By Aashna Moorjani
Visualize a bookshelf—seven feet tall, white, crammed with books. The middle sags, enough to worry my mom that one day the shelves will give out and bury me in an avalanche of books. If you were in the room with me, I’d ask you to choose any book, because I have a gift (well, I like to think of it as a gift): I can tell you exactly what was happening in my real life at the time I read whichever book you choose. Seeing as you cannot choose, I chose on your behalf.
City of Bones
Summer 2013. I’m in theater camp with my friend, Thalia. She’d convinced me to join, though we don’t hang out much while we’re there. Instead, I sit with rapt attention, listening to the older kids. One girl spoke of Jace Valentine slaying demons in New York, tattooed with magical runes. She kept her Kindle in dark mode, even when the sun was up, so I knew she had excellent reading taste…
My own Kindle is now in dark mode. YA fiction rocks. Who knew? Did you know that this book also has vampires? And angels? And teenagers who drink alcohol? I can’t believe that Clary and Jace are related! Plot twist! How can Clary not love Simon? Jace is such a jerk. I hope he dies next. Oh, wait. Jace plays the piano? Could I love him more? Whoa, Izzy needs to slow down with Simon. He’s too sweet for her. Maybe I shouldn’t tell my parents I read this book.
October 2013. “Mom I can’t go to school today.” “Oh, why not, beta?” “Well, you see, there’s this book releasing—”
“Have fun at school.”
Here we go. How can I possibly focus on saturated solutions when I know that in just 15 hours the entire world is going to change forever? …
It’s midnight, baby! Time to read! Do I still have a bedtime? Doesn’t matter. I just know this book will be great. TWO perspectives instead of just one? Sweet. Wait. The whole world from the last two books was a lie? Who knew? Who? Why do Tris and Four sound exactly the same? Where are the side characters? Who’s the villain? How can I go to school tomorrow morning when Tris is dead? Who kills off the protagonist? That’s illegal, Veronica Roth! I’ll see you on Goodreads.
Pride and Prejudice
Winter 2017. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mrs. D’alessio loves students who pick Jane Austen books for their classic books project. So, Jane Austen I shall read. She is, after all, well known for a reason. Her books must be good. Either way, as long as I can find something competent to write an essay about, I’ll be good…
Holy smokes. I am convinced I belong in the white upper class of England in the 1790s. Who knew their lives were so interesting? Elizabeth thinks like a YA Heroine! How is that even possible? And don’t get me started on Mr. Darcy. Why am I so anxious about this romance when I know what’s going to happen in the end? If only love stories today wrapped up so neatly. Alas, the likes of Mr. Darcy no longer exist. I shall live vicariously through Elizabeth by rereading that romantic speech until the day I die. *Swoon*
The Hunger Games
Spring 2019. All I want to do is sleep. When they said sophomore year breaks you, they were right. I can’t remember the last time I sleep for a full eight hours and even my dreams are haunted by cellular respiration. Wait! I didn’t catch the last slide of the notes. Great. There goes my Bio grade. I’m never going to make it. It’s impossible to study with a liquefied brain, though I guess I’ll need to try. No! How did I miss another slide? …
I always knew these books were good. Solid five stars for each. How did the books manage to get even better with time? The movies got it all wrong, reduced this book to its simplest themes. These are children. Dying. Katniss and I are the same age. I feel sick? No. No! I already mourned. I already made my peace with this book. Why am I in pain again? I seriously need to stop wasting time worrying about a story I already read. No one warned me that rereading would be such a painful experience. Peeta Mellark doesn’t belong in Bio class.
Winter 2019. If only I had the second Charlotte Holmes book downloaded on my Kindle. How can there still be four hours left on this flight? Maybe I should sleep. Staying up past four in the morning everyday with the cousins was fun, though taxing. I remember Texas being so much closer to New Jersey. Focus! It’s time to sleep. Although, I do have the book that was on sale during Prime Day…
Snore. How did this book win a Pulitzer Prize? Wait. If it’s so boring, why can’t I put it down? No. Don’t you see? Arthur is me. He is everyone who has ever been in a rut. He doesn’t let the world defeat him! He still sees something worth seeing. He still falls in love. I am Arthur Less. I view the world like a 50-year-old gay white man. Exactly! We might sometimes look like fools, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be marveled at in the world. Life is extraordinary. Everyone must read this. I will MAKE everyone read this.
Call Me by Your Name
Spring 2020. My God. That, that—wow. What a beautiful movie. I know it’s two in the morning, but honestly, it’s not like I have school anymore. Quarantine is meant for movies. I’m being healthy by taking this time to relax. Totally healthy. I should definitely rewatch the movie right now. There’s no way the book can come close to THIS Oscar-nominated masterpiece. No way…
Elio? Oliver? Man, I wish I’d bought a physical copy of this book so that I had something to clutch to my chest right now while crying. I can’t remember the last time I cried reading any book. They were perfect for each other. Simply perfect. Why did Oliver leave? How could he marry someone else? Is it possible, really possible, to love someone your entire life? Even when you change into a different person?
I’ve always been wary of talking about how books make me feel. I know all too well how explaining my passion for books can turn a pleasant conversation into an awkward exchange of goodbyes. I wish I could actually get people to listen, without judgement, as I point to the books on my big, beautiful shelf. No one ever lets me get this far in explaining my “gift.” Pretty lousy way to entice someone into listening, huh? Well, lucky for me, you couldn’t mutter an awkward goodbye.
But I don’t want to be embarrassed about the grief and fury and love that books make me feel. I don’t want to pretend I was thinking about something smart, like the law of cosines, when I was really daydreaming about late eighteenth century England. So what if I seem weird? I am weird. By hiding this part of myself, the part that lives in my bookshelf, I come closer and closer to losing it. I’m not willing to make that sacrifice. Not anymore.