Monday, October 3, 2011

The elusive "perfect" novel: a contagious post

Just in time for flu season, a contagious post.

No, wait... put down the Vitamin C and the flu shot.

This is the good kind of contagious! I promise.

Katy Upperman has a great post today about perfect novels, and more so: what makes a novel perfect for YOU. What a great idea-- this would make a good blogfest, Katy!

Katy's list included romance, relatable main characters, flawless writing with engaging dialogue, a unique setting, and the unexpected. Visit her post to find out how she elaborates on these, and provides examples of exactly what she means.

Now, what would you find on my list?

I love a circular story with twists and turns that keep me intrigued. But by the end they must make sense in a logical way, like Jellicoe Road or Holes. I don't want twists and turns that leave me frustrated an unfulfilled.

I love when the MC is someone you think you know, but then realize is more complex. Maybe the main character is headstrong and you discover that she/he is vulnerable. Maybe the main character has been a total jerk, and you finally understand why. Melina Marchetta does this well, but in very different ways, in both Jellicoe Road and The Piper's Son.

I love a book that makes me think. Books that you puzzle over long after you've read them. Feed, A Wrinkle in Time, Divergent, and When you Reach Me come to mind.

Finally, I adore a mystery, but it doesn't have to be the "Mrs. Peacock in the drawing room with the lead pipe" sort. I think almost all books have a mystery, it's just not as emphasized in other genres (for good reason). This ties in with my love of twists and turns above. I love a mystery that gives you just enough clues to make guesses along the way, and one where you discover the truth just as the MC does. Or even better, a page or two ahead of the MC, but not in the first chapter.

What would be in your perfect novel? What makes a novel perfect for you?


  1. Great job! I'll read just about anything that doesn't involve excessive stuff. For me, a perfect novel is snuggling into the sofa, reading for an hour and not realizing how many pages I've read.

  2. I posted my list at Katy's site, so go there if you want to see it. Thanks for the link--this was a good exercise. Reminds me of what needs to be in my own work.

  3. Aww, thanks for the shout-out, and I'm glad you decided to do a whole post on this.

    Yes, please, to the circular story. That's a big part of the reason I love JELLICOE ROAD so much. Everything loops around at the end in this amazing, mind-blowing way.

    Great post, Katherine!

  4. I saw this post earlier today, and I loved it, too. Hmm, the circular story definitely does a lot for a reader. I'd love to read more of those.

  5. I definitely agree with the part about books that make you think long after you've finished reading them. Those are the kinds that stick with me for life. :)

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  7. You are so right - this would make a perfect blog fest. Katy's post was so "perfect" and I love that you piggy-backed on this!
    *rethinks blog post for Friday*
    I love your recipe for a perfect novel - I would like to add to that with a sprinkle of humor and a dash of super strong voice and a definite cup of hot, hot romance.

    Beautiful post, Kat!

  8. Ahh, too true Kittie. Is there anything better than wasting a day with a book? I can't wait until my boys are both reading.

    I'll check it out Colin!

    Aw, thanks to you Katy! I loved this idea, and it's such a powerful thing to understand-- what it IS that you love about the books you love.

    Totally true, Rida- I love it when it's done well.

    Absolutely, Jess. It really distinguishes a book for me.

    Thanks, Allison! How could I forget humor, voice and romance!! I hope you do your own, I'd love to read it. :0)

  9. Very timely for me. I just finished The Hunger Games series. It's so outside of something I'd normally read and yet I could not put those books down. I wrote about why in my post this week. But frankly, even after pondering it in a post, I'm still not exactly sure why it drew me in so much. I was addicted!

  10. First, congratulations on getting an agent!!! Hooray--happy dance ensues!
    Second, the perfect novel for me makes me laugh and cry (preferably not at the same time) AND leaves me feeling hollow when I finished because I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S OVER! Nice post.

  11. @Nina- loved your post about the HG series.

    Aww, thanks Christa- I appreciate it. Ooh, all good things (laughing, crying, and not wanting it to end).

  12. A book goes high on my list when I feel like I've been underwater. STOLEN did that for me.

    Congrats on getting an agent!

  13. Thanks for several reading suggestions in this post!

    I do enjoy a good mystery, exactly the sort you describe. And if you like circular plots, you probably like Charles Dickens, in which case you would probably also like Charles Palliser's Quincunx!


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