Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Why Is There Always a Sequel?

Ellen Emerson White wrote The President's Daughter, which was a classic sixth grade read, about a teenager whose mother is elected as the first female president. Sort of a classic that mostly flies under the radar.

Life Without Friends is not something I'd heard of till recently, but I've been hearing some buzz; apparently, this is one of those books that is a huge favorite of anyone who has actually read it. So I read it today.

What was really exciting about this book is how it took a standard "teenager in over head" type plot that could have been a thriller or a deep drama and set that up as the backstory, proceeding to tell a more overlooked story. In the first chapter we learn how the main character fell in with a dangerous crowd after her mother died and she came to Boston to live with her father and his new wife. Her new boyfriend becomes a drug dealer, beats her up, and eventually kills some people. The story starts after his hearing, and it's not about any of those things. It's about someone who's messed everything up and been through the wringer, and now has to show up at school every day, where every single person despises her. It's about having no friends, not knowing your family, and kind of hating yourself. It's a story about healing, and there are no easy outs here.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it did something difficult--gave you a surly, angry, messed-up character, and made you like her, sympathize with her, and root for her.

So now I'm eying Friends for Life, which appears to be a sequel to this book. I'm torn about sequels--well, mostly I love them. When I find a book I like, I'm excited to hear there are more out there by the same author with some of the same elements. The only problem is that they sometimes become a burden (because they make my damned list longer!).

Looking more carefully at Friends for Life, though, I think it's more of a companion book--it's the story of the boyfriend-murderer and the girl who was looking too closely at his drug habits, and basically how everything went down that eventually led to Beverly's experiences in the book I just finished. And I think, if this is going to be some sort of murder-thriller, that I don't really need to put it on my list.

So this is part of what I hope will be a good New Year's process for me; allowing myself to lay things aside, relax, set aside anxiety at a lack of completion. We'll see how long this lasts.

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