You know it’s a good book when you reach the last page, close it, and smile.
My fellow Scriblerian, T.J., insisted that I should read Holes by Louis Sachar. Since I write realistic fiction for middle grades, he said Sachar was great at realism mixed with humor. So I went to the library and read the blurb on the book jacket.
Why would I want to read a dreary story about cruel people who run a camp for juvenile delinquents? About the hot, Texas desert full of poisonous lizards? I hate depressing stories. And hot deserts. And poisonous lizards… and spiders… and snakes.
But I trust my writing buddy.
I checked out the book. And it was depressing.
But not so much that I wouldn’t stop reading it.
In fact, I couldn’t put it down! Sachar fed me regular doses of humor in every chapter. He allowed the main 13-year-old character to mature in all the right ways, transformed questionable characters into people you could love, and made sure the villains were so villainous you had to laugh.
Realistic fiction? I’m not sure. The series of coincidences between Stanley’s family history and his current circumstances were beyond my normal suspension of disbelief, so for me the book approaches the legendary qualities of Paul Bunyan. Still. Highly entertaining.
By the time I reached “The End,” every crazy coincidence had a logical explanation, every loose end left dangling had been tied in, and the main characters had hopeful futures.
And me, the Reader, had a smile on my face.
Am I too much of an optimist? Do you prefer a story that leaves you with questions? Something unfinished? Or like me, do you want a sense of completion, an “ahhh…” as you close the book?