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