Darkness and Light: Lessons from My June Reading

If a character, or story, is going to hold my attention, there has to be a certain degree of complexity.  A strong character has a flaw.  A seemingly weak character must also have  has to have an unexpected strength.  A dark character has to reach for the light.  Here are just a few examples of authors who delivered this up in my June reading.

A strong character has to have a flaw:  With  Into the Night, Brockmann gives us a Navy SEAL who is pretty much the poster boy, the SEAL of SEALs.  He’s tall and strong and amazingly handsome.   Focused on a mission, he can run down a mountain on a broken knee.  But, at heart, he’s still the fat geek other kids mocked, the boy no one noticed.  It’s why he pushes himself so hard.

A seemingly weak character has to have an unexpected strength:  In The Archangel Project, C. S. Graham has created a character who is pretty much this SEAL’s opposite.  She may be ex-military but she made it out on a psychiatric discharge with a bullet in one leg.  She has almost no self confidence but when the bad guys are on the move, she has moves they never saw coming.  Hint:  Not everything makes it into a file folder, fellows.

A dark character has to reach for the light.  Baldacci delivers a story (The Hit) of not one but two government snipers (the polite term for trained assassin).  In spite of what they do for a living, both struggle with a deep desire to preserve some kind of connection to a normal life.  One does this by holding onto past connections. The other forges connections in the present.  Neither character is fully what you would expect from a trained killer.  There is some light to offset the darkness.

I know what you’re thinking.  Look at the covers!   Action novels are going to have dark characters.  And that’s true.  But I read action novels for a reason.   They have high stakes problems and characters that aren’t all fluff.  If you can’t deliver this kind of complexity to me, as a reader, I may make it through one book, but I’m probably not going to look for another.  I’m just saying.

Here is my full reading list for June.

  1. Baldacci, David.  The Hit.
  2. Barrett, Tracy.  King of Ithaca (Henry Holt and Company)
  3. Bragg, Georgia.  How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous (Walker)
  4. Brockmann, Suzanne.  Into the Night (Ballantine Books)
  5. Burgan, Michael.  Raising the Flag: How a Photograph Gave a Nation Hope in Wartime (Compass Point Books, A Capstone Imprint)
  6. Chevalier, Tracy.  The Last Runaway (Dutton)
  7. Colandro, Lucille.  There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves (Scholastic/Cartwheel)
  8. Graham, C. S. The Archangel Project (Harper)
  9. James, Miranda.  Classified as Murder (Penguin)
  10. Kroll, Steven.  The Biggest Snowman Ever (Scholastic/Cartwheel)
  11. McCourtney, Lorena.  Dying to Read (Revell)
  12. Morris, Jennifer.  May I Please Have a Cookie? (Scholastic/Cartwheel)
  13. Nesbitt, Ken.  More Bears! (Sourcebooks/Jaberwocky)
  14. Reagan, Jean.  How to Babysit a Grandpa (Knopf)
  15. Remkiewicz, Frank.  Gus Makes a Gift (Scholastic/Cartwheel)
  16. Sheinkin, Steve.  Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (Roaring Brook Press)
  17. Somar, David.  Ladybug Girl (Dial Books for Young Readers)
  18. Yolen, Jane and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy Tale Voices with a Twist (Wordsong)