This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick is a glorious enigma of a book, and a puzzle that I hope no reader will ever fully solve. Therefore, I won’t seek to explain it or expand much on the plot. Instead, I want to talk about where this book took me. It seems appropriate that while reading a book that was set in multiple times and places, I was taken back to multiples times and places in my own reading life. Midwinterblood magically transported me back to two times that I might call golden ages in my reading history.
I will call the first (forgive the melodrama) the Age of Surrender. This time period of my reading life spanned from ages 12-16. I did most of my reading at that time during summer vacations. I had very few responsibilities and distractions, and, so was more able to surrender my time and attention fully to whatever book I was reading. I think I was also able to surrender my judgement to the world of the book and only the world of the book.
These days, as a teen librarian, I read editorial reviews, blogs, and follow my fellow librarians on Goodreads. It is almost impossible to read any YA book without hearing the interrupting voices of critics. I miss that Age of Surrender when I had no baggage to check at the first page. Midwinterblood took me back to this place for two reasons. First, unlike prior Printz Award winners, I hadn’t heard much about it. (Though this may have been because I was in my final months of library school when it came out). Second, the world of the book was so intriguing, beautiful, strange and unprecedented that my own critical voice, which usually stands outside the story and makes disruptive comments, was silenced. I felt like I was back to those summers of reading without distraction, and before it became almost impossible not to approach books as a critic. I felt like I was reading like a teen again, which is one of the best gifts a YA novel can give an adult reader.
I will call the second golden age of my reading history the Age of Analysis. This age spanned from ages 18-21 and coincided directly with being an undergraduate English major. Almost all the books I read during this age were later dissected and analyzed and mined for symbolism, and all interpretations, as long as they were properly supported by the text, were valid. There was no right answer, and we were never really going to figure out exactly what the author was telling us, but that was the most thrilling part of studying literature. Readers of Midwinterblood will find countless symbols, motifs and ideas to pursue if they want to capture the heart of the story. The fun of it is– they are never really going to capture it.
Midwinterblood was by far my favorite book of YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge, not only because the world of the book took me multiple places at once, but also because the reading experience took me back to multiple reading eras in my own reading life.