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Smugglivus 2013 Guest Author: Erin Bow

Welcome to Smugglivus 2013! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2013, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2014.

Who: YA writer Erin Bow, author of wonderful Fantasy novels including Plain Kate and this year’s Sorrow’s Knot (one of Ana’s top books of 2013).

Erin Bow Sorrow's Knot (final)

Please give it up for Erin, everyone!

Snot Awards

One of the great, great things about being a writer is hearing from readers. My notes are generally of two kinds. I hear from very young readers, who mostly tell me they like cats, and from grown-ups, who mostly tell me I made them cry. So far, I have made people cry:

On airplanes: “I read it on an international flight. Then I had to hide under a blanket for half an hour. #worthit.”

On intercity buses: “The driver keeps asking me if I’m okay.”

And most deliciously, in the carpool line at a junior high. “My children were HUMILIATED. THANK YOU.”

I never quite know what to say to these people. “I’m sorry”? “You’re welcome”? Sarah Rees Brennan, who is an expert at making people cry, says I should laugh maniacally until people back away.

But I get that it is a compliment, to tell authors that you cry. And I get that we want books that make us cry. I do, anyway. Just not necessarily in front of dozens of strangers.

This is why I am proposing a new literary award. It is to be called the SNOT award. Given to STORIES NOT to be read ON TRANSIT, the SNOT shall honor and mark books that will make you ugly-cry while on a crowded cross-town bus.

The SNOT sticker will be gold and embossed, and will stand as both a ringing endorsement and a useful warning.

Here are some initial nominees:

The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere

Mark Twain had a beloved daughter Susy, who died. Of receiving the news, he wrote this: “It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. There is but one reasonable explanation of it. The intellect is stunned by the shock and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully lacking.”

That’s where Lennie, the narrator in The Sky Is Everywhere, starts out. Her sister has died, but she, surprisingly, keeps living. The world, surprisingly, keeps turning. How do you get back into the world? Should you, perhaps, have sex with your late sister’s boyfriend? Should you find a love of your own? If you do find happiness, is it a betrayal of grief? Or can joy and grief work side by side, like a pair of wings?

Oh, this book is so beautiful. You have to go read it.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

before I fall

Lauren Oliver had a smash hit with her Delirium series, but this is the book before that, and if you want a weepie, pick it up. This one hits all my personal buttons — particularly the ones labeled memory, regret, and second chances — but even if you have buttons in different places, this one’s a stunner.

There’s this girl named Sam, see, and she’s got nothing more on her mind than this awful thing called Cupid Day, where the high school students deliver roses to each other and everyone can count how many roses you get and pick apart whether the note your boyfriend sent you is sufficiently romantic and all that. Teenaged me would have shriveled at the thought of a day like that, but Sam’s thriving on it. She’s got an armful of roses, clothes that match her best friends’ clothes, and a party to get to. And then the car she’s in rolls over, and she dies.

And then she wakes up, and it’s Cupid Day again.

And again.

And again.

How do you live your last day? Can you change yourself? Can you save yourself? Or do you perhaps need the courage to let go?

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

So Connor’s mom has cancer. Not that Connor or anyone in his life will say that out loud. She’s just had chemo — not that anyone will say that either — and she’s lying in the house, sick and weak and afraid to say the big “C” words, just in case they are like the devil, and come when you say their name. Connor, and let’s cut him slack because he’s just a kid, is down with the denial strategy. But then … there’s this cemetery behind the house, because of course there is, and in the cemetery is a yew tree, and at night the yew tree walks. Walks right up to Connor’s window and calls his name.

This book is creepy and funny and touching and above all brave — it’s about looking the monster right in the face and calling it by name.

I do want to say that these books are not just one-awful-thing-after-another, they are not descriptions of loss, merely. They are not cruel to their readers, in the way Old Yeller is cruel. They are about sweetness, and meaning, and love, and friendship, and courage. And in the end it’s always courage that gets me. Sad I can always handle without breaking out the hankies. But beauty and bravery break the heart. And oh, for the beauty and bravery of books like these.

Code Name Verity Gone Gone Gone

PS: I am avoiding mentioning this year’s obvious SNOT front-runners, not because they are not amazingly gorgeous, but because they don’t seem to need the attention: The Fault in Our Stars (the car-egging scene!) and Code Name Verity (Kiss me, Hardy!). Bonus nods to Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz and Everybody Sees The Ants by A.S. King. Special SNOT Junior Award, for picture books that will make you cry during library story-time, dangnabit: City Dog, Country Frog, by Mo Willems (text) and Jon J. Muth (illustration) — What happened to the frog, mommy? What happened???? — and my personal all time favorite Amos and Boris, by William Steig.

Thanks, Erin!

And what about you guys? Which book would you nominate for a Snot Award?

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  • Liddle-Oldman
    December 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

    The very last line of many of Connie Willis’s books causes me to bust into tears — Most especially the original story “Fire Watch”. So do I.

  • Reba Jackson
    December 3, 2013 at 11:37 am

    My animal loving heart was ripped when I read Marley and Me. The only suitable place to read the end of that book is at home while you cuddle with your pet and a tissue or two.

  • Gillian
    December 3, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I just finished reading How I Live Now a few days ago, and there was definitely weeping. I was lucky that I was at home at the time 🙂

  • Gabi
    December 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I think Code Name Verity is the last books that really made me cry. I was a wet, snotty mess all day after that one.

  • Gerd D.
    December 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    “before I die” by Jenny Downham, a real tearjerker.
    I still can’t think about her father without tearing up. 🙂

  • Nadine Brandes
    December 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    I love the idea of the SNOT award. 🙂 I don’t have a nominee, mostly because I’ve never cried while reading a book. I’ve teared up. I’ve WANTED to cry, but for some reason I’m almost always too self-conscious (how silly). I’ve been searching for a book that will break through that and finally get me crying! So the SNOT award is perfect. I plan to read all of these books. Hopefully I’ll get a little snotty. [grin]

  • Amalie Greenway
    December 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Ha! I was the one crying on the international flight, huddled under a blanket mumbling REALLY? I’m crying over a FICTIONAL CAT. It totally was worth it, though.

    Another SNOT book I can think of is THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES by Wendy Wunder. And leaving the realm of YA for a moment, SARAH’S KEY by Tatiana de Rosnay is one of the only books I’ve ever read that made me frantic with grief and horror.

  • Elaine
    December 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    I’d have to nominate Deerskin by Robin McKinley. I cried so much over it I didn’t read it ever again and donated my copy to the library.

  • hapax
    December 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Oh, I’m an awful ugly-crier. My kids will all tell you that I’ll cry at coffee commercials.

    Sarah Rees Brennan, whom you mention, is of course right up there — “He wanted to sit on the couch and eat cereal.” Or just about anything by Rainbow Rowell, especially ELEANOR AND PARK. Toby Forward just makes me sob with practically every chapter, especially FIREBORN. And T.A. Barron’s SEVEN SONGS OF MERLIN — dear God, an itching between my shoulder blades will still make me sniffle.

    Oh, and for triumphant happy tears, my go-to has always been WATERSHIP DOWN — “Meester Pigvig, ees rabbits come!!!”

  • Amanda
    December 3, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    I read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green in one evening and finally finished it at 2am. I will never forget sitting up and sobbing silently in bed, trying not to wake my husband. Never ever, ever, has a book made me cry like that.

    The other was actually The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. I grew to love Omakayas and her family so much that everything that happened to them felt very personal and real. When I read it to my students I surprised them (and myself) by tearing up.

  • Linda W
    December 3, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    I would nominate The Fault in Our Stars, Under the Mermaid Angel (Martha Moore) and A Monster Calls. I sobbed like there was no tomorrow.

  • Jana
    December 4, 2013 at 1:11 am

    I haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars yet, mainly because commercials can make me cry, and there are simply not enough tissues in the world to help me cope with John Green at holiday-time. Mockingjay turned me into a blubbering mess, the ending of The Bitter Kingdom made me cry (but in a happy way, if that makes sense), and Between Shades of Gray made me cry from about page three onward. But I love those books, and I keep hoping that if I read them more often, they won’t make me cry as hard with each successive time.

  • The English Student
    December 4, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Room, by Emma Donoghue, is definitely a candidate for a SNOT award.

  • Malin
    December 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein is also a clear candidate for the SNOT award. I foolishly brought it to read on a plane, and had to literally bite my fist to try to hold the gut-wrenching sobs in as I read it. Also agree with Elaine about Deerskin by Robin McKinley that had me cry so much I could barely see. It’s one of the most painful books I have ever read, and the only McKinley I own that I haven’t been able to re-read yet.

  • Jennifer
    December 5, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Gone with the wind (especially two events at the end were heart-breaking)… I remember crying too during the 3rd book of Ender’s saga… because of the resolution of a character.

    I didn’t cry at all during The Fault in Our Stars, I got the fun parts, I found it moving sometimes but it didn’t make me cry maybe because I guessed the end or I haven’t found the drama really convincing but the fun and the joy to live were really what I have enjoyed of this book.

  • Chachic
    December 5, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Yes to SNOT awards for A Monster Calls, Code Name Verity and The Fault in Our Stars! I’ve read both The Sky is Everywhere and Before I Fall but they didn’t make me cry. My contemporary YA SNOT award picks would be Jellicoe Road and The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta and Saving June by Hannah Harrington.

  • Kailana
    December 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Marley and Me was definitely one for me! I also agree with A Monster Calls and Code Name, Verity!

  • Susie
    December 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Other “snot award” contenders might include If I Stay by Gayle Forman (then read the sequel Where She Went). Also, Would You by Marthe Jocelyn. The audiobooks are wonderful, well read, and moving (as in moving one to tears). Then to cheer up one could read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.

  • L. E. Carmichael
    December 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Where the Red Fern Grows. I’ve read it a dozen times and I sob every single time. In fact, I start sobbing a couple pages early because I know what’s coming.

    Wilson Rawls gets major author points because he gives away the ending on the second page of the book, but by the time IT happens you’re so wrapped up in the story you can’t believe what’s happening.

  • Bonnie @ A Backwards Story
    December 6, 2013 at 10:08 am

    My co-worker’s favorite book is THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. Someday I will borrow and read it! I didn’t realize it was an ugly cry book. TY! And I have A MONSTER CALLS and CODE NAME VERITY to read when I’m in the mood for an ugly cry. To me, this year…ALLEGIANT wins. Veronica Roth is really good at ripping your heart out! My favorite novel, MY SISTER’S KEEPER by Jodi Picoult, also needs this label. It’s sad that people will expect it to be an ordinary cancer story like the movie, when it isn’t at all!

  • AnimeJune
    December 17, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    I would have to nominate Lauren Myracle’s SHINE for the SNOT award – I couldn’t read it on the bus, so I read it WHILE WALKING to work and nearly got hit by a bus. And I cried for just about everyone in that book.

  • Miscellaneous Memoranda | Memoranda
    December 17, 2016 at 12:46 am

    […] I really liked Erin Bow’s suggestion of a SNOT award for books (“given to STORIES NOT to be read ON TRANSIT, the SNOT shall honor […]

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