Excerpt of Fiction Work by Emma Tompkins
“Sometimes the braver thing is to accept help when you've been made to believe you shouldn't need it.”
Anything can happen in the world of young adult fiction. It is the marriage of magic and mythology that makes for delightful reading, beneath glossy, angsty book covers. I never know what I am going to get here, but I think the risk is worth it because it incites honest discussions about mental health and asking for help: that I do need. I haven’t always found that in the church. I need to see flesh and blood heroes fight reflections of the demons that live inside my head. What qualities should I cultivate? How do I excise the poisonous doubts in my mind? Alexandra Bracken’s Lore exploded upon my bedtime reading as any book that references kleos, arete, and xenia correctly must be worth my time. Melora Perseous is a grown-up Percy Jackson. It shocked me to learn how academic young adult fantasy can be. Alexandra Bracken has read her ancient epics, weaving references to the wine dark sea and rosy-fingered dawn into descriptions of New York City. Granted, there is a little more cursing than I would prefer. I do a lot of self-editing of the language when I read young adult books, but, as Matthew Carpenter claims, cursing can at times be in good taste to communicate the gravity of the situation in a way no other phrasing can. The young adult fiction section is not as safe as the Christian fiction section that would like to deny any other sexual ethic exists. However, it also leads to a 408-page novel that I as an English major can genuinely appreciate for fun, but I do not need to turn my brain totally off because the plot line is complex unlike the cookie-cutter, white-girl Christian fiction that I have read – and loved – for years. Why should the church ask me to be satisfied with plots that always go in a straight line? Circles, squiggles, and zigzags reflect the messy world that I live in. The church should embrace honest depictions to prepare me for the world outside the narthex. Lore is not quite as clear about good and evil in the world, but isn’t that what the real world is like? Characters are constantly struggling to understand who to trust, who to forgive. And I know I often live in shades of grey, not the black and white I wish was present in every situation. So, when white becomes diluted, what should I do? Fantasy provides a hundred different ways to experiment with answers and their logical conclusions. Thus, Bracken leads me on an odyssey to explore what it means to find the morality within a confused world. Who are my allies, who are my dragons? I’m going to have to find out, but I’m not alone. Everyone else is on the same journey. So, I’m going to keep looking. I’m going to keep reading. I’m going to keep thinking.
by: Emma Tompkins