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Friday, July 17, 2009

My most influential book when I was a teen

I loved reading Norma Klein growing up. She is my most favorite author ever. I devoured IT'S OK IF YOU DON'T LOVE ME, LOVE IS ONE OF THE CHOICES and BEGINNERS LOVE and everything else (although those are my favs).

When I started writing teen books I went onto Amazon and bought all of her books again. I wanted to read them and one day share them with my daughter. IT'S OK... was sitting on my desk and my husband picked it up and started reading. He randomly picked the story up in the middle. After a few pages he came to find me, held the book up and said, "Now I know why you're the way you are."

Apparently I'm like a Norma Klein character. Which didn't bother me at all. All of her female characters are smart, strong willed, determined, driven, practical, pragmatic and unafraid to say what they think. Oddly, the guy characters are usually nicer, sweeter, milder than the girls.

Looking at the cover of these books and the titles (with the word "Love" splashed across them) you'd think they were mushy romances. They're anything but. The girls aren't wrapped up in the dream of a guy rescuing them, they don't revolve their lives around their boyfriends, they don't dream of the prince sweeping them off their feet. They're applying to Ivy League colleges, are more interested in science than make-up and live in New York City where they confidently walk city streets without feeling like they should be afraid.

But even if I love the characters, I love the stories as well. Nothing huge - no other worldly creatures, vampires, special powers or dramatic life altering accidents. They're just plain old girls in high school going through plain old girl things, yet they're anything but plain. They were just like me and I felt like they'd be girls I'd have as friends.

Every book I write I strive to be "Norma Klein-esque." Don't know that I'm there yet, but to me she wrote books that spoke so truly to the person I was and the person I would be, that I want to write books that make readers feel like that.

Two years ago I met Judy Blume, who, it turned out, was very good friends with Norma Klein when they both lived in NYC. Norma Klein died some years ago, but I got to learn all about her as a person and writer and it was one of the coolest things ever. Wish I could have met her in real life and told her what a huge impact she had on me as a writer, but mostly as a person.

Probably much to my husband's dismay. He doesn't know what he's in for when my daughter is old enough to read my copies of Norma's books. God help him.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I wish I had known about those books when I was younger. We definitely need more female characters like that.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have given these books a second glance until I read this post. I'm adding a few Norma Klein books to my wishlist right now. Thanks!

Danielle Joseph said...

Cool, I've never heard of Norma Klein. Her characters sound great and if she was a friend of Judy Blume's, well, then she'd be a friend of mine:)!