By Michelle Andreani
I always love hearing about that moment when a book changed someone’s life. The book that made them a lifelong reader, the book that made them a fantasy-lover, or what I’m babbling about today, the book that really made them want to write. Basically: the Book that Did It.
I was, maybe not-so surprisingly, a big reader as a kid. (Although, from the looks of the bookshelves in my parents’ basement, I may have liked having books more than reading them. A hoarder-in-training red flag, for sure.) But, anyway, that was some quality time with Amelia Bedelia and the Babysitter’s Club. Then: a black cloud! I went through a lot of my early teens without really picking up a novel for fun. Tragedy! Outrage! Fire Alarms! But, you see:
Reading books = A School Thing = Billy Budd = UUGGHHH²
I really hated reading Billy Budd, you guys.
Eventually, I dragged myself out of this horrible, mucky, reading-less black hole. (I give partial credit to the Fearless and Everworld series for this, by the way. GOOD TIMES.) Those books did me a real solid, but neither series Did It. And then, something bigger happened: Teen People (RIP) started a book club called, not unexpectedly, The Teen People Book Club!!!
It was like an entire YA section delivered to my house! So, I basically lost my mind and what little money I had on books like The Princess Diaries, Hard Love, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. All of them awesome, but none of them Did It, either.
In the end, I met The One in the local library (yay, libraries!!), totally unaware that bringing it home, cracking it open, would (as unforgivably cheesy as it sounds) change everything. So, finally, the Book that Did It for me? *trumpets* *fanfare* This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen!
I am all kinds of unable to talk about this book or Sarah Dessen without turning into a total gush-monster. Soooo, deep breath and here we go: This Lullaby was the first book I remember reading slowly, on purpose, so that I could maybe trick it into never ending. It was a book that wrapped me up and didn’t let go, with characters I wanted to be friends with, boys I wanted to date, places I wanted to go. (Bendo. Someone take me to Bendo.) It felt like I was living through that summer with Remy and Dexter, singing about potatoes, drinking extra-large Zip Diets, and hating Spinnerbait(!). I loved every word, every page.
Because of all that, it was the first book that lit me up from the inside; that made me say, I want to write like this. To be this good, and have other people feel about my book the way I feel about this one. It was the first book that made this so clear. A special book can Do That.
So, I promptly sat down at my computer and started writing a book EXACTLY LIKE IT. Like, not even kidding, exactly like it. (The learning about writing and characters and plot came a little later.)
Since then, other books have certainly come along and Done It for me. But nothing can ever touch This Lullaby‘s reserved cubbyhole in my heart. Or its space on my bookshelf.
You must have a book that Did It for you. Tell me tell me tell me! 🙂
18 thoughts on “The Book That Did It”
i honestly don’t remember not reading. I recently went through all the books I had in storage from when I was little and I had tons and tons of toddler books. I have a complete set of Little House on the Prairie that I remember reading in elementary school and then of course all of those fun pre-teen books like Blubber and Are You There God It’s Me Margaret. I also admittedly have a complete set of Sweet Valley High books and a few other series that were out in that time frame. But the book that made the biggest impact on me as a pre-teen was The Pinballs by Betsy Byars. To this day that book affects me (and it’s been a LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time since I first read it, like 30 years).
Oh, man, The Pinballs was serious! I definitely remember that one in the school library. I can see how that would’ve had an impact!
I wish I had the complete SVH series! My childhood bookshelves are filled with incomplete series. It’s an OCD nightmare 😉
Yay, thanks for sharing, Angela!!
Even back then I was apparently anal about owning the whole series and keeping it intact!
I was exactly the same with my books, haha! They had to be PRISTINE. 😉
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. I’d always been a voracious reader, but Tiger Eyes cemented my love of contemporary fiction. I still reread it occasionally.
YES! Tiger Eyes is great. Did you hear about the movie?? Dyingggg to see it.
I cannot WAIT for that movie! The kid playing Wolf (Russell Means’s son) looks EXACTLY like Wolf in my 14 year old head.
Oh my, he does! Will the movie ever come out?
Ahhh Billy Budd!!!! That brought back memories Michelle!!! Worst.book.ever. Love your blog!
Thanks so much, Gabrielle!! And seriously, it was the worst, wasn’t it?? Way to get a kid excited for high school, Billy Budd…
THIS LULLABY was my first Sarah Dessen and still my absolutely favorite!
When I think of The Book for me, it was LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green. I was already writing YA by then and had completed my first (never-published) novel. But LFA moved me so much and showed me that I wanted to write something deeper than what I’d been attempting up to that point.
Same for me with This Lullaby!
Looking for Alaska! I can totally see how you would connect with it 🙂 It took me a loooong time to read that book, and I wanted to punch myself for that. SO GOOD!
Oh, this is gonna so age me… but The Outsiders. Sill my favorite to this day. Another that hit me hard back then was Go Ask Alice. I haven’t read either as an adult, but intend to some time.
I found that one in my box of kid books too! A good one.
Oh, The Outsiders is such a classic! I remember reading that book, completely shocked that I loved it so much…it was about boys! 😉
Yes, and they were all good looking boys in the movie. Now they’re all old… like me. 🙂
Suzi, I’m sure you’re hardly old! And besides, you’re only as old as you feel, right? 😉
And that movie! Sodapop, what a dreamboat…
Soda was my favorite! Always have liked Rob Lowe.