You sit on my bookshelf even after all these years.
You are worn; your cover lined and cracked and your pages thinning and drying out like aged skin.
You were nothing but a cheap paperback even then but somehow you’ve aged gracefully despite it.
Of all the books from my childhood you were the one I returned to again and again: each time I dove down was a new experience coloured by my extra years and experience.
Even now I see you for what you were and are; a cracking good yarn by a young and inexperienced writer. No wonder you spoke to me when I got you at the age of ten.
You were a post-apocalyptic young adult novel started a good 40 years before the Hunger Games existed and long before that was recognised as a genre. You were conceived even before I was and the years and years it took for you to be published show how long it took for the world to catch up to you.
You had the rawest of young adult themes; difference, alienation and a fear of how people would react when they saw the real you. Somebody is out there, you said, one day you will find your people.
You were the book I first thought of when the time came for me to buy novels for my nieces and nephews years later. But what a glorious realisation I had then! You had sequels! I had never known.
I bought you for each of them in turn, oldest to youngest, as soon as they reached their first decade. And they loved you just as much as I had. And hated me for introducing you to them. Your sequels were still being written, the series unfinished.
“How dare you, Aunt,” they cried, “Why introduce us to this wonder if the story is not yet done!”
“Mea culpa,” I said, “mea culpa. I DID NOT KNOW.”
I didn’t like the sequels anyway. When I finally sat down to read them I found them forced and contrived; sequels for the sake of sequels. Like Highlander, I will just pretend there was only one.
Because that is what you are.
The only one.
The one I still sit down and read again. The one book on my shelf that has been read almost to death. Read even more times than my collection of Terry Pratchett novels. Loved even more than my copy of The Name of the Rose.
I pulled you off the bookshelf again today.
I think I might read you again.
Thank you, Obernewtyn.
For being with me all these years.