Editor Blog (The Joy of Reading) – Ally Bair

Editor Blog (The Joy of Reading) - Ally Bair

Here’s a riddle to keep your brain sharp: At the tender age of seventeen, I am already divorced.

Stumped? Here are a few hints:

1. I have never married, at least not in the traditional white-dress, walk-down-the-altar, tear-off-the-garter-and-get-wasted-at-the-reception sense.

2. I have never even fallen in love with a real guy.

3. I have, however, had multiple affairs. Jealous? You should be, considering the guys I’ve had a thing for. A few notable names are Harry Potter, Mr. Darcy, Holden Caulfield…

Wait a second. Aren’t those book characters?

If this thought ran through your mind, kudos to you! You’ve cracked the code. I’ve abandoned my beloved fictional characters.

When I was little, my parents tried to get me into sports, but all I wanted to do was read. I refused to leave the house without a book. I spent more hours in the library than in my own home with my friends, Charlie Bucket, the Pevensie children, and the unfortunate Baudelaires. Being an only child with a severe anxiety disorder (and presumed autism from most adults), I had to make friends somewhere. I found them in my books, and I cherished them greatly.

As most children are, I was incredibly bossy. I made friends eventually, and when I did, I dragged them into my world of fiction. Whenever my friends came over to my house, I’d open my book and lure them into a game where we’d pretend we were in my book, even if my friends had never read the book. For example, my friends and I pretended we attended Hogwarts for hours on end. I was always in Gryffindor, of course, and if I wasn’t particularly fond of my playmate, I’d put him or her in Slytherin.

Reading consumed my entire world when I was younger. I would daydream hours on end about fictional characters and write about what happened to them after the book ended because I couldn’t let them go. My characters were more of my family than my actual family; I read about them. I wrote about them. I acted out their stories in my room and played every character. I became so caught up in their lives that I would ignore my teachers at school because either my nose was stuck in a book or my head was stuck in a cloud. My teachers usually didn’t mind though; they thought I was a bright, insightful child because I read more than the whole class combined.

As I grew older, my passion for reading expanded into an even greater passion for writing. Instead of simply writing about my pre-made characters, I would create new ones in my head and write notebooks full of fantastical adventures. For the first time, I didn’t feel like a casual observer in my life, I felt like an actual player, and I loved that feeling. I loved feeling in control, playing God with my new friends. After I realized that I could create interesting characters and control their lives, reading became boring. I didn’t want to read about a character’s life anymore, I wanted to create it. Unfortunately, I failed to realize that reading and writing go hand in hand.

Throughout the end of my middle school years and most of my high school years, my love for reading began to fade. Instead of being known for my paperback books anymore, I was known for my notebooks. I always carried a notebook with me and replaced them weekly. At first, I still read occasionally. But after a while, I stopped reading and my writing began to suffer. I found that I could barely form a coherent sentence. Instead of expanding like it had before, my vocabulary shrunk. When I wrote “like” in a normal sentence, I knew I had to draw the line.

I tried my hardest to read again. I turned to my dear friend Mr. Potter for help, but like all of my other old friends, he bored me. I had read his story so many times that I knew it forward and backward. Then I tried the classics. I figured, if they endured this long, they had to be good. Nevertheless, I could not get through a single one of them. If I picked up a book, I was guaranteed to fall asleep a few pages into it. Because of this, I began to detest reading. I went more than a year without turning a single page.

When my immense hatred for reading started to disrupt my schoolwork, I knew I had to seek help. I gathered up all of the courage I had and approached my English teacher. To my surprise, she understood my dilemma and lent me a book called The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I felt an uneasiness in my stomach when she dropped the book in my hands. I just knew I was going to disappoint her when I gave the book back and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m illiterate and I hated your book. Please, for the love of God, give me an ‘A’ in your class.”

My English teacher is a lovely woman, and because I strongly respect her opinions, I decided to take a bite out of the Lemon Cake. I reached into my black hole of a backpack, yanked out the book, flattened the pages, sat down at my kitchen table, and took a deep breath. The last thing I wanted to do was sit down and read, but I knew I had to, not just for her, but for me as well. I lifted the heavy, thick binding and embarked on my journey.

In the beginning, it was really, really awful. I kept glancing at the clock, thinking about my homework, eating various snacks. But when I tried to put the book down, I could not stop wondering what would happen to these characters.

Wait. Did I just make friends?

It had been so long that I forgot what it felt like. Surprisingly, I liked this feeling. I liked caring about these people so much that I opened the book again. The second time around, I stopped trying to like to read and actually grew fond of the book. I cared.

And I learned so much!

I learned new words I had never heard before. I learned valuable life lessons. I made friends, my favorite! And slowly but surely, I’m falling in love with reading again. Soon, I might have to call of my divorce.