My parents and I still don't get along very well, but without books, I would have run away by now.
I first started reading when I was three or four. My mother would lock me in my room for an hour with a Rainbow Magic book while she took a nap. I would pour over the pages for the hour, and be done with the book by the time she let me out. My collection grew and grew, and so did my appreciation for fantasy books.
Whenever she yelled at me, whenever my parents ganged up on me, I'd run to my room and grab a book. When I was younger, it was to read if I got the chance; normally I'd have to throw it in a last-minute chance to keep my parents from spanking the bejesus out of me. My dad would hold me down and my mom would do the honors; afterward, the only thing that made me feel better was diving into a whole new place. When I was older and my dad flipped the lock around on my door so I could lock it myself, I would lock myself in and read every book in my room.
Books became my go-to shelter. I'd go to demonic New York, to Hogwarts, to Salem Falls, Massachusetts, to Ancient Greece, to dystopian Chicago, to Perdido Beach, California, to mystical faerie realms and vampire towns. Whenever reality became too much to bear, I left it behind.
Whenever I was hysterical and barely clinging to sanity, books kept me on the ledge, instead of plummetting off. They were the only thing that could calm me down after a bad fight, after a squabble with my sister or a disagreement with my friend. Every time I wondered how badly the jump from my second-story window over the radiators and the bushes to the mossy ground would hurt, I made myself open a book. Just look at one page, I'd tell myself. And just like that, I'd be swept away while the tears dried on my cheeks.
Thomas Jefferson put it best, I think. "I cannot live without books," he said once, and I feel that so much! Without books, I would have been injured or out in the cold, my pride too strong for my will. No, I cannot live without books.
When I was in seventh grade, my friend told me to read The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. "Sure, why not?" I said, laughing. It took about a minute for me to become hooked. Never have I loved books like these, not even Harry Potter (and those I've read fourteen times!) I became completely immersed in things like Malec and demon fighting and vampires. The Twilight Saga gave me a newfound appreciation for the supernatural. And Jodi Picoult swooped in eighth grade and gave me my favorite author.
My parents are the type that believe perfection can and should be achieved. So even when I was swamped with work and gymnastics and babysitting, trying to be perfect at all three, I always found time to open a book. Whether it be in the car- being able to read in the car is a blessing!- right before bed, or right when I wake up, I try to read a tiny bit every day. Not much, just enough to transport me somewhere, anywhere other than here.
I want to take a minute to appreciate Jodi Picoult. She's my go-to dark times author, because if you're in trouble and open one of her books, chances are one of her characters is worse off. She taught me so much about the dark side of reality, and how to create a stellar character. Books have given me my dream- to write a novel. A fantasy novel, with a happy ending, one where the main character goes through hardships and trials and ends up happy. A book where others, like me, can escape, can leave! I'm not even fifteen yet, but I'm already writing. I've got 212 pages so far, and so many more inside me. Victor Hugo said, "A writer is a world trapped in a person." All of my favorite authors have a world inside them, and maybe I do too. Maybe I have a setting insdie me, a smaller escape. Maybe that's why I'm so desperate to escape this world.
Jodi Picoult teaches me how to make the most beautiful characters. Cassandra Clare teaches me how to do the supernatural. Stephanie Meyer teaches me description and what it's like to be in mortal danger, but not overdo it. Aesop, even, teaches me how to convey detailled messages in simple environments. J. K. Rowling teaches me you can find magic everywhere.
Books have been and will continue to be my shelter all the days of my life. I hope, I hope, one day, you'll find yours.