Another delightful thing about being human is the fact that we're all so bloody different. Or, as Horowitz would write, bliddy. I just finished Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz, and I enjoyed the ride. I have a feeling that many of my writerly compadres would stick up their noses at it, though, and I'm okay with that. We're different, we like different things, and that is good. With such a tremendous range in audience desires, it means that there are more opportunities for writers like us.
Fast-paced, absent of trite lessons-to-be-learned, and full of intrigue, Stormbreaker was fun and shallow. It reminded me of the days I spent as a kid bemoaning the fact that adults are so completely blinded to the possibilities wrapped up in being adolescent. They think we're so innocent and so incapable of dissembling, I thought. They'd never know what hit 'em, if they just let us kiddies be spies. I was eleven, but as far as I was concerned, I could smile angelically and slip into 007 mode without even trying. Where were books like Stormbreaker then?
And honestly? I was never one of those kids who wanted to read some angsty, pulsing full of emotion and possibility book. Not even later, in high school, when everything was one great big soap opera. Life sucks already, alright? No need to wallow in the mud. Just give me a kick-butt book with spanking good action and I don't have to think about zits, the drama of fighting friends, or boys who say, "Look me up when you're eighteen." (Though, in retrospect, maybe it was a good thing everyone knew my dad had a shotgun!)
Why, then, do I say the book was shallow? The truth is, although I've always held protagonists in great disdain when they waffle over decisions and feel nauseated when the bad guy dies, humans invariably go through a range of emotions. And although Horowitz definitely gave Alex Rider a few emotions, there wasn't really any time for thought, reflection, and coming to grips with some of his own actions. It occurred to me when I set the book down that I was left feeling a little indifferent. Fun candy -- and I'll definitely read the rest in the series -- but not much substance, either.
So, what is it that I'm looking for? Do I even know what I want? Am I impossible to please? Am I asking for Cotton Candy with Vitamins? To quote Card, who's writing about something else entirely, "it's not a contradiction -- but it is a balancing act" (Card 88). I think that fits perfectly. There was only one instance in the book that made my eyes smart, and it was when he was at the training camp. The men, for the most part, ignored him, while one made his life a living hell. For an instant, I saw Alex as human, as trying to reach out and matter to someone, and as someone whose heart ached when rebuffed.
This brings me to my own writing. My own failures in my own writing. I've been so focused on writing fun, kick-butt stuff, that I've left the relationships at a relatively shallow level. And, honestly, relationships, both in life and in novels, are what it's all about. How do I intertwine gut-wrenching relationships and kick-butt action without going all sappy and ridiculously angsty? I don't know. But I'm gonna give it a try.