Reading, for me, is not so much escape as it is comfort. Being able to connect with someone's interior world soothes me since I so often don't connect well with the exterior world. So reading contemporary fiction is not generally my cup of tea. Neither is reading authors "everyone" raves over. I need something different, something odd, something more imaginative than "real life" stories and stories that, to me, have become part of the popularity contest of life. Give me good SF, a well-crafted fantasy, a good mystery with a quirky detective, a historical that isn't that same plot line as the hundred thousand that came before. Give me an author who can write, who does more than create the usual "hot" stories.
It's silly, sometimes, I know. But an author "everyone" has to read? My red flags go up immediately. Abi, unfortunately, was one of those authors "everyone" talked about. I can, with enough finagling, get over myself, though.
Abi sat catty-corner from me at the GRL book signing last year, across the aisle where I could observe. She seemed like a lovely person and her table was constantly busy. My dear friend, Silvia (who was at the table behind me) even took time for a fangirl moment to leave her own space and talk to Abi. What's it all about? I asked. Silvia assured me that Abi's work would be right up my rather crooked alley: mystery, suspense, an atypical relationship, some really odd characters and dark stuff with a sense of humor. So I tried one.
Um, yeah. Several weeks and several Ty and Zane adventures later, can you say Abi fangirl? I fell fast and hard.
Flaws here and there? Sure. Did I enjoy every book as much as the others? No, of course not. But Ty and Zane, with all their damage, all their conflict, all their bizarre coping (and non-coping) mechanisms rammed through all my carefully constructed defenses. I adore them. They've become absurdly real to me and I worry about them (and now their oddball friends, too, darn you Nick and Kelly!)
Abi's strength, I think, lies in the characters themselves - the way we're allowed into certain rooms in their brains, their unique voices and internal struggles. The external conflicts are fun, too, of course. You had me at Poe and Baltimore, Abi. It really wasn't fair. It's the slow reveal of character over time and the slow growth from one disaster to the next that sears these stories into the heart.
Think you're only seeing Abi's writing through the lust haze for Ty and Zane? Fair enough. I will argue that her writing also excels in place and atmosphere - the research into setting and feel, the overall ambiance of the story is just as crucial to her yarn-spinning and just as effective. Don't believe me? Step away from our FBI boys. Slowly. You can do it. Now go read Gravedigger's Brawl and you'll see what I mean.
This time when I go to GRL, maybe I'll have a chance to speak to Abi. Fair warning. There may be a fangirl moment or two. :)