Monday, September 29, 2014

"Blood of My Blood"

Barry Lyga is, in the words of Kirkus, a “YA-rebel author.” He lives in New York City, where he is pretty sure he’s being stalked by a serial killer. Either that, or the guy just likes shopping at the same bodega.

Lyga applied the Page 69 Test to Blood of My Blood, the concluding volume in the I Hunt Killers trilogy, and reported the following:
So, I applied the Page 69 Test to Blood of My Blood. And I crapped out.

Spoilers follow. Beware.

Because page 69 is in no way representative of the book as a whole, unless you count “creepy sense of ickiness” as representative. Which I suppose it is, but only in the most superficial way. Sure, the book is creepy and icky, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

Page 69 is the first page of Chapter 9. And Chapter 9, as luck would have it, is the only chapter in the damn book written from the POV of the Hat Killer.

That’s right: The page I was asked to look to for “representation” is the start of a complete fluke of a chapter, a unique moment in the book, as we look into the head of a character we will never, ever see again, Duncan Hershey, the Hat Killer.

Now, granted, it’s not like it’s a bad chapter. And, yeah, it starts off pretty well: “Duncan Hershey did not anticipate taking any pleasure in killing his wife and children. It was just something he would have to do.”

Some would argue that this is precisely representative of the book: the flat, affectless decision of mayhem, the matter-of-fact-ness of it all.

But the page continues in Hershey’s head and it’s really a sort of checklist almost of what is to come for him. And since (spoiler!) he’ll be killed before the chapter’s over it’s all sort of moot, isn’t it?

Let me try to turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse. Even though Blood of My Blood fails the Page 69 Test, I think we can learn something from this failure. Chapter 9 may not be representative of the book itself, but it’s still important to the story. So even if something does not directly reflect the themes of the larger tale, it can still resonate and have an impact on the narrative.

Something to remember the next time the book you’re reading — or writing! — seems to diverge for a moment. Or a chapter.
Visit Barry Lyga's website.

--Marshal Zeringue