April 1st, 2013

Lisa Coffee

Writing Books that Matter

On today's episode of "Lisa's Journey to Read Every Free YA Ebook," I report on two very different stories. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a gutting, inspired-by-true-events saga of a girl taken from Lithuania to Siberian work camps.  Think "Diary of Anne Frank" set in the snow and winter dark.  It's beautifully written and plotted.  I finished reading it, and I felt like I'd eaten my spinach.  This was a book worth reading and therefore worth writing.

On the other hand, I read Melissa Kantor's The Breakup Bible.  With witty prose by a post-breakup narrator, it's just a fun read. Think a smarter Bridget Jones in high school.  Honestly, I probably enjoyed reading it more than Between Shades of Gray. Sure, it touched on some important themes like love and racial identity, but I appreciated a bit of escapism and a happy ending.  This book was like a fluffy pink cupcake--fun, light, and oh-so-tasty.

I thought it fitting that I read these books close to one another, as they symbolize an inner debate I've had for a while.  What kind of book should I write?  A serious, issue-driven book with a message people need to hear (Between Shades of Gray), or a book that is lighter on message and bigger on fun (Breakup Bible).  What kind of a book is worth writing?


When I began writing, I thought I needed to craft a Sepetys-style epic to really matter as a writer.  I wrote that kind of book, and I do love it.  But I don't know whether it's big enough or good enough to venture even close to Between Shades of Gray territory.  I wonder if I'll sound melodramatic and cheesy to my readers.

My second book, on the other hand, hints at bigger themes of true love and family, but I mostly just have fun writing it.  It's silly and probably sometimes slapstick, but I definitely escape to a happy place when I write it.  Nobody will consider me a Serious Author if I ever get this published.  But I think Andrea and Nikki like this one better than the first because of its fun factor.

I have to believe that readers value both spinach and a pink cupcake.  Sometimes you're in the mood for a big read; other times, it's overwhelming to add the woes of the world to your own.

What do you think?  What kind of book is worth writing/reading?