“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likable characters with whom you can have some simple identification. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make your brain go all like ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaah.”
― John Green
I’m just coming off one of my most emotional reads since TFiOS—The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken (which you all should go read)–and it has got me thinking about all the other times a book (or series) had got me this emotionally drained. And even though I couldn’t think of many books, there are quite a handful that have affected me in some profound way. I don’t think most people realize how a good book can affect someone so much that it lives with them for days, maybe weeks, months, and sometimes years. I think most people might just waved them off with a flick of a hand because, let’s be honest, they’re just books. Fictional accounts of the lives of people who don’t exist except in the minds and hearts of the writers who created them and the readers who’ve decided to accept them as long lost soul mates and friends.
And if you think I’m exaggerating, I promise you, I’m not. I’m affected by these characters–whether my own or others–every single day and I’ll tell you how.
In middle school, we were assigned to read JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye as summer reading. To be perfectly honest, I never really liked summer reading as a kid, yet that summer was the first time I ever read an assigned summer reading book. In fact, I read it twice, then a few more times years later for high school. It is by far one of my favorite books, with one of my favorite characters in literature, Holden Caulfield, whom I love and hate all at the same time. I learned a lot from Holden that summer. I learned that as you get older, you do begin to notice that everyone around you is some type of phony hypocrite who say one thing but do another. I learned that life is hard, yet you can’t soak in your failures. You have to learn to get over yourself (Holden) in order to move forward.
But what I really learned from Holden is that everyone–no matter how easy you hide it–goes through that struggle between childhood and adulthood. Some people make it easy on themselves and on others, but others struggle and it’s okay to struggle. Yet, as much as you want to catch those kids running through that field of rye before they go over that cliff into adulthood, you always have to find a way to let go. Because, let’s face it, you can’t really be a kid forever. But I also learned from Holden that there’s no rush to be an adult either.
I always thought–and still think–that reading The Catcher in the Rye at the age of thirteen was very good for me. While it seemed like all of my classmates were trying to grow up too fast, I tried my best to embrace my childhood and prolong my leap into adulthood for as long as possible. Because honestly, adulthood is not as great as our prepubescent minds thought it would be. But that was probably the first time a character in a book so profoundly affected me. Holden stuck with me for a while; he’s still with me in some way, thought not as deeply rooted as he used to be.
I think the book that has really affected and shaped me–like you have no idea–as a person (and I’m almost positive there are millions of people out there who feel the same) is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I still don’t know what it is about these books that touched my heart so much–it’s rather mind-blowing really–but it has and it always will. Though I will say this, I’ve made tons of friends through Harry Potter and I think that’s what makes it so great. It was the first book that I read that brought together such an amazing community of people who are still together even now that the series is over. Just the commonness of Harry Potter made us feel like we finally belonged somewhere and that somewhere was at Hogwarts.
JK Rowling captured human nature in such a way that made us all stop and pay attention. It’s your classic tale of good and bad, but there is so much love in every page. I found myself in each character. They were so real to me that I legit cried when characters began to die. Not even though, when Harry had to deal with all the deaths, it’s just heartbreaking. These characters become your family and friends (and if you’re Dolores Umbridge, your worst enemy. OMG she’s such a nightmare you actually feel compelled to kill her yourself, but you can’t so you throw the book across the room in hopes that that would satisfy your disdain for her…but it doesn’t). I had never felt so emotionally invested in a book before.
I think one of the most heartbreaking moments in the series was when Harry realizes he has to died in order for there to be a chance for his love ones to live. He’s always been on about how he doesn’t want anyone’s help because he doesn’t want them to died and blah blah blah and he feels insanely guilty that there were people who had to died for him to live. But in that moment, it’s his turn to died for them. And it hurts because he goes willingly. He doesn’t know if his friends would be able to kill Nagini so that Voldemort could have a chance to die. He doesn’t know what will happen to everyone once he’s gone. He doesn’t know and yet it’s something he has to do for them. It’s so selfless and brave, and I cried because there was so much love in Harry. He loved his friends and his family and just people. And if there was one thing JK Rowling taught me through her books is that you’re absolutely nothing if you can’t love. It’s the best thing in the entire world. It’s bittersweet. It’s so amazing, but it hurts.
I may totally just be rambling now, but I feel like I needed to say this. Hazel and Gus; Ruby, Liam, Zu and Chubs; Percy and Annabeth; Leo, Frank, Hazel, Nico, Piper, Jason and Grover; Macy and Wes; Eli and Auden; Charlie, Sam and Patrick; Sasha and Thomas; Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet; Dorian Gray; Ender, Petra and Bean; Sherlock and Watson; Violet, Klaus and Sunny; Gatsby, Daisy and Nick ; Stanley and Zero; Peter and Fudge; Craig and Noelle; Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance; fucking Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, Princess of Genovia…I honestly could go on and on forever just naming a bunch of characters. But I learned something–no matter how big or small–from each and every one of these characters. I loved them and disliked them when they made me frustrated because of some stupid thing they did or said or thought. They let me into their lives that I’ve lived so many different ones. I’ve detested so many different people, but loved so many more. I think once you meet a new character, they stay with you, especially if they’re a great character.
I didn’t mean for this post to be this long! I just had a lot on my mind and in my heart and I just had to write it down in order to deal with it. Thank you Alexandra Bracken for making me feel like Ruby, broken and torn, but strong and determined (and so utterly confused with all these things I’m feeling. God, I love and hate it when great books do this to me, like seriously).
Honestly, does it ever feel like you just broken up with a boyfriend (or girlfriend) whenever you finished such an amazing book? I totally think I’m going through that right now. And the truth is, you don’t ever get over it; you just learn to deal with them being apart of you forever.
Sigh. I think I need a rebound book to read now.