A note: So I decided to make this feature a little… bigger and audience-participationy. To get the ball rolling, I’ve invited the incomprehensibly brilliant Flannery from The Readventurer to share the story behind one of her most memorable books.
Every book has a story, and in lots of cases, it isn’t even the story within the book that we remember most. One such case for me is The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. You see, I was an eager reader as a child, but when I got to high school, I stopped reading copious amounts and diverted my attention to more…er…social pursuits, I suppose. High school takes up a lot of the day and when you add in extracurricular clubs, sports, social activities, and homework, there’s not a lot of time left and, if we’re in the cone of silence here, I chose to spend those bits of time chatting with random strangers on America Online, choreographing dances to Who Let the Dogs Out , 2ge+her, and NSync with my friends for the school talent shows, and watching reruns of Mama’s Family on the tiny television in my room in the middle of the night like some sort of rebel that I absolutely wasn’t. I’ve written before over on my blog about how my best friend reintroduced reading to me in college by way the hardest drugs out there—Harry Potter and Nora Roberts. I plowed through the first three Harry Potters in a weekend and ordered Goblet of Fire (the hardback at that time) for next day delivery by 10am. The next morning, I unashamedly pestered the students in the mail room about where my drugs, oops, I mean book was. They didn’t get the urgency of the need and I still crinkle my nose in disgust at those plebeians and their Muggle ways. They eventually found the book and I promptly ran upstairs to my room to devour it, pausing only to snarl at my roommates and demand that they make me ramen noodles. I read everything my friends recommended to me and I was thirsty for more. Alas, my college library seemed to be filled with almost exclusively nonfiction…or so I thought.
The library at my school was a depressing holdover from the late sixties/early seventies that was sorely in need of the overhaul it received right after I graduated. (isn’t that always the case?) Last time I visited, however, it still contained all the graffiti I sketched and etched into the cubicle I claimed as my own during freshman year. In one of my daily wanderings around the library’s stacks, I stumbled across a tiny section of books that looked awkward. Here’s a rough MSPaint drawing of where I found said section:
The central square is a hole down to the bottom floor, which looks identical except for the central square, which is filled with what I’m sure the architects referred to as a “social space” or a “student relaxation area” or some such nonsense that is just code for uncomfortable and itchy couches that students use for mid-study naptime. The red area is where I found the Narnia wardrobe of Phillips Memorial Library—the children’s/YA book section. I’m positive these books were only there for students training to be teachers but far be it from me to let such a wonderful find go untapped. (Also, if I ever have the means, I would earmark my donation money to my college to go towards a larger leisure reading section in its library. The selection was pathetic when I was in attendance and I doubt it’s improved since.) This one tiny area of books, which was literally four or five vertical shelves in one portion of a long series of bookcases, probably contained around one hundred books, from board books to young adult. I’m shaking my head at the pathetic-ness of it all. But something wonderful did come out of that section, and that is my love of young adult books. Before I found my “secret section,” the only YA books I’d read as a not-so-young adult had been the aforementioned Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. I was on the prowl. I pored over the section and finally pulled out a book that looked suitably old-school and mysterious enough that I could feel like I was checking out something from the library equivalent of The Secret Garden. And I found it…
Though I never saw another person in that section of the library besides my best friend, the copy I found of Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard looked decades older than its relative newness. (at the time, it was about ten years in print) I checked it out and then raced home to my comfortable bed to read it in one sitting. All I remember about it is that it involved a girl going through underground tunnels and that there were fairies in it. I loved it, though, and I definitely remember that, but the most exciting part of that book is that it threw gasoline on the fiery love I have for YA books that started burning with Harry Potter, and for that, it will always have a special place in my heart.
One of my favourite things about my YA book blogger friends are finding out how they got into YA. I just love all the stories that go with them especially since, like Flann, I got into the scene (is it a scene? Are we cool enough to be of a ‘scene’?) while I was a not-so-young-adult. I’ve never even heard of this book before but as it’s got such a firm place in Flann’s heart I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for it.
Ohh, who am I kidding? It’s totally because of the retro cover.
A huge thank you to Flann for being brilliant, as usual.
Fancy getting Under the Covers? Do you have a book that has a story behind it? Do you to share? Get in touch!