Sunday, December 31, 2017

Carin's Best Book of 2017

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy
Publishing March 6th 2018 by Feiwel and Friends (a division of Macmillan)

When you get a job in book publishing, you will have to read books put out by that publisher. Some companies I was applying to, I almost hoped I didn't get the job, because I didn't want to read their books. I was lucky last year working for Soho Press. Would I get lucky twice?

Well, I got more than lucky. I went back to Macmillan, but now I was working on the corporate level instead of for a single publisher, and I have literally thousands of books I could read each year (each season I have roughly 1200 books to sell, so that's about 3600 per year.) And I was even more lucky in that this publisher isn't big on really pushing just a handful of commercial books each year, but instead, seems to think that if we are left to mostly read what we want, we'll be more enthusiastic in what we sell (which I've found to be totally true.) There are of course exceptions, and a couple of times a book has been strongly urged on me, although not forced, to be sure. The only real reading assignments I have are just before sales conference. We reps are presented with a list of about 30 books. We each then pick out 4-5 we're interested in. And we get assigned 2-3 of those books. It's not a bad list in the first place as they are targeted (so the list I am looking at, as an indie rep, is quirkier, more literary, less commercial.) And then we have some say so in it.

But the first time I had to do this, I was nervous. I wasn't sure if management was really self-aware enough to make the right calls and not give us a list of books that would be better in mass merchants, so I was pleasantly surprised. And then, I also hate being told what to read. I am notorious for this. Even when I am the one who chose the book club book, once it's officially picked, I officially dread it.

I was assigned to read P.S. I Miss You. It's about a family I will describe as "Super-Catholics" (I was raised Catholic myself, but in the South, where we tend to be more mellow about things since we're a minority.) The main character is Evie, the younger of two sisters. Her older sister recently got pregnant (she's in high school) and was sent away to Virginia to live with an aunt. Their parents now act like they only have one child. So when Evie starts having questions about a girl friend who she might like-like, and also starts doubting her faith (after all if their religion is why her sister's been sent away, when Evie knows her sister isn't a bad person, what does that say about their religion?), the last people she can talk to is her parents. Without a lot of options, she starts writing letters--actual paper letters since their aunt's house is in the boonies with no internet--to her sister.

I don't want to give away any more. But I will say that what started off as relatively light in tone, becomes rather dark towards the end, to the point where I was just sobbing at the end. I do not remember the last time a book made me cry like that. A single tear, or tearing up, sure. But this was rip-your-heart out, gut-wrenching, bed-shaking sobbing. In fact, I had to leave the bed and go into another room because while I was managing to cry softly, I did worry the bed shaking would wake up my light-sleeping husband. Granted, this book is not for every middle schooler as the subject matter is pretty tough. Although at that age, I adored a book that would make me cry (Bridge to Terebithia, Where the Red Fern Grows, With You and Without You, Tiger Eyes, You Shouldn't Have to Say Goodbye, I could go on and on.) But for the more mature preteens, this book will be a real stand out. The emotional resonance was like nothing I've read for a very long time. It's been six months since I read this, and it still really stands head and shoulders above the other books I read this year. I'm just sorry you all can't run out and read it right now. Although you can preorder it or put it on hold at your library, which you really should do, because it's truly excellent.

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