As I mentioned on last week’s #fridayreads, I’ve begun, at the behest and be-gifting of a friend, to read Alan Bradley’s first installment of the Flavia de Luce series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Flavia is a character I wish I’d known about growing up: with her glasses, pigtails, braces, and moderate sibling rivalry, she’s most of what I myself was at age eleven, minus several pounds and exhibiting several added points of badassery. The dialogue takes on an alternating Queen’s English and rustic cockney vernacular that makes it hard not to enjoy even the most wretched villains of the story, and its book trailer is charming to a fault, using no more than Bradley’s opening paragraphs to illustrate why it’s imperative you pick up a copy.
Then again, I’m probably telling you what you all already know.
Because as it happens, I am the last person I know to read this book. I suppose I’m not quite as behind on this trend as I am on the Hunger Games or the George R.R. Martin books, but pretty darn close to it. (Side note: have any of you ever seen Martin’s official website? I admit I thought I had stumbled onto a Game of Thrones fanfiction site at first. Given Martin’s fame, the design is both perplexing and endearing – note how the icons twirl when you hover over them.)
Back to Flavia. Usually when I’m the last to discover something, I’m less inclined to indulge in it. You’ve been in such shoes, haven’t you? For example, as someone that never saw Star Wars growing up (my parents weren’t fans and we never happened to watch it elsewhere), I was constantly harangued by the exclamation, “You’ve NEVER seen Star Wars?! What’s WRONG with you?! You HAVE to see Star Wars! Anyone who’s ANYBODY has seen Star Wars, ya non-Star Wars weirdo! Ghgdkhslfdhkjhdsaldhshl STAR WARRRRRS!” Which, you know, doesn’t make you feel super inclined to watch it. And the same is true of reading books: when you’re ostracized for your entirely incidental non-participation in something, it makes you resent the apparent “need” to suddenly participate. This is how I imagine non-Harry Potter readers must feel (a subgroup of which our own Kevin Morris is a part).
Then again, if it’s approached the proper way by the enlightened ones — that is, if those who have read the book-of-the-moment can be encouraging instead of disparaging toward the non-reader — then being last to discover a literary phenomenon can, in fact, be a grand ol’ time. And being last to the Flavia de Luce party has been just that: fun as fun can be. I’ve had friends exclaim the age-old words, “You HAVEN’T read the FLAVIA books?!” — but this time, they’re excited to show me something great, not excited to revel in my ignorance. As I said, my one friend bought the first book for me, and others have giddily noted that they have the follow-ups, should I need a copy. Flavia is a character worth talking about for her peculiarity as well as her spunk, and I’ve had friends note that they “can’t wait” until I finish the book so we can discuss it.
With this kind of star treatment, maybe I should be last to the party more often. Maybe I should have all the publishers of New York keep me abreast of series that haven’t yet begun, so I can be sure to NOT read them until they’re good and adored, and then have all my friends share with me the excitement that any good read ought to produce.
Oh, and I finally did see Star Wars once I got to college. Conclusion: eh. It would have made a better book.