A book about books

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler is a book you have to work at reading because it is Weird. What makes it weird?

First, it’s written in the second person. You know first person (the book is told from the I/me perspective) and third person (she/her perspective). Second person, though, is you/yours. It puts the reader into the story in a way that is very video-game-esque, but the reader isn’t making the choices, the author is. Given that there’s a central mystery about publishing errors that keep happening – the first chapters of ten books are showing up in different books, and You, the main character, are trying to figure out what’s going on because you just want to read the damn books!

Second, it’s weird because those chapters? They’re interspersed with the action. So there’s a chapter written in the second person about the “real world”, and then the first chapter of the book that the main character is looking for. And they alternate back and forth, between the story action and the first chapter of the next book the main character is tracking down.

Third, the dislocated book chapters and the story may end up converging at the end of the book? It’s confusing. But there is definite dovetailing of the stories. It’s trippy.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler is designed to make the reader think about narrative structure and what makes a complete story. It’s also maybe a shaggy dog story? I would recommend it if you like a challenge in your reading. But it’s not a book I would pick up for pure entertainment.

Because Judy Blume

In the unlikely event

What’s it about?
Back in the 1950s, in real life, there was a New Jersey town where three planes crashed in a calendar year. Judy Blume grew up in that town. In the Unlikely Event is the story that captures what it was like to live there and the paranoia that takes over with a series of unusual events like that.

Why should you read it?
Because Judy Blume. I’m not going to lie. That was one of my major reasons.

She uses a very not-traditionally-Judy-Blume narrative trick: she changes perspectives. A lot. There are a ton of characters in this story, both main and minor. Parts of the story are told from each other their points of view. It can be hard to keep track of, particularly at first. (I’ve had many conversations with friends about this book – we all talk about this.) As soon as I stopped trying to figure out who I needed to care about and why for every single character switch, it got a lot easier to figure out which characters were important and why. Allowing myself the ambiguity at first made for a much better reading experience. It all worked out in the end.

Is it one of her best books? Probably not. Did I care? Not really. It was still entertaining and satisfied my curiosity.