Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rare and Wonderful Unicorn Books

Once upon a time, Diana and I were talking and she said something that stuck with me. She'd been gushing love for the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy and she said, "You know how you're always looking for that perfect book? That book that doesn't disappoint you? That book you enjoy from beginning to end and your inner editor turns off? THIS is that book!" I honestly thought the first in the trilogy ended up being even closer, but she wasn't wrong. And it stuck with me because I realized other people are searching for THOSE books too.

When you become a writer, it sometimes spoils reading for you. It's hard to turn off the voice inside that notices little things... the voice that wishes the author had tilted just a bit and gone a different way. Then there is the shouting during the truly awful books that make you wish you could bleach your brain or poke out your eyes.

Then, there are the unicorns... the mythical creatures so rare that when you find them you want to point them out to everyone--those books... THE BOOKS. You know which ones I'm talking about. The ones that don't require you to say, "It's really good other than...." when you recommend them. The ones that you just want to run and buy more copies to stick under your pillow and hopefully osmosify into your brain. (I can make up words like that--I'm a writer.)

These rare creatures make your heart sing... they make you believe that it's not just the trends being published... they make you shiver and dream of someday writing something even half as good. They make you wish that books never ended and a new page would show up tomorrow in the story. Or maybe you feel so satisfied with the ending you reread it again and again. They are the unicorn books.

When you become a writer, these books become even more rare. You know there is a man behind the curtain, and it's sometimes hard to lose yourself in a book like you once did. It's hard to not see the hand of the writer when you're reading.

I'm almost afraid to pick up a book that someone else has recommended because I know it'll disappoint me. The books won't keep their promise clear to the end... or maybe they will... and I'll regret that too because it wasn't a promise worth keeping. I hate when low expectations are met almost more than when high expectations aren't.

Don't get me wrong, I read commercial fiction and romance books where the sole promise is that they'll entertain. They don't let me down, but they're not unicorn books for the most part. My expectation is that they'll make me happy for a few hours but I'll ultimately forget them and reread them in a year or so. Sometimes, they rise above that expectation. Mostly they don't, and that's okay because I've lost myself in an entertaining book for a few hours and I'm grateful.

The other beautiful thing about unicorn books when you find them as a writer is that you can talk about them. You can TALK about them. You don't have to watch what you say and worry that an author, their editor, their agent, or their fans are going to take issue with what you say. You can say exactly what you think.

So, what is this all leading up to?

I loved the book Coraline. (We read it for our book club read this last month.) I loved it to scary, creepy, weird little pieces. I'm sure it's not a unicorn for everyone, but it was for me. I just wanted to hug it and say, "YES! This is what writing should be about! This is a good book!" Some of the lines were so perfect. SO PERFECT!

I've read a few books recently that let me down--drastically--and I just thought, "How was this published?" It was good to read a book that lived up to its promise.

That's not the beginning or end of my unicorn list, of course, but it got me thinking about the topic of living up to the promise to your reader that you present on the first page or the expectations they have when they look at the cover.

Also, it would be cool one day to have someone think my book was a unicorn book... but anyway.

On the subject of writing, Sarah is still working on notes, so I'm off the hook for a bit. I opened up my Dystopian WIP and I'm thinking of... *gasp* plotting out the book, so I can pop in and out of it a bit more in the coming months. (I know. This sounds like crazy talk to me too.) I also figured out a way to address an issue in my book Re:Straint/the mutant thing. I hope I have anyway. So, it's revision and plotting for me this week... and hopefully I'll hear back from my betas on Curse Me A Story soon. Have a good day everyone!


  1. I knew you'd love it!!! Everyone needs to read Coraline *nods*

  2. Coraline is just awesome! Deliciously creepy. I too have been let down recently. It's so disappointing.

    Here's to writing unicorn books (*clink*)!

  3. Yay for waiting periods!

    I too am waiting for notes, so I'm trying to get a good start on first-drafting another book. It feels good to be working on something for fun.

    Sadly, I have not read Coraline, but I CLEARLY should. *makes a note*

  4. I found a unicorn book in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Absolutely amazing. I should read Coraline now...

  5. Laina, you were so, so, so right.

    Vicki, I love the books that don't let me down even more after books that do... so maybe they serve their purpose too.

    Miriam, you should read Coraline... seriously amazing book.

    KT, I keep seeing that book pop up on "Books You Have To Read If You Want To Call Yourself A Person" lists. I've got to read that.

  6. I adore this line: "It's hard to not see the hand of the writer when you're reading." It's so true now.

    But a really great unicorn book has the effect of drowning out any internal voices and sucking me into the story itself. Most of what I read merely entertains or enlightens, but a few books leave an impression on me. Those are the great ones!

  7. Julie, yes... I feel the same way. The really great books are worth the hunt because of it.

  8. WENDY!! Awww, I remember gushing to you about Hunger Games. *sniff sniff* I feel so special being mentioned. *hugs*

    And now I want to read Coraline. It sounds amazing!!

  9. Coraline was awesome, Di! I love a good unicorn book. *sighs*