And as usual, I’m pairing a link to the latest post with a repost of one of my responses to an earlier post in the series. This one was my answer to Colleen’s question about book recommendations for girls for holiday gifts. And you know, um, St. Patrick’s Day? It’ll be all about the book-buying, right?
At the risk of being a. obvious and/or b. a suckup, I would like to begin by suggesting that many fine books one could purchase for a twelve year old girl for whatever holidays one might celebrate have, in fact, been written by my esteemed fellow What A Girl Wants panelists.
That said, I’ll do what I’ve done so often in previous responses to this series: return to a book that was highly significant to my twelve year old self. In fact, I mentioned this title in my first WAGW response, but I have more to say.
I reread Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising every year around this time. Will Stanton comes into his power as an Old One as his family celebrates first his birthday and then Christmas. The weight of the struggle between the Light and the Dark is balanced by the weight of holiday traditions, both within Will’s family and in the larger world. Over and over, Will is pulled away from a warm, festive context to confront the menace of the Dark. Over and over, he sees himself with double vision, both as the eleven year old boy he still technically is and the Old One that he is, too: alert to threats, and all too aware of the limitations of the adults around him.
Am I making the book sound grim, too depressing to be a holiday gift? It isn’t. There’s affection, there’s humor, there’s adventure. But once Will is fully conscious of his identity as an Old One, Cooper never lets the reader forget that his life and the way he relates to those around him has really, significantly, irrevocably changed. And the constant awareness of that fundamental shift in the protagonist’s relationship to his world, even as the reader is pulled along through the turns and twists of the plot — that’s one of the qualities that sets The Dark is Rising apart, making it a book that a reader can return to, even when she’s very far away from twelve.