Tuesday, March 29, 2011
[Back to regularly-scheduled program, and regularly-sized font.]
I didn't read Flash Burnout for all the wrong reasons.
For a while there, It seemed to be everywhere on blogosphere. My inner rebellious teen decided that something that popular didn't need me. When I eventually picked it up, I found the style of the flap-jacket difficult to read: too choppy. A few months later, I picked it up again and read a few pages. I liked the writing a lot but got an (incomplete) impression of the protagonist's girlfriend, and it made me hesitant to spend time in the head of a guy who would be in love with someone like that. I think I was tired of manipulative and self-absorbed girls portrayed as attractive and desirable.
Yeah. Not good reasons.
I finally read it. It is an excellent book.
Motivation and relationships: there are elements that draw me in the most. In this book, the characters possess distinctive and recognizable traits who don't fall easily within the black/white good guy/bad guy spectrum. They do things out of a variety of considerations, not always carefully thought out. The relationships are multi-faceted and -layered.
The premise, at its simplest version, is a boy whose loyalties and affections are torn between a girl-friend and a friend who is a girl. (And that was another reason I didn't read it for a while: the premise sounded cliched.) But the book is no cliche. Far from it. The author explored dilemmas, some of the everyday-variety, and some of the much larger ones, with honesty. At no point did I get a sense that she had it all figure out on how the characters would deal with their situations, and by hook or by crook, she was going to steer the plot that way.
This is not to say that I think having a goal and knowing where a story ends is necessarily a bad thing. What I am saying is that she didn't force characters into certain traits or actions for the sake of a neat ending. These characters struggle with problems and deal with situations in ways that are sometimes messy and unfinished. And we, as readers, get drawn into these struggles and decision-making processes.
Some readers find the ending unfinished. I, on the other had, thought it was perfect. It is not a standard they-go-back-together/they-were-never-meant-to-be-together or he-saw-the-error-of-his-ways-and-changed-his-life-around type ending. If it were, in my opinion, it would have been a letdown, after how the book has done such a great job of constantly engaging the reader into an authentic exploration of why people do things, how they deal with what life gives them.
I am sure you have heard that the author, L. K. Madigan, has passed away. I didn't know her personally, but like many others, I have felt a connection through her books. If you would like to find out how to help out her family, you may start here at her agent's blogpost.