Actually, six times. For the past few weeks, I have been devouring any new book I can get my hands on. And although it is a wonderful thing, it was severely denting my small bookshelf space and my wallet. When I went back to Chicago for Christmas, my carry on bag was just a duffle bag full of books (my shoulders are still tired from lugging it around). But when I made it back home, I curled up with an oldie but a goodie read, The China Garden by Liz Berry. My copy is so worn out that the spine is just creased from overuse. And I usually hate it when a book’s spine is ruined, but for this one, it shows the amount of love I have for this unappreciated YA treasure. Although it was published when I was nine, I didn’t discover it until I was about twelve. The cover art is beautiful and Berry’s writing is enchanting. Taken from Goodreads:
When Clare moves with her mother from London to Ravensmere, an historic English estate, she can’t shake the feeling that the residents already know her, especially Mark, a maddeningly attractive biker. Clare also feels compelled to take midnight walks in Ravensmere’s abandoned China Garden. Then her mother reveals that their own past is tragically linked to the estate. But when Clare discovers that Ravensmere is in grave danger, will she risk her future – and Mark’s – to save it?
What I loved – and still do – about The China Garden was how it entwined mythology with folklore and history. Being the uber-geek that I was – and still am – anything mythology/folklore/fantasy-related had me purchasing it. And the fact that the setting was in the English countryside, AND had a mysterious brooding biker as the male lead, had me done before even reading it.
But funny enough, when I was twelve and read “maddeningly attractive biker,” I was picturing something like this:
because honestly, when “maddeningly attractive biker” is said, who wouldn’t think of the always beautiful Kevin Bacon in the 80s classic film Quicksilver (this was also the time that we began paying for HBO and I began watching 80s classic films)?
Yes, it’s a bit of a cliche YA concept, but hear me out. The male lead doesn’t even become a main player in the work until you are half-way through the book. Which means we are centralizing on Clare, the seventeen-year-old heroine who has to make some life-altering decisions at a really young age. The reader can actually see her evolve from a snotty, teenage Sloane-clone from London to an intelligent, courageous and strong young woman.
So I love this book. I love Clare. I love Mark. I love Ravensmere. But more importantly, I love that whenever I pick up The China Garden I know exactly what I am getting. And that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. When people say to me, “How can you read that book again? You already know what happens!” I get frustrated. Because I can say the same thing about films to cinephiles. I can say the same thing about video games to gamers. I can say the same thing about sports to fanatics. But I don’t. Because it’s my prerogative. Why should I tell someone that what they are doing is wrong – unless they were about to do something wrong, like stick a fork in the toaster, or read Vanity Fair for the first time.
The beauty in books is how it can bring us back to a certain time. Every time I open The China Garden I remember my first time reading it. I remember being in my old house in Connecticut, sitting in our living room with my feet up against the wall. I remember how excited I was to get to the end.
We can read the same book over and over again, but still find something new within it. Another aspect, another theme, another detail. Something that maybe you didn’t understand the first time will become clear the second. But it shouldn’t matter. If you like a book/film/TV show/video game, keep loving it. Read/watch/play it again and again. If it makes you happy, who cares what others think.
Unless necrophilia makes you happy. Cause that shit’s just weird.