In ninth grade, I read a book that made me cry. And that was just about the highest praise a book could get from me at that point.
The book was The Year Without Michael. It’s told from the point of view of a girl whose brother goes missing from a small town. The police look for him, but they never find him. She chronicles that first year, culminating in her doing some investigation of her own, finding out that he was possibly in New York City, and going there to search for him. She meets someone who listens to her inquiry and says, “oh honey, if he’s been in New York for a year now, you don’t want to find him, trust me.” (I didn’t fully understand what this meant at the time.) She thinks she catches a glimpse of him on the street once, but eventually she turns around and heads home.
I’m the kind of person who likes to share things that have an impact on me. And this book definitely affected me strongly.
I tried lending it to my closest friend, who, like me, is an intellectual girl who enjoys discussing all kinds of things. She refused to take it. I tried to convince her that it’s a great book. She still refused. She said her father doesn’t allow library books into the house, was even upset that last year the school had assigned Sarah Bishop. (I forget why he objected to it…)
This was one of the first times I realized some of my friends tolerated me but thought I wasn’t pure enough – I read books they considered “schmutz,” after all.
I reacted to this realization somewhat irrationally – I continued trying to force the book on her. I even went so far as to throw the book over two rows of desks at the end of the school day so that she wouldn’t leave before I got a chance to try again.