This morning I finished reading Terra, a book written and published by Gretchen Powell. Having followed Gretchen’s blog, I knew she was in the process of writing and self-publishing a young-adult distopian novel. I wasn’t really all that interested in reading the book. In fact, I was a bit skeptical because it was a self-published, young-adult distopian novel. Well, self-publishing has changed a lot since I first learned of it.
When the positive reviews started pouring in on goodreads and in google reader, my opinion started to change. I remained skeptical because I’ve been led astray by good reviews before. However, these good reviews were enough to get me to shell out $5 of my Christmas money for the Kindle version.
Money well spent.
For the first time in several months, I gave a book more than three stars on goodreads, four in this case. The only reason that Terra didn’t get five stars was because of a few awkward bits.
I’ll start with the nit-picky but end with the good. First, although I adore Gretchen’s expansive vocabulary, sometimes she reaches too far for a “fancy” word when more common word will suffice. Second, neither Adam nor Terra seem to have fully fleshed out personalities. For the most part, each seems to act a certain way, as his or her personality would dictate, but occasionally one or the other would say or do something “out of character”. (Keep in mind, I’m being nit-picky here and perhaps over-thinking things.) Third, I find the scene where Adam describes Terra’s personality a bit implausible, his perception a bit too deep for such a short relationship. This scene was the only scene of the entire book that felt the slightest bit awkward.
On the other hand, I found myself sucked into this book like I never could have imagined. Gretchen is a master at dropping just enough clues to never actually answer the question. I found myself wanting to tell Adam that he hadn’t actually answered the question. By withholding just the right amount of information Gretchen keeps the plot fast-paced, gripping and credible. For example, from reading previous reviews, I knew that there was a “twist”. Instead of trying to figure it out, I decided to let Gretchen surprise me. I was surprised. I wish I could say more but I can’t think of how to best compliment her without giving the twist away.
The only regret I have about reading this book now is that I didn’t wait until book two had been published. The suspense might kill me.
I could spend another paragraph at least admiring Gretchen’s work but this post is long enough, especially since I want to talk briefly about how this book got me thinking and how this post connects to one of my 2013 goals.
When I started reading Terra, I held it up to the same evaluation framework I’ve been holding all my recent reads up to. (That’s what happens when you have to write full-page annotated bibliographies for your History Masters degree program.) As evidenced by the above review, Terra passed with flying colors.
Then I remembered that Gretchen self-published this book. That took guts. She put this book out for any and all to see, no matter what insecurities she had about it.
I thought about the books I’ve written and rewritten. For so long it has been a dream of mine to hold a published book with my name on the cover. I haven’t pursued this dream though. Despite what family members have said about my fiction or professors have said about my nonfiction, I’ve sold myself short. I’ve pursued other more attainable goals because the writing standard I hold myself to is so high.
This is the year of doing things that matter. It would be wrong for me to avoid writing and pursuing publication. Thank you, Gretchen, for taking that huge leap and serving as inspiration.
I don’t know what the process will look like this year. There are a lot of unknowns in 2013. I do know that God has, for some reason, given me a gift with words. I intend to pursue that in any way possible.