Last night I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s book ‘Speak’. It took me a good 3 hours and I was done from beginning to finish. That to me is a sign of a really good book. I can finish it in one sitting, have the urgent need to turn the page and get some satisfaction out of the story. Granted, I am a pretty fast reader by nature and I don’t mind losing a little sleep over a good book as well. You can never go wrong with Laurie Halse Anderson in any case (I’ve read Fever 1793 and Chains before in just the same way), but there are a multitude of other books that give me the pleasure of a quick read. Many of them are in the YA section, but some are not. Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury and Marion Zimmer Bradley come to mind.
Now there are some other books that I need to read slower, that start out with more exposition and the introduction of many, not immediately connected characters. Those books are usually in the fantasy section and if they are written well, I do not mind this at all. They will speed up considerably, once the story got rolling and you get to experience a whole new world. George R. R. Martin and of course Tolkien are masters at this. However, if a book starts slow, continues slow, and doesn’t take any risks anywhere, you can be sure I won’t stick to it. You have got to engage me somewhere.
Books that take the longest are usually the ones that we call classics. The reason for that is, that I am usually not that interested in the plot; the question of how it ends. I already know what is going to happen. Everybody pretty much knows the plot of Pride and Prejudice, A tale of two cities, or A scarlet letter. I read these books to look at the language. This is Yesteryear English. Nobody talks like that anymore. And yet the dialog and the descriptions have sometimes heart achingly precise connotations and are well worth to be looked at. I do not read these books in one night. I read them a little at a time and am careful not to overdo it.
Especially after I have been looking at one of those slow books, I will need a page turner again. A book where the language is fresh, direct and beautiful, where the characters behave in ways that make sense to me, and where considerable risks and rewards are at stake. The feeling of being saturated with a good story after just a few hours is an intense one and not something I ever want to miss. I better start reading my next YA novel soon.