Just think of the last time you bought a Hersey’s Bar. Maybe you purchased it at the grocery store, the gas station…. Tractor Supply Company – seriously, they’re easy to come by. You’ve eaten one a thousand times, and part of the pleasure of downing it is getting just what you expect. You ate without much thought, except to say, ‘Yum,’ as you licked the last of it from your fingers. Then you went on with your day.
I'd wager that you didn’t really think about details of taste and feel. The nuances, the color, the scent. But the next time you crave a quick chocolate fix, your brain will tell you that a Hersey’s Bar is an acceptable and yummy choice. It’s satisfying for the moment, but not really MEMORABLE, is it.
By contrast...there’s the gourmet truffle you had yesterday or last week or last year at that fancy chocolate shop across town. You had to drive through traffic, pay to park, walk a block or two to the shop, get there and realize you forgot to lock your car just as the heavens open and it sheets – I mean SHEETS – rain, borrow a dinky umbrella that does absolutely no good against such a force, slosh back two blocks to your car, lock it and slosh back to the shop. But when once you had finally ordered ‘The Buddha,’ a truffle made with coconut milk, ginger, and cayenne pepper (not to mention a thick, dark hot chocolate and 7 layer chocolate cake to go with it), eating it was a mind-altering…no life-altering experience. The truffle demanded to be savored. You couldn't do anything but ponder its detail. Wonder over its depth. You had to put it down for awhile and ask if you were ready for such a complex melding of flavors and textures. You even wrapped it up and took it home to enjoy later. And oh – the exquisite pleasure of that last bite. And the stab of sorrow over the fact that it was gone.
You can’t look at chocolate the same way now. Sure, that itty-bitty truffle took a lot of effort to purchase and cost a heck of a lot more ounce for ounce than the Hersey’s Bar.
But you do see where I’m going with this lengthy analogy, right?
Some stories are like that Hersey’s Bar - fun and engaging and a terrific momentary ride. Others have a depth you aren’t sure you’re ready for, but the challenge is so compelling you can’t help but nibble and brood and question until you hit that perfect center and finish it with every sense heightened and your very outlook changed. Weeks, months, years later, you remember how it impacted you. You want to experience it all over again. You want to study the reasons it worked so well. You want to ponder and wonder and tell people how much you loved it and why. And soon, someday soon, you will read it again.
Okay...I admit that the comparison has me craving the dark stuff (and I don’t mean the kind mentioned in Meghan Cox Gurdon’s article for the Wall Street Journal, “Darkness Too Visible,” an essay that has the YA community in a frenzy).
I’m thinking more along the lines of a cup of Ghirardelli Hazelnut Hot Chocolate and a microwaved s’more….
But just imagine if publishers or bookstores (or reviewers such as Gurdon) categorized books by chocolate, rather than commercial vs. literary, ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, genre or targeted age group. “Now if you like Godiva…” my favorite librarian might say, “Try ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. But if you’re going for a 80% cacao content, you’ve got to read, OCTAVIAN NOTHING.” Sure would make browsing the shelves a lot more fun, don’t you think?
You try it. What chocolate (brand or bar or otherwise) would you compare your most recent YA read to?
Me? I just finished ARIEL by Grace Tiffany. I’d say it’s a gourmet version of Butterfinger. Kind of weird and fantastic in a peanut-buttery-sweet-stick-in-your teeth sort of way.
Now it's your turn!