Holly Black

Holly,

In March of 2016 I was lucky enough to attend the Nova Teen book festival in Arlington, Virginia, where you were the keynote speaker. I had so much fun basically stalking you from panel to panel, learning about how to write a properly scary story during the Creep panel and sitting in the completely full classroom where you had your one-on-one with participants about writing fairytales. Don’t worry, I live-tweeted the whole experience so if you don’t trust my word on how psyched I was about the whole thing you only need to check your Twitter notifications from that day (I’m sort of sorry about blowing up your feed that way, but kind of really not).

Your keynote is what really got me, though. I had a really freaky moment there while you were talking because I’d been telling my friend Mad earlier that day how I would probably die if you and Neil Gaiman ever collaborated on anything, and lo and behold in your keynote you start talking about Lucifer and a conversation you had with Gaiman about why you write fantasy.

I pretty much died in that moment because not only was it like you’d read my mind but you also managed to combine your thoughts with Gaiman’s (and I think even G.K Chesterton’s which is a whole other thing (OK I’ll dish, I wrote a graduation speech in college based on a G.K. Chesterton quote that you may or may not have used during your keynote (OK you did))) to say what is perhaps the truest and most powerful thing about what fantasy even is. Pardon my paraphrase (I’m sure the direct quote is on Twitter), but you told us all that the power in fantasy is that it deals with reality in a world where the rules are shifted such that the everyday struggles of humanity can be exaggerated and focused on in a way that literary fiction just does not allow. Want to talk about the struggle to belong for teenagers? Write about a changeling. And all that good stuff.

It really got to me not just because it was true, not just because that was exactly why I’d always been drawn to really good fantasy over anything else, but also because your stories have always had that dash of really harsh reality blended in with the fantastic elements of the worlds you create. When I first read Tithe I picked it up because it was sold as a modern fairytale, but I loved it because of how freaking real it was. How even though it was about non-human creatures in an alternate reality it was one of the most familiar and one of the truest stories I’ve ever encountered, and the same can be said of everything you’ve written since.

Tithe itself is really a meta-example of that, since you even went and created a main character who could not lie but who knew how to deceive, and when I was reading that whole series, especially once it got to Ironside, I just kept thinking, “Oh my God Holly Black is Fae. She’s totally mastered the art of telling a story that has elements of untruth but which is actually entirely true.”

I mean basically what I’m trying to say here is you are brilliant. Absolutely brilliant and I love it. I love it all. I also love how your books are like the hard rock of YA and Middle Grade literature. They’ve got so many of the same elements as other books in their genre, but they’ve got this edge to them, this grit that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. Sometimes that is exactly what I need when I pick up a story to get lost in, and I can’t thank you enough for carving out that space and for continuing to create masterpieces within it.

You rock, literally, and I appreciate you.

Thank you now and always,
Rebecca

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Gail Carson Levine

Dear Ms. Levine,

When I was a kid, there were three things that I knew about myself: green was my favorite color, I ate too many things deemed inedible, and that I had an unhealthy want for adventure. This unchecked desire often got me in trouble and my early elementary years were full of time outs from recess and being chased by kids I had pranked. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was bored and this boredom got me into trouble. Often. Then there was a day, I think in 3rd or 4th grade that I found myself forced to choose a library book in school. I happened to pick up Ella Enchanted, and I honestly believe that I was never the same.

I never thought I would fall in love with a book based on Cinderella . The funny thing is, I never liked Cinderella, but I love your version of her. I mean, I guess Cinderella was okay as a Disney movie, but I just didn’t get it. She was just so darn nice, and then everything kind of magically worked out for her. I felt distant from Cinderella as a character. Reading about Ella, who was so painfully real, who experienced the world around her as I might have in her position, made me able to accept and immerse myself in the magic from fairy tales. Your book captivated me in a way that I had never experienced before. I remember reading about Ella’s curse, seeing her similarities to Cinderella, both knowing her story and having no idea what would happen. There wasn’t a character in Ella Enchanted that I didn’t feel personally connected to, and you made it so easy.

The truth is, if I hadn’t picked up Ella Enchanted randomly in the library that day, I don’t know if I would have become hooked on reading. It was because of your book that I dove into literature hoping to find characters like Ella that could show me what it means to be a heroine. Now, years later with an English degree and several years of teaching under my belt, when my baby sister was looking for a bed time story I knew exactly which one to start her on. Oh, and she is addicted to reading now too. I don’t think ‘thank you’ will quite cover it, Ms. Levine, but I’m going to say it anyway. Thank you for everything.
Your biggest admirer,
Ayesha

J.K. Rowling

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Dear Ms. Rowling,

Mr. and Mrs. Cassier of 103 Burbank Drive were proud to say that their daughter was a book-dragon, thank you very much. She was never one to be found without a book or two, because she just didn’t hold with their absence.

Okay, enough with the silliness. Firstly, it’s very difficult to sustain; secondly, it’s hard to joke when talking about the importance of Harry Potter in my life. I chose that quote from Deathly Hallows at the top for a big reason: I think it perfectly summarizes what I try to tell people when I attempt to talk about how much your positively radiant Harry Potter series means to me. Ever since Harry & co. walked into my life one evening — I actually was home sick with strep the night I first opened Sorcerer’s Stone and can recall that first reading experience with vivid clarity — it was like being possessed and entranced and in love and in pain all at once. Ecstasy is the word that springs to mind, though I didn’t know it back then. I, like so many people of my generation, quite literally grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We battled our own demons while they battled the Dark Lord.

I don’t make it much of a secret, but I suffer from bad bouts of depressive episodes, and they were particularly bad during some years of high school. And back then, when I was a teenager and feeling like the real world had lost its colour and its vibrance, that I was wholly alone…I would crawl back into the pages of Harry Potter and wrap myself up in them like a security blanket. Re-reading those books became a way of coping and trying to understand what was happening — to try to bring myself out of any “low” that I was in. Of course I understood that, reading these books, it was all happening inside my head — it was my imagination running wild in order to bring life to your words…

But, to me, it not only was, but still is real.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron are people with whom I empathised or with whom I agreed and disagreed — they weren’t just words on a page or scratches of ink. They, and all the others of the Wizarding world, were people. And what was best for that teenage me, was that in the world of Hogwarts and beyond, no matter how dark or wild it could get…it was still kind of real to me.

And it remains real to this very day.

It all being inside my head didn’t make any of the emotions I felt meaningless. And, so, your series has a very special place in my heart and in my life because it not only shaped my childhood, my adolescence, my young adulthood, and has been in my life longer than it hasn’t…but because it was the one place I could turn to when I felt there was nothing else, whether or not that was true. It’s part of why I make a point to reread and re-listen to the series every single year, usually more than once.

Because Hogwarts is always going to be there to welcome me home.

Forever grateful,
Madeleine

Ursula LeGuin

I fell in love with you in the way the best loves happen—that is, almost entirely by accident.

We were living in England while my mother worked with the US Air Force; I was in 6th grade. Every day, we had one glorious hour of our class schedule devoted entirely to silent reading time, and my teacher for that period—an older, slightly acerbic, presumably rather feminist Gifted and Talented teacher—bore a certain fondness for giving individual students books she thought they should read. And by “give”, I mean “unceremoniously hand you a book and unequivocally state that you were not allowed to read anything else in class until you finished it.”

It was through that method that I was first introduced to A Wizard of Earthsea.

As a moderately imaginative and somewhat well-read child, I had read plenty of fantasy books before. When I opened the Earthsea cycle for the first time, though, I knew on some level that this was a game-changer. The vividness of the description, the completeness and utter uniqueness of the worldbuilding, and all the dragons and birds of prey and colorful wizardry drew me in. The complexity of the characters, the sheer vast scope of the fantasy, and the tender poignancy of the storytelling hooked me and wouldn’t let me go.

I sat on the bus to school every morning on our trip across the fens, looking out the window at the dense, rolling British fog, and it was as if I was on Lookfar with Ged in the distant sea looking out, and out, and out. One night I dreamed, vividly, that standing in a field I put up my arm in the air and felt the light beating weight of a kestrel backwinging down to my skin—the most fragile, hollow pressure.

Fantasy and science fiction had already given me a broader perspective, new ways to look at things. Your writing was more than that—you gave me news eyes entirely through which to see.

For those reading who do not know—Ursula K Le Guin is almost indisputably one of the most prolific and most celebrated science fiction and fantasy writers still living. She has won almost every major award possible in both genres, and over the course of dozens of years has written dozens of works ranging from poetry and essays to children’s books and not-so-childish novels. She is the daughter of a writer (Theodora Kroeber) and well-known anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, and it shows. Her work is known not only for its enthralling worldbuilding and attention to detail, but perhaps more vitally for its incorporation of a subtle, tender, seeping sense of humanity. This is a writer who knows people, intimately; no matter how far-flung the universes she describes or how fantastical the species that inhabit them, her writing is pervaded by the sense that perhaps you aren’t so far from home after all. When I think of speculative fiction, when I think of science fiction and fantasy, I think of Ursula Le Guin before anyone else.

Ursula, I continued on and read some of your short stories after Earthsea—the tongue-in-cheek and surprisingly moving anthology Changing Planes (whose premise is that you can only switch dimensions while sitting in the interminable boredom of an airport waiting room), the clever and more serious pieces in The Birthday of the World and The Compass Rose. Short stories are, I think, where your brilliance really shines. They’re where your anthropological and sociological musings really take wing; many of them read as thought experiments—“in this world, what if there were humans but X was different about them?”

In The Matter of Seggri, men are incredibly rare and treated with a smothering, oppressive kind of nurture familiar to any modern woman. In The Fliers of Gy, some people are born with wings—the most quintessential of widespread human fantasies—but the frailty of their bodies and their maladaption to their own culture make it a tragedy and a horrifying curse rather than something to be coveted. In Unchosen Ways and Mountain Love, lovers navigate achingly familiar pains of love and loss and family rivalry in a society where marriage literally takes a village (or a moiety, more accurately). In each, you play so deftly deftly with race, gender, and sexuality, constantly and gently nudging us out of our most fundamental assumptions of what it is to experience each of those things by skillfully framing it in ways that don’t even feel like a lesson so much as a matter of fact “but it’s always been this . I grew up to be an anthropologist, like your father (and, in a very real sense I think, like you), and I think I know where that process started. You slowly, patiently, painstakingly taught me from afar one of the cornerstones of both speculative fiction and anthropology—learning to see the peculiar as normal and the normal as peculiar.

I also saw myself in your characters, both in the individual sense and in ways slightly more broad. Most of your protagonists are non-white and non-heterosexual, or at least play with the notion of what those designations even mean; plenty of them are non-male or non-binary-gender or both or neither or all genders and sexes at once. That was something that comforted me in an unprecedented way both as a young multiracial person and as a young, burgeoningly genderqueer and transgender person. I will admit—I regret to say that I didn’t read your most-lauded novelized study of gender, The Left Hand of Darkness, until relatively later in life, and was rather un-compelled by it. The notion that someone can be more than one sex or gender at once, and be loved by somebody not used to that concept, is perhaps a bit more underwhelming to read about when you’ve lived with it for a decade or two…But I read Coming of Age in Karhide, also set in Gethen, and loved it, felt myself coming of age into my gender a bit with every dreamy vivid line of it. I think for a lot of people, your works are the first time they’ve been exposed to some of these ideas in a digestible and slightly depoliticized way, and I can only imagine how much easier my life has been rendered because of that, through that behind the scenes absorption. (I am slightly tired, however, of having strangers tell me that I remind them of Gethenians.)
My favorite work by you, however, is the one I can barely begin to do justice to.

The Dispossessed has been (at least to me) shockingly divisive within my friend groups. Roughly half the people I’ve recommended it to have loved it so unconditionally that they took it as one of their own new personal favorites; the other half has hated it and thought it dull and uninteresting to the point of inanity. Regardless, I can cheerfully and blithely state that I have never read a book I enjoyed more purely, or that I found more in. I come back to The Dispossessed again and again and again—I read it for comfort during trying times, in moments when I worry that I’ve lost my way or my sense of self. I’ve been recording myself reading lines of it as I’ve gone on testosterone and my voice has been dropping, documenting the growth and change in more ways than one. The clean starkness of the world of Anarres and (at least initially) its inhabitants, the thoughtfulness and nuances of the political commentary…It starts on one level as a fairly straightforward conversation about anarchy, socialism, capitalism, and socioeconomic woe, but grows over time to be a much more convoluted dialogue on the nature of individualism, the inescapability of solitude, and the endless search we all of us make for that ephemeral, at times unreachable thing—home, and purpose, the sense that there is somewhere we belong.

I read Shevek’s story and feel the pang of sympathy for him a little bit differently every time. In high school, as a sense of camaraderie for someone reaching desperately for a goal that would make or break him by its attainment or his failure. In college, I resonated with his intensely personal realizations about utopia and revolution, of the ways people frequently recreate the things they fear or hate the most. After college, I’ve come to see the cleverness of his characterization, his flaws and egocentricities and anxieties, and search for how my own flaws shape my perception. Every year or two I come back to this book, these immortal settings and characters, and the sheer beauty and gracefulness of the multilayered arcs of the story takes my breath away. Futility and joy and arrogance and humility and camaraderie and isolation and breathless, breathless hope…

Nobody writes imperfection as perfectly and as compassionately as you do, with such a gentle and loving acceptance for both the beauty and monstrosity inherent to being human. You hold a mirror up to me, and of all the mirrors I’ve ever seen—I’m ok with looking into this one, and with the reflection I see in it.

Thank you, Ursula, for what you have given me—the gift, for once and forever, of sight.”

Patricia C. Wrede

Hi Pat!

I just want to take a second to thank you for the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I know, I know, they’re not your only books, and certainly not your most recent, but they were staple reading of my childhood, and staple rereading well beyond.

I actually read Searching for Dragons first, not out of any kind of strange desire to read books out of order, but because it was one of the books featured in my middle school class’s “Battle of the Books,”  where we were put into teams to collectively tackle a list of novels and then answer trivia questions about them (yes, I went to nerd school, which is for nerds). From BotB’s latest list, it looks like they have since corrected their oversight, and are including Dealing with Dragons instead. Phew, glad they figured that one out.

Still, Searching being my first encounter with your work was hardly a negative. After all, who’s to say the best introduction to the enchanted forest couldn’t be meeting its king (and his steward, of course), followed by a host of varied, lovable, and not-so-lovable characters?

Speaking of characters, I need to thank you particularly, Pat, for your female characters. I was going to make this section of my note exclusively about Cimorene, but upon reflection I think that would be a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, Cimorene is a great character — a girl who rejects entirely and repeatedly what society expects of her? who pursues her own wants and needs? who makes her own decisions and advocates for herself?!? yes, please, I’ll take fifty! — but she’s hardly your only one. There’s Morwen: practical and unapologetic; and Kazul: a responsible but fiery (har har) leader, among others.

Thank you for all of them, from giantesses to fire witches. Thank you for making so many other YA fantasy novels disappointing when the ladies in them fell flat by comparison.

-Louisa

J.R.R. Tolkien

Mr. Tolkien —

Greetings.

Will I ever forget these epic lines of yours?

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Thank you for helping begin the proliferation of the modern fantasy genre

Thank you for getting me started in constructing languages and religions and maps

Thank you for showing me how a true leader ought to act — like a king such as Aragorn or Théoden

Thank you for the writing highest model of friendship — Sam and Frodo

Thank you for the beautiful tribute to love in the tale of Beren and Lúthien

Thank you for the Silmarillion, whose tragic beauty (“it has passed from the high and the beautiful to darkness and ruin”) will haunt my soul forever

Thank you for your warning on human folly and hubris, when you wrote about Númenor

Thank you for reminding me, before anyone else did, that “day shall come again” (Silmarillion); and that “faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens” (The Fellowship of the Ring); and also that:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. (The Fellowship of the Ring)

And thank you for inspiring the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy that my brother and I must have watched over 50 times. This is still my adrenaline pill.

Many thanks, good sir. You are a most admirable man — a gentleman, war hero, and scholar of the highest caliber. I’m not blind to some of the criticisms of your works: its moral absolutism, the portrayal of non-Western humans, or of orcs, its excessive focus on description and travel, and so on. Or perhaps that criticism that too many works of fantasy were imperfect rip-offs of your work. These arguments all have validity. But on balance, admiration and appreciation win out.

Thank you.

-Akhi

Baroness Orczy

There are books stacked left, books stacked right
Their covers gleaming in the light
I scan through their pages, trying to tell
Which book report will be less like Hell

I find a book with the French Revolution
A mysterious figure at its core
Who’d spoil every gruesome execution
Sold! Do tell me more…

To the Estimable Baronness Orczy,

I was going to try and just keep going with that bit of silliness, playing upon the delightful poem you gave to Sir Percy Blakeney in your classic adventure novel. But it does set the stage: I was in eighth grade and had been assigned my first ever book report project. My English teacher had said it would take up the entirety of our final quarter of the school year and that we would work in groups although, if we wanted, we could opt to work alone at her approval. The kicker of it all was that she had a selection of books already laid out upon a table, so we were not only limited to her selection, but she was going to limit how many people could work on each book. I suspect this is because the majority of my class wanted to read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

I, on the other hand, made a point to pick up each book and flip through the first few pages. It’s like going on a first date with the book: you’re getting to know the writing style, pacing, and tonal gist of the whole thing. Near the end of the line I picked up a book with a cover I already knew I liked: A man, half-hidden in shadows, with a piece of paper bearing a seal that looked like some kind of red flower. He was clearly in France, given the decor of the soldiers who also graced the cover, and it was clearly sometime in the late 1700’s, one of my favourite eras of history. But then I quickly scan the back and it mentions something about a rogue character, known only as The Scarlet Pimpernel, snatching aristos from the fate of the guillotine.

Well colour me intrigued.

I opened your book and by the very first sentence I was completely hooked — I remember that sentence even now because the dark, mellifluous cadence of the words rings in my head like music:

“A surging, seething, mumuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.”

The effect those words had upon me was instantaneous: chills, inexplicable glee, and a physical need to know more. I took that book home and read it in one sitting which, while not wholly unusual for me, had never really happened a “school book” before. But your story transported me, and that was something I desperately needed in that moment. Thirteen wasn’t a great year for me: I had a bully, I was lonely and angry and had developed bad behaviours as coping mechanism (hello, Dad’s liquor cabinet)…and I was thirteen, full of all those hormonal changes, physical developments, and general state of confusion that comes with being thirteen. Yeah, it just wasn’t a great year.

But it was also the year I discovered your book; it was the year I first met Sir Percy and Lady Marguerite Blakeney. The first year that I got swept away on a swashbuckling, high-stakes adventure of cat-and-mouse, with people’s necks quite literally hanging in the balance. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath, I fell in love, I shook my fist at Chauvelin, and when all was said and done, I started it all over again. Your book gave me my own private adventure, and also made me first think the thought “I’d love to make a movie version of this,” which, in retrospect, is a pretty big deal.

To some people it may seem funny that I say a classic adventure novel is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life, and that I make a point to re-read it every year without fail — especially when, if you really look at the novel, it’s not some milestone in literature. It’s considered a classic and it’s an adventure, but nobody hailed you as the successor to, oh I don’t know, Dickens or something. But I don’t think you get enough credit for the characters and story that you created. I don’t think enough people have had the chance to enjoy the ride you wrote down in The Scarlet Pimpernel.

But I did. And it’s one of those books that shines bright in my memory as a literary milestone: a place where I can mark my life as “before this book” and “after this book.”

So thank you, Baroness Orczy. Thank you.


Nota bene: The poem at this letter’s start was a pastiche of the musical number “They Seek Him Here” from the 1997 musical adaptation of Baroness Orczy’s novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel. The song itself is adapted from the poem included in the novel. Please forgive the author of this letter for her general silliness.

Melina Marchetta

Dear Melina,

I have stayed awake all night reading a book exactly three times in my life. This is not because I don’t become engrossed in many of the books I read, but rather because I have actual anxiety about the amount of sleep I get. As someone who has been suffering from a particularly ugly kind of insomnia (difficulty falling asleep and the inability to stay asleep for more than 2 hours) since she was eight years old, bedtime is sacred to me. If I’m going to be even halfway functional as a human I need to be in bed for at least ten hours every night, and I do not push that.

So when I tell you that you wrote one of the books that I stayed up all night to read, I need you to understand that this is a huge thing. The only other books that have this distinction are Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, which is my all-time favorite novel and the subject of my undying love and devotion, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I read immediately after its midnight release largely because my brother was going to spoil the ending for me if he finished it first (and also I’m from the generation that grew up with Harry Potter, so that was a major life event for me as well).

Essentially what I’m trying to tell you is that your Lumatere Chronicles really blew my mind. I picked up Finnikin of the Rock during a stage in my life where I had a complicated relationship with YA literature, especially YA Fantasy. I was a graduate student with fairly limited time to read for pleasure so I was drawn to YA Fantasy books because they were shorter and easier reads than their adult counterparts. But I was growing increasingly frustrated because they also lacked a lot of the substance and heart that drew me to most of the fantasy stories that I adored. I was worried I was outgrowing the genre, potentially losing some of my identity as a reader. I was disillusioned with myself and the stories I was consuming. Finnikin of the Rock was my light in that dark time. While I did not read it in one sitting, I did read it in two, and it was the first book in probably years that had me longing for it when I was away from it, that had me thinking about it all day and arranging my work such that I’d have ample time to read it when I got home from classes.

I was so excited about it that I bought copies for my roommates and forced it on my boyfriend at the time (who has since married me, for whatever that’s worth). I immediately purchased both Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn, and I read Froi in one sitting that Saturday and stayed up until 6 am on Sunday to finish Quintana of Charyn.

I then proceeded to re-read the series three times over the next month. They left me deeply satisfied on an emotional level and had my brain firing on all cylinders. Several of my own darker fantasy projects are more than slightly influenced by The Lumatere Chronicles and it is the first series I recommend to anyone who wants to read a good fantasy.

So thank you for restoring my faith in literature and for reminding me what it was like to be an avid reader, to be some consumed by a story that it became the only thing that mattered. You are amazing, truly.

Much love and gratitude,
Rebecca

Ursula LeGuin

Dear Ursula,

When I was younger, my father suggested two book series to me: the Chronicles of Narnia and the Earthsea Trilogy. I read C.S. Lewis’s books and enjoyed them, but they didn’t speak to me the same way yours did.

It was my first experience with truly great world-building. The islands of Earthsea were filled with characters and creatures that felt rich and real. My first magical school wasn’t Hogwarts, but Roke with its Masters and students. I was fascinated by the way that words held power in your world, that to completely know a thing, you must know its true name. I quickly devoured The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore, entranced by Ged’s journey. There was something poignant in the way that his nemesis wasn’t some external evil, but one of his own creation.

Time went by, and I rediscovered your work in high school in The Left Hand of Darkness, which encouraged me to see the world in a different light through gender. Always Coming Home did the same though anthropology, The Dispossessed through socialism. Your work is the epitome of what science fiction should be: shifting stories to other times and spaces to reveal truths about our own.

In college, I had the privilege of taking a class from one of your colleagues in which we read several science fiction novels written by women. While it certainly opened my eyes to many authors, some of whom are now among my favorites, the core message of the class I already knew thanks to you: that science fiction and fantasy writing, like any field, is made better through diversity.

I sincerely thank you for your work and your talent, and I look forward to the time when I can pass on your stories to my children the way they were passed to me.

-Christopher

Jennifer Donnelly

“I tried to be goodly. I tried to be godly. But I got so tired of being ignored. Cry your grief to God. Howl to the heavens. Tear your shirt. Your hair. Your flesh. Gouge out your eyes. Carve out your heart. And what will you get from Him? Only silence. Indifference…Because God loves us, but the devil takes an interest.”

Dear Jennifer Donnelly,

2014 was a strange and tumultuous year for me. When I read your book, Revolution, I had only just learned that the full-time job I was in was not going to exist by the end of the year. That I was soon to be 23 and unemployed, unmoored in life, and suffering inside. It was an emotional maelstrom, and then suddenly, while audiobook-surfing my library’s website at midnight, I found Revolution. I found this novel I knew nothing about, but that presented me Andi and Alexandrine, two young women fighting against hatred, inaction, despair, and the ever-elusive search for hope.

I suddenly felt alive, torn apart one thread at a time by the glorious harmonic dissonance of your writing — as if you had transcribed the beauty of the diabolus in musica and minor keys into words. The angry splatters of red blood was my own roiling confusion and rage; the swooping blackness of these characters’ true despair was my own disillusionment and self-loathing. It was beautiful and terrifying all at once.

It was the full-colour spectrum of my emotions displayed out before me: taken apart and then, as if by magic, put ever so slowly back together. Because what you wrote, Ms. Donnelly, rang so profoundly true to real life that I had never at that point been so cathartically and emotionally wrung-out in a long time, and it was everything I needed in that moment. It was ecstasy, in all the pain and joy that word implies.

I suppose that means you were the “devil” of this story — who broke the painful silence and, just by writing this book, took an interest.

And so, thank you for writing this. For giving me a novel that, even thinking back now, reminds of the pain it put me through — how it amplified my own darkness and forced me to stare into the void in order to confront it, to deal with it in a healthy way: through fiction, through Andi and Alexandrine by proxy.

And thank you, also, for writing stories of young women trying to be themselves when the world or even their own mind tries to sway them otherwise. Young women like myself greatly appreciate everything you bring to us.

Sincerely,
Madeleine, who also wears a red ribbon