“Life imitates art.” We’ve all heard that. And sometimes it happens. But sometimes life – which is typically messier, less structured, and less satisfying than well-conceived art, actually goes beyond art in reaching a meaningful resolution.
Mark here, writing for Wendelin. Not because she’s extra busy (which she is – Colton graduates from college this weekend and we’re planning a celebration) but because sometimes things are better related by a third party observer than by someone in the thick of it… maybe think of Nick & Jay in Gatsby.
We just saw The Fault in Our Stars. This isn’t a film review, but in brief: we liked it and thought the film did a great job of faithfully bringing the book to the screen. However, for me the most interesting part of the plot was a subplot about, well… a book plot. Speaking generically—so as not to get too spoilerish for the three among you who haven’t yet read the book—the protagonist has a favorite book which she absolutely loves, but the ending is open-ended and she really wants to know ‘what happens after the end of the book’. The non-answer she finally gets might be satisfactory for a disinterested middle-aged intellectual, but it doesn’t really work for an emotionally-invested teenager. (Which is part of the point, I suppose.)
Now flash-forward (or back, or sideways, depending on where you’re standing in time) to a small bookstore far, far away (the Midwest) at a time long, long ago (six weeks as I write this). We’re doing an in-store event as part of our tour. Among the people in attendance are a teenage boy and his mother. The boy has a physical challenge which—among other things—renders his speech a bit slower than some of us (perhaps cerebral palsy?) but he is clearly an avid reader and really bright. And it’s also clear—from his interactions with his mother as well as from what follows—that he’s an incredibly sweet young man.
After the ‘presentation’ part of our presentation, we typically take questions. This boy has a few questions, and his final one is basically “What happens after the end of Flipped?” But you could tell from his demeanor that this was the reason he and his mom drove three hours to see us. The other questions were just a warm-up, but this was something hugely significant to him.
Wendelin has been asked related questions about Flipped exactly one zillion times. (Usually some version of, “Are you going to write a sequel?”) And all she typically says is that she’s not going to write a sequel—she really likes the open-yet-hopeful way the story ends because it makes the reader think, rather than wrapping everything up with a nice bow. And she usually leaves it at that. But this boy already knew the above… his query was centered around the deeper issue of, “What do you—as the creator of these characters—think might happen with Julie and Bryce beyond the last page of the book?” And Wendelin—in a life-exceeds-art move—made a one-time exception for this emotionally-invested teen regarding ‘never discussing Flipped beyond-the-ending-as-written’, and gave him her heartfelt opinion as to what might become of Julie and Bryce.
When she finished, the boy let out a huge sigh—he had literally been holding his breath—and just enthusiastically nodded his thanks through his tears, over and over. It was one of those moments—in a trip filled with thousands of moments—that I will never, ever forget.