Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reiszing the Bar

Being a teen was not bliss for me. The only good times I had were the years I spent reading through libraries and serving in the military. By the time I was nineteen, I could field-strip an M-16, recite Shakespeare's plays from memory and jumpstart a heart -- and yet adults still treated me like a student in need of a lecture, a puppy off the leash, or a cute chick with a nice rack.

Author Kristopher Reisz's Debut Novel I don't read a huge amount of books about teens because I'd rather not revisit those years, even vicariously, but I do keep my eye out for new writers of great interest in any genre. That's why when Kristopher Reisz's first novel, Tripping to Somewhere, hit the shelves I went out immediately to grab it.

Prepped as I was by Kris's blog to be caught up by his prose, Tripping to Somewhere still short-sheeted me. Be warned, ye Soccer Moms and Little League Dads, The Princess Diaries it's not. Kris didn't pen the usual Ditzney teen girl fantasy composed to reassure us grownups that sugarplums, Prince Charming and Saving It For the Honeymoon are the only things dancing in those pretty little heads. Instead, he gives us a dark and often harrowing urban fantasy about two quite authentic teen girls who do what most of us wished we could back when we were dousing ourselves in Ten-O-Six Lotion: go reckless, damn the consequences, escape our lives and chase the dream we were almost sure was out there.

The magic in this novel isn't only the Witches' Carnival (although it is surreal, hip and very intriguing) or a road trip in search of them and everything (which is dark, scary and so real you feel like you're riding shotgun); it's Kris Reisz's story wizardry and shining honesty on the page. By the time you get to the ending, which I think Rilke himself would have called beautiful and brave, you might catch a glimpse of your teen years in this novel, and whatever was your personal Witches' Carnival.

I am saved from performing the established author coo about how promising Kristopher Reisz is as a writer. Is there anything more insulting than that condescending crap? But even if I was that snotty, I wouldn't have to; he's already made good on the promise with his debut novel.

But as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, tell us about one wild, reckless or magical thing that you wanted to do at some point in your life. Post no later than midnight EST on Friday, 10/27/06. I'll draw ten names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Tripping to Somewhere by Kristopher Reisz. Giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.


  1. I wanted to cancel my first marriage before I had it. Unfortunately, it took me six years and change to take the first step toward making that happen and eight years plus five days total before the divorce was final. I've never regretted it -- spending the rest of my life alone would have been preferable. (Note to anyone wondering if they should stay or go, if you'd prefer to spend the rest of your life alone to being in the situation you're in, it's time to go - make it happen. Oh, and you probably won't have to spend the rest of your life alone, either.)

  2. Hello

    This is entirely off topic, but Scott Adams got his voice back!

  3. Anonymous11:43 PM

    How about something I did do? As a teen, even? I may be disqualified, but I had to share just the same.

    But if this must be a "wanted to but didn't" story, I really wanted to form a kick-ass rock band and play at Poplar Creek (IL), because hey, if you kick enough ass, you get to play Poplar Creek, right? I got a job as an usher solely so I could stand on the stage and vow to one day return as the front man for a kick-ass rock band. I wasn't quick enough. Sears HQ annexed the land and Poplar Creek is a parking lot.

  4. They say you can spend you entire life never finding your passion, I've found mine, and I wish I'd
    found it sooner!

    As to your note about Kristopher Reisz. I read the excerpt to his upcoming YA months ago on his website (can't remember how I stumbled on that link). I LOVED it! He definitely has a voice that makes you sit up and take notice.

  5. I've already received a copy (plus, I got to read it in draft form), so this is just to say congrats, Kris!

    My teenage years didn't really suck, though. How could they? I stayed in my room and played entirely too much Dungeons and Dragons . . .

    (By the time I was nineteen I could . . . well, I could bag groceries, recite much of the Lord of the Rings, and draw a sketch of King Tut's tomb from memory. Woohooo! Party animal!)

  6. My teenage years were great. I spent most of them hanging out with a great circle of friends, the majority of them female, and was left by my parents to do pretty much what I wanted to do.

    But I didn't do it. I was basically a good kid. Didn't even think about doing anything dangerous or wild.

    I was teenage Beaver Cleaver.

  7. My senior year in high school I got a job as a gofer in a local hospital HR Dept.(called Personnel back then) As a graduation gift at the end of the year my boss bought me a trip (with a group from the hospital) to Las Vegas to see Elvis. At 18 I was not too impressed with Elvis, and didn't realize what a great memory it would be later in life. Anyway, it was great to be away on a trip on my own and to venture out and sort of explore the world on my onw.
    I met a black jack dealer and we really hit it off and flirted outrageously. He was in his mid 20s. By the evening of the first day he was asking me to go to lunch, or dinner, or to a movie... He was funny, he was cute and tried to get everyone and their brother to vouch for him so I would go out with him while I was there. I wouldn't see him outside his breaks at the casino where he worked. Too adventurous for me.

    I have a wonderful husband and a great life and had many adventures after that, but I always wonder what would have happened if...

  8. Yep. Teenage sucked.

    Wild and reckless thing I craved?

    To don full plate armour and wade into a melee leaving all thought and self-doubt behind, striking to the left and right, seeing only shining steel through my helmet sights, feeling just the futile smack of weapons on my perfect carapace and the jolt as my keen blade shears armour, flesh and bone.

    Teenage power fantasies, huh? In roleplaying games, I always played fighter characters.

    Of course, I've grown out of all that knightly stuff now.

  9. Anonymous7:26 AM

    I wanted to go to Africa and shoot animals (with a camera, not a gun!) I made a scrapbook out of articles and pics from Natl. Geographics with places and people I wanted to see. I didn't think it was a crazy idea, but my parents did. :)

    Lynda H.

  10. Anonymous7:28 AM

    Lynn, I can’t think you enough for all the nice things you’ve said about Tripping to Somewhere. I even got my own puny title and everything!

    Anyway, this isn’t an official entry, but just to join in the fun, I signed up for paramedic courses the summer after graduating high school, essentially on a whim. I was legally allowed to give people morphine before I was legally allowed to drink.

  11. I wasn't remotely wild and reckless as a teen. I wanted to go to theatre school and study film-making. Instead I went to university and studied biology.

    The one reckless thing I did do was kiss Tom Milne. I was crazy about Tom all through junior high. He was crazy about my best friend Peg. Who could blame him? She had boobs and I didn't.

    In high school I did get to go out with him--a quasi blind date. First chance I got his mouth had two tongues and mine didn't have any.

  12. Anonymous7:37 AM

    Last year, after graduating from college and landing one of those oh-so-respectable but oh-so-soul killing government starter jobs, I wanted to quit the whole thing and go be a roadie for my favorite band.

    I'm still in that starter job and still wishing, every single second of every single day, that I'd been brave enough to do it.

  13. Anonymous7:49 AM

    I wasn't wild or reckless as a teenager - I was trapped in the position of being the oldest child who had to "set a good example." So what wild, reckless thing did I always dream about doing?

    I would sit in class and fantasize about putting my feet up on the desk and doing nothing - no classwork, no homework, no reading, no writing, NOTHING. I would fantasize about failing every subject, just to break out of the mold of the "good kid."

    (Now I just fantasize about stapling papers to my co-worker's head)

  14. Anonymous7:59 AM

    Is it sad that with few exceptions, no matter what the book is, I enter your contests? I just want to win a free book. :-D

    Um, gosh. I was not wild. I tried to be. I did local theatre. I managed something like 14 musicals in a little over 14 months or something like that. It was crazy.

    My best friend and I always dreamed of backpacking across Europe because... I'm a history geek and want to visit the sites. *sigh* Yanno, I really AM a nerd.

    As for craziest ideas, I also wanted to join the convent at one point. Now I'm not even Catholic so I'm glad that didn't work. :-D


  15. Anonymous8:18 AM

    This was from a little after teen years. When I was 21 I was taking a Arabic refresher course in the Air Force. I met a Navy guy that was somewhat in charge of managing the language support people that infiltrate places with the Navy Seals. He wanted me to switch branches and join the program which would have required me going through most of the Seal training program. It sounded like a lot of excitement and if I wasn't getting into the serious dating stage with my now wife, I might have considered it. I eventually rationalized it away by saying that I don't like cold water which the Seals always seem to hang around in.

  16. I wanted to be a writer and move to the Olympic Peninsula, where I could see Bigfoot in the Hoh rain forest. Er, 2 out of 3 achieved. I still hope to see Bigfoot.

    Maybe not everybody's idea of crazy but if you'd only seen the looks/heard the advice when I said, "I want to be a writer..."

  17. As a child, I wanted to move into the giant-leafed jungle that lined my backyard fence. I was certain that there lived a fantasy world in there with polka-dot mushrooms and sweet gnomes who sipped tea. Rain would pitter-patter on the big leaves yet somehow the sun would always be shining through.

  18. I was a very boring teenager. My parents were strict and rarely let me do anything.
    I always wanted to be an FBI agent. I always wonder what my life would have been like if I followed that career path.

  19. When stress and bills were getting the better of me, I used to think how nice it would be to get in the car and just keep driving. Just disappear and start a new life in some random city. Of course I never did and, in reality, I never would. I'm far too close to my family to do that (even though I live 1500 miles from most of them). And, you know, after I moved the 1500 miles away I pretty much realized there would be stress and bills everywhere, even in exotic Delaware if you can believe that.

  20. I've always dreamed of just leaving... picking up the very litttle of my stuff that's important to me, putting it in the back of my car, and just driving to anywhere, letting no one know that I was leaving or where I was going or if I'd be back.

    When I was little, it was always a fantasy about running away from home and how everyone would miss me, but that I'd find a new (and better, of course) family without mean sisters, etc.

    As an adult, I think what I like about it is the concept of starting fresh.

  21. Anonymous9:33 AM

    I've always wanted to drive a car off a cliff. How's that for crazy and reckless? No, I'm not suicidal, I just want that rush with the weightlessness and the feeling of flying. Needless to say, I'm going sky diving once I have time and money. And perhaps I'll try cliff jumping as well, with one of those little parachutes they use.

  22. Anything and everything... I was the poster child for Good Girls. I didn't date "bad boys", didn't miss curfew, never lied to get out of the house/snuck out of the house. I was trying so hard to keep our house on an even keel, (my parents were....destined for divorce from Day 1, unfortunately they stayed together torturing us kids for 24 years) that I never followed through on anything I really wanted to do...and now I wonder What If about a lot of things -- especially about sneaking out to meet the "bad boy".

  23. I wanted to walk the streets of New Orleans late on a summer's night. I've never been to New Orleans. The closest I ever got was a friend visited and bought a copy of Marlowe's Faust for me at a used bookstore in the French Quarter and the time I drove from Indiana to Houston and very nearly took the turn-off to New Orleans along the way. I regret that I didn't.

  24. I've lived Jean's experience...and I wasn't a teenager.

    Mary...quit your job and go be a roadie! Go! Now! Don't look back!

    After graduation I wanted to pack up my truck and drive out west and preferably not come back. I love my kids, but sometimes....Mary quit your job.

  25. My parents took me out of school at thirteen and homeschooled me and my brothers and sisters. There were eight of us. I actually taught the other children how to read and write. My parents both worked. At fourteen my mother handed me my brother and I raised him.

    My parents were very strict. My mother would give me a list that I of chores that I would have to complete during the day. (washing, canning, cleaning, etc.) It was impossible to complete. If I did not complete the chores, I would get a beating. When I cried that I did not have time to complete the chores and school the children too, my mother told me that I should have made the children work too.

    My only joy was reading. I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Isaac Asimov, The Jungle book, Andre Norton, and anything I could get my hands on... usually fantasy, science fiction, or old literature.

    My one desire was to runaway from home. I learned early that I had to wait until I was able to care for myself. I did not want to die in the process.

    I joined the Navy and saw the world. I married a wonderful man. I worked for an English degree. My writings have been published in European magazines and a few American places.

    I am now fulfilling a dream that I have had for a very long time. I am writing my first book.

    Because of the terrible conditions of my teen years, I have learned that if I want to do something badly enough, I need to do it...

    Even so, life isn't always fair. I am dealing with a chronic disease.

  26. PS... I don't usually read YA books because I find them vapid. This book looks interesting. :-)

  27. I've got a magical one-

    When I was a kid I always wanted to pretend I had this magical, invisible, invincibility shirt. It had six "arms" to it, and could extend itself infinitely.

    So this shirt would wrap itself around me, making me invincible. Then I could extend any of the arms around anything else I wanted to protect. It would form a sort of tube around those people and objects I chose.

    I could also shoot one tube up into the sky and breathe fresh air all day, also allowing me to breathe underwater or in space (if I so desired).

    If I wanted to travel quickly, I could attach an arm to a car or plane and hitch a ride. I could also use the extensions as feet and soar up into mountains and such.

    There's pretty much nothing I couldn't do with my shirt. So yeah, that's my magical wish. Good question.

  28. Anonymous1:13 PM

    I almost drowned myself and two sisters when I decided to venture from our inland town to San Francisco's Ocean Beach. The first surprise was emerging from the subway into the big protest from the first Gulf war.

    Later, we were happily exploring the Cliff House grounds when I decided we should look for larger sea shells near some rocks a few feet from shore. Of course the pathway started filling with water as soon as we reached the rocks. None of us could swim, we were in an isolated area and I hadn't bothered to tell our parents about the trip.

    We started treading water when it got midcalf and got soaked up to our knees by the time we reached shore. The strength of undercurrent and speed of the water was harrowing. I was shaken for a couple days and haven't been in SF waters since.

    I keep a tiny seashell--pinky nail sized--as a reminder of that trip.

  29. I wasn't a teen with wild dreams. As a kid I thought it would be fun to join the circus, but I'd never even seen one. As a teen, one of my friends (who was 16) and her brother took the summer and rode across Canada on a motorcycle. That was freedom unimagined for me. I knew I could never do that, so I didn't even dream it. Sheltered, that's me.

  30. As a kid, I had all these wondrous dreams, but as a teen, my biggest ones were to fade into the wall and not be noticed...kinda sad isn't it? I wore light blue t-shirts over light blue jeans and was pretty darn sure it worked.

    My biggest regret though was when I was 17 and I had the opportunity to go to Europe on one of those teen tours. I'd made grand plans to meet a friend afterwards and backpack around all summer just like James Mitchner's The Drifters. My friend bowed out and I was too gutless to go alone (okay, maybe smart, but really gutless) and so I didn't even go on the teen tour.


  31. When I was in college, I wanted to go abroad to study. In the fall of my junior year, my dad died suddenly. My mom decided that I should be able to go, so we both went deeper into debt, and I spent my spring semester in London. I'm still paying off my studen loans, but turning twenty one at Stonehenge is a memory I will carry with me forever (especially the near hypothermia- the middle of February is not the time to stand out in the middle of the Salisbury Plain).

  32. Almost four years ago, I went to Africa. It was my second time out of the country, my first time out of the western world and my first time traveling by myself. I spent two months there, in South Africa, Zambia, and Malawi, and it changed me. When I got home, I told my boyfriend that I thought we should start saving to take a year off from our jobs and travel around the world. He agreed, but it never happened. Life got busy and tangled.

    First we bought a house, then we got a dog. Next summer we're getting married. I started grad school this fall to become a teacher.

    We still love to travel and have managed two fairly long trips (almost 3 weeks in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, almost 2 weeks in Ireland). The new plan is to someday move to another country for a couple of years where I can teach at an American school and he can work remotely (he's in computers), and we can spend weekends and vacations traveling.

    I wouldn't change the choices we made for anything, but I still wish we could have taken that year.

  33. Anonymous2:07 PM

    I was one of those good kids too. One wild thing I always wanted to do though was tell my family I was going on vacation with my best friend and her family, but really fly to Australia by myself instead. Of course I'd get back right when I told my parents I would, because of course everything would go perfectly according to plan.

    I never considered it in any serious way. But it was a nice fantasy.

  34. I could spend hours curled up on the sofa or in my tree house reading, but I could also be a wild child, stealing apples from neighbour's orchard (without getting eaten by the dog), climbing trees and doing other verboten fun. I also was a reckless swimmer, the life guard had to pick me out of a Baltic Sea heavy with a storm twice, and I was - still am - a wild rider who only knows gallop, lol.

  35. Anonymous2:19 PM

    I always wanted to go somewhere else, volunteer or get a job in a distant country, to take that chance and step away from the protectiveness of family and familiarity.

  36. My fantasy in my teenage years was simply to get out of my parents' house. I knew the way to do that was to get into college so my high school years were focussed on that goal.

  37. Anonymous2:36 PM

    Heh, this is what I get for not reading all of PBW's directions :) A wild thing I've alays wanted to do is volunteer to be one of the first space shuttle tourists. Given the odds on that, Space Camp is my next vacation destination.

  38. I always wanted to be a wild boy. I never have been. I've always been the reliable one. The one who shoulders the burden. The one who picks up the pieces. The one who soldiers on. Sometimes at night I feel myself straining at the confines. I look up over my walls and see the beckoning hills, ripe with mystery and possibility. I'm not complaining. I have a good life. Perhaps not as good financially as I'd like -- but if I wanted to be rich, I wouldn't have chosen the life I did -- and I have a lot of friends and family who expect me to be what I am. They count on me.

    But someday they may look and not find me.

  39. Before my teenage years, I desperately wanted to join the circus so that I could perform with the horses. *ggg* Looking back, I don't think that was a bad career choice. Snort. Once I hit my teens, the focus was on becoming a rock star. *ggg* I made it as far as singing in rock bands. ;) I suppose I could've done worse.

  40. I think I lived out my teenaged dreams when I was a teenager.

    It's an easy job when:
    1. You're basically a physical coward.
    2. Your parents aren't paying a lot of attention and are willing to give you money for trips away.

    And after the teen years I went on to dream up and do even more boring things.

    So I'll have to make something up.I always wanted to win something--that's true. A lottery. Bingo. A contest for a book on PBW's blog.

  41. I wish I'd been bolder. That I'd been more confident with myself during the teen years.

  42. As a teen? My canoe would have gone first through the fast water one more time instead of letting one of my best friends go first. Maybe our canoe wouldn't have capsized and trapped us against the submerged log like theirs did. Maybe my friend would have lived.

    Or maybe not. Things happen for a reason.

  43. I would have gone backpacking through Morocco after I graduated high school.

    I also remember reading the excerpt from this book the first time you posted about it and gettting completely and totally sucked into it.

  44. As a teenager I wanted nothing more than to have my secret crush notice me, talk to me, kiss me. Ah yes, the simple desires of a 16 year old girl.

    These days I dream of leaving my life and moving to a foreign country. But now I have a 6 yr old daughter and I'm not married and I don't think I can make it alone, so it will have to wait until she is grown. I hope i don't loose sight of the dream by that time.

  45. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Everytime I went to the small zoo in my old hometown, I'd get the blinding urge to to sneak in one night after it closed and set the black bears free. They lived in a cramped little pen with no shade, made entirely of concrete, and they always looked so sad and dejected.

    Unfortunately, my plans pretty much ended at "set the bears free" somehow... The book sounds interesting, by the way and I have to agree that while most of what I read contains adult characters, there is some very good young adult fiction out there.

  46. Anonymous7:08 PM

    I would have joined the Maries after college, but I would have never met my husband.


  47. Hmmm....I wanted to travel when I was a teen...this would have required magical money...Europe or Japan

    Wait, I still want that....where's my magical money?

  48. Anonymous8:27 AM

    I wonder where I'd be now had I left school and joined up with my interactive paradox.

  49. Anonymous11:11 AM

    When I was a teen I wanted to be CP or SW. They were classmates. CP because she was arguably the most popular girl in school and had a wicked sense of humor (which I have always enjoyed, and SW because she sang like an angel, which I have always wished to do. I still wish I could sing, though I like to think my sense of humor has developed.

    As far as reckless, I was always a shy and "good" girl. I used to dream about being, just for one day, as "bad" as my sister. She always seemed to have more fun. She seemed to be grtabbing life, I seemed to be going through the motions. I like to think I've learned there too :)

  50. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Whenever I watch Crocodile Hunter Diaries, I get the urge to drop everything, book a ticket south, and ask the Australia Zoo if they needed an extra hand.

    I always thought Steve would have made a really cool boss.

  51. Anonymous2:45 PM

    An honest novel of teenagedom? I'm picking this up. Anything made by Disney, Nickolodeon, or any of the other supposed pre-teen and teen oriented media anti-mavericks is bullshit. I'm horrified whenever any of my friends espouses enjoyment of one of those shows ... my only guess is that they must enjoy escaping into a dreamland, fleeing the grit and misery and sorrow and pain of the teenage years. The confinement, the condescension, the vile high school prison institution -- there's a lot of suckage.


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