knows how to write for them. I don't often read romance novels of any kind, whether it's the relationships between men and women being romanticized or the miracle of motherhood that's being given a new, shiny coat simply because they don't appeal to me. But now that I'm reading my fourth Picoult story, I realize that the sentences which stand out the most to me are the ones in which she writes about mothers or children.

I'm a couple chapters in to Perfect Match, and the part that did it for me is when Nina is describing her son Nathaniel: "A little boy's neck is the sweetest curve on his body." It's like I already knew that, but Picoult wrote a perfect little sentence just to remind me that I already know it, so that now I'll always remember it.

Sentences like that are like little samples of something that's rich and delicious and probably too expensive to justify buying.  .  .those samples are meant to entice you. They speak to you, making sweet promises like "Just this one time" and "You can stop after this one". But all it takes is a taste, and now I'm addicted.

"One little taste" and I ended up devouring these

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