Following up on my last post about Read Aloud Day (which I’m embarrassed to admit, was over a month ago!), I wanted to talk about the road trip I just took with my family. Or, more specifically, about the audiobook we listened to during the 17-hour drive (which is 34 hours roundtrip!). I felt the need to talk about this book because, for me, it illustrates the power of great storytelling.
Picking a road trip audiobook that our family will like is always a challenge for me, since I have an 11-year old son, a 15-year old daughter, and a husband who prefers authors like Steinbeck and Salinger. However, we’ve been lucky these past few years with young adult fare–the last three Harry Potter books and the first two Hunger Games books went over very well.
The book I chose was Ready Player One, a science fiction novel set in 2044, about an impoverished 18-year old kid, Wade, and his quest to solve an elaborate videogame contest, which takes place in a virtual world called the OASIS. Even though the book is marketed for adults (probably because of the language – I winced when the narrator dropped the first f-bomb), it easily crosses over into young adult territory. My son loved it because it was all about multi-player videogames, which he plays with his friends. I really enjoyed all the 1980’s references, since I’m a huge 80s trivia buff.
As we started listening to the book, I realized it broke some of the ‘rules’ I’ve been trying so hard to follow as a writer. The lengthy prologue is an enormous info dump (with footnotes!) that goes on for 8 pages. There are huge chunks of exposition and backstory layered throughout the book. But it doesn’t matter because the story is so great and the main character has such a compelling voice. As the stakes kept rising for the characters, we couldn’t stop listening.
I mean, we literally couldn’t stop. On the last day of the road trip, we listened to the final 8 hours of the audiobook without a single break! All through Tennessee and Kentucky, we followed the antics of Wade and his friends as they competed to win the contest. A few times, I’d ask the kids: “Do you want to take a break, maybe watch a DVD or listen to music?” “Nope. We want to keep listening.” Thanks to the book, the drive just flew by, and before we knew it, we were in Indiana, only 5 hours from home.
Now I just have to find something equally compelling for our 24-hour road trip to Utah this summer. . .