Tuesday Author Discussion: M.T. Anderson

I read Thirsty for the first time when I was 18. This was before the YA boom (yes, I realize this dates me). I came across a copy in the school library one day, and was shocked to discover that a YA novel existed where the characters actually sounded like people I knew.

They had the interests and problems of people who populated my day-to-day life. Smart kids, who could have easily made Honors or destroyed the verbal on the SATs. But didn’t. Kids who derided the tone of the community they lived in, mocked and scorned and disdained it, and the whole time, were totally buying into it. Kids who were jaded and self-destructive and irresponsible, but in a real way and not in some melodramatic cautionary mold that resembled a Christopher Pike novel (don’t get me wrong—I have an enduring soft spot for Christopher Pike, though I must admit that when I was ten, I came away from his books with some very skewed ideas about what being a teenager was like. Mostly involving vendetta killings and drug rings).

Thirsty was the first example I’d ever seen of the literary “problem” YA crossbred with fantasy or horror, and I was extremely pleased with the characters, because they weren’t type-cast or idealized, but real and selfish and conflicted, and kind of charming. They inhabited a world that freely acknowledged the supernatural, but despite the central motif of vampires, the story never really seemed like it was about that.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a vampire person. I think you either are or you aren’t. I am not, and I think that’s part of what captivated me when I read Thirsty. I was very taken with the story of an ordinary kid in the process of navigating adolescence, with all of its attendant problems. One of which just happens to be the fact that he’s turning into a vampire.

7 thoughts on “Tuesday Author Discussion: M.T. Anderson

  1. Christopher Pike + vampires = The Season of Passage, my all time fav of his books. PLUS space travel and disembodied evil. (Though, fair warning, I last read this when I was 15 or so.)

    I’ll check out THIRSTY. Because, as you know, I *am* a vampire person.

  2. Oh, man–I remember that one. Christopher Pike’s version of the early 2000s was all futuristic, and then the millennium got here, and I was like, where is our manned expedition to Mars, and why are there no vampires there?

    Was that one of his ones where someone was writing a story that was simultaneously coming true? Those were always my favorite. I reread Whisper of Death something like eight times, just because the girl writes gory death scenes, and then they happen in real life.

  3. I don’t think there was any writing going on in The Season of Passage, but it’s been a while since I read it. I think I lent my copy out, too. Like, ten years ago.

  4. Oh, man, this is crazy. I’ve just now remembered that I read Thirsty in middle school– it must’ve been 7th grade or thereabouts– and I hated it! Wow, I had no idea it was by M.T. Anderson. I think I was too young to appreciate it at the time– I recall absolutely hating the ending.

    Bizarrely, though, I’ve just looked at the amazon.com subscription and I don’t remember any of what’s described– just a scene with Chris trying to drink animal blood, and his awful jerk of a friend. My memories, they are bad.

    Weirdly enough, M.T.Anderson’s novel-length work does little for me, but I absolutely love his short stories.

  5. Haha–I was admittedly a pretty cynical kid, so I didn’t personally have any problems with the ending, but that book is not perky by a long shot.

    Honestly, I like the voice a lot more than the story all on its own. I think the themes are awesome, but the plot progression is kind of confusing. I have a bad tendency to take it personally when I get confused 😉

  6. That’s very true, as someone else wrote on this comm, M.T. Anderson’s great at establishing voice. I think my problem was that I just never liked any of the characters, and I felt (and feel) little compulsion to spend time reading a book about people I didn’t like. I read the first page of Feed, thought “Man, this guy on the moon is an unpleasant person,” and put it back on the library shelf.
    One of those cases where the book’s really well written and well done, but just not a place I personally want to spend time in.

    I’m not much of a cynic 🙂

    I saw his new (ish, I think it came out in 2007) book, though, the one set in the Revolutionary War, and that looks interesting. I might get it from the library.

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