The “Wow” of a Book is in the Subtext

What gives a book that “wow” factor that makes you want to read it again and again? You know what I mean–we all have books that we have to open and reread on a regular basis, or at least reread that one, dog-eared page. Sometimes it’s just beautiful prose, but usually it’s more than that. The book’s subject matter probably speaks to you on a very deep level. When this happens, it’s usually not so much about the superficial plot of the book as it is about the subtext.

One way subtext is created is when characters’ lives are affected by elements of society. In the case of the book I’m writing now, the characters are all extremely gifted young adults from extremely screwed up homes. The book isn’t making a statement or projecting a moral. There is no sense of “and therefor people should do such and such!” It just paints a picture of a part of society that not everyone thinks about–the plight of gifted kids who aren’t nurtured.

In this particular case, they become bank robbers. With any luck, the story should give the reader pause. A lot of teachers and parents think that when children are really bright, they don’t need much help. They can do everything on their own. This book shows the emotional damage that can come from such a “raise yourself” approach.

People worry about disadvantaged kids. They worry they’ll become drug dealers and sociopaths and criminal elements, for good reason. But they don’t usually worry about smart kids. But smart, neglected kids have the ability to become even more notorious drug dealers and criminals and sociopaths.

Potentially, they have a lot more power than the average neglected kid. Neglecting kids in any case is a shame and a recipe for disaster, but this book highlights one possible result of neglecting the gifted population. Emotionally, because they’re so different, these kids may be more needy than other kids and suffer even more than expected from the laissez faire approach. Maybe.

The book is meant to paint one picture and let you judge for yourself. If you have experience being or knowing a gifted kid, and understanding the particular sense of isolation high intelligence can bring about in a kid, this book might really resonate with you. It might have that wow factor, which is a chemical reaction between the reader’s life and the character’s lives. There isn’t a recipe for “wow,” but building an important subtext into the book will help.

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