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message 1: by L.H. (new)

L.H. Nicole | 67 comments Mod
Okay readers! We have our June book of the month. GODLESS by PETE HAUTMAN.
I won't be reading this one due to life getting crazier, but I look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts!
Enjoy it!

Peggy Hawthorne | 82 comments I'm excited to re-read this one.

Summer is a busy time, so if you're on the fence about picking this one up, I'll point out that it's a quick book: just a hair under 40K words.

Peggy Hawthorne | 82 comments PS Does everyone know about


?? You can search just about any book and get the word count, reading level, interest level, etc. Very useful!

message 4: by Amy (new)

Amy | 3 comments Great resource! Thanks!


message 5: by Kate (new)

Kate Dane | 20 comments Hi--
I just finished Godless last night. At first I wasn't fond of the main character, but by the end of the book I thought he'd grown a lot. The cast of characters had a lot of differences that were well-played out. And the main character's habit of seeing himself as the star of events was a nice device for humor. Really excellent read! Keeping away from spoilers :0

Peggy Hawthorne | 82 comments I really love this book. I think the construction is incredibly tight, the issues are fascinating, and the teen boy pov is deep and accurate. It's compelling for a grown-up but also, I think, accessible to all high schoolers, even those who aren't dedicated readers. A worthy winner of the National Book Award.

message 7: by Gregory (new) - added it

Gregory Henry (gmhenry) | 13 comments Not a lot of comments in June... I confess, I got caught up in things myself and didn't finish this read until July 3 or so.

When I finished reading this book, it caused me to think about something. Now I'm not sure how much this actually has to do with Godless or not, but I'll let others be the judge.

Namely, in many YA stories, there is a theme of "work and reward". That is, the protagonists face hardships and conflict and struggle, but they also get "gifted" by the author. They gain something tangible. They get the girl/boy. They save the town. They finally win their parent's respect. They gain fantastic life-long friends. Whatever. The point is that they may struggle, but with that struggle comes rewards.

With some YA books, I've seen these rewards are almost unnatural. That is, suddenly the protagonist becomes the most popular guy/girl in school. Or, they start getting things like the coolest person becomes their significant other. Or they get money and riches without doing anything. I've often wondered, as an author myself, if this is wise on the part of the author. To me, it seems unnatural if every good person automatically loves the hero/heroine, and every bad person automatically becomes their enemy. But maybe some YA readers identify with the protagonist in a novel and so when authors start throwing "gifts" the way of the protagonist, the reader starts feeling good. Is that possible? I don't know. To me, it just seems unnatural still. But maybe this is an element of great writing I've not learned yet.

But what does any of this have to do with Godless? Simple. Look closely at Jason's story. What does he actually gain in this book? I don't want to toss out a bunch of spoilers, but there are many things he could have gotten, that he doesn't. I kept expecting something fantastic to come from his "false God", but nothing ever did come from it, except some wisdom. Can't discount wisdom! The guy does grow a lot. Which is wonderful. But... in many ways the ONLY benefit he gains is internal. As far as "gifts" are concerned, there are many other things the author could have done for Jason.

So here's why I get thinking about these sorts of things. As an author myself, figuring out the proper amount to "gift" your characters is a challenge. Of course we know we must throw conflict their way. But gifts? That's harder to figure out.

And looking at Godless, I think the author did the right thing. I kept wondering how he'd keep the story from getting into religious offense with the idea of the protagonist starting his own religion. But the issue was side-skirted completely, due to the clever decision not to throw many gifts at Jason for his religion. In other words, the measure of gifting matched the story masterfully. And so it leads me to think about this- what is the perfect amount of "gifting" for your latest WIP?

Just some thoughts. Sorry if it's not super profound...


Peggy Hawthorne | 82 comments Gregory wrote: "what is the perfect amount of "gifting" for your latest WIP?"

Great comment, Gregory!

Peggy Hawthorne | 82 comments I loved the book, Kate thought it was excellent & Gregory admired the author's decisions re the very interesting point he brought up (=the gift issue).

I think that's consensus in a very small group. One question is, why was the reading group for this book so small? Maybe just because people are busy with other things over the summer. But I think there's a second possibility, one connected to marketing and finding a readership.

Godless doesn't have a good genre handle. I would describe it as very accessible literary fiction. It's a coming-of-age story that deals with friendship, faith, first love (or attraction, at any rate), and a teenage boy's relationship to adult authority.

Of course, for a book of this type, it's got a striking high concept (=teenage boy invents his own religion). The National Book Award prize should also draw a lot of attention.

Question for the larger group: if you've got a realistic contemporary novel that isn't primarily romance/sports/mystery etc., how do you get people interested in it? What are some recent books of this type that have really grabbed people?

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