My little siblings might be my new muses

Over vacation, I read my kid siblings the beginning of my chapter book for kids.

My 9-year-old sis said to tell her when I was done so she could order it from the library. I told her I’d have her read it before it was published.

A day later, I explained the concept of publishing to my 7-year-old brother.

In the meantime, my 11-year-old sister read me the first chapter of her superhero book and (unquestionably) out-wrote me all week — she was finishing chapter five when I left. I only added a 69-word paragraph to my story.

It was cool. Not just their interest, but seeing my baby sister embrace the writing process. She had two notebooks: one for her book, the other for doodles with a single page where she wrote down “the plot” (her words). It felt familiar — seeing her curled silently over her spiral bound notebook, pencil in hand, scribbling away the blank rows. It was almost like I was watching my younger self at work. And now, I’m home and that’s what I want to do. Put words together. Map out stories and then quit sitting on them, actually write, from beginning to middle to end.

Book Review – Kiki Strike: The Darkness Dwellers

In eighth grade, my best friend told me I should read Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, a book that sat on her bedroom bookshelf under the typical scattered pile of young teenager stuff. “You’d like it,” she said.

I don’t remember if I borrowed her copy or ordered one from the library, but I read it and she was right. I liked it. A lot. More than A Series of Unfortunate Events. More than Artemis Fowl. More than Kate Klise’s Trial by Journal and Regarding the. . . series. More than Ella Enchanted and Donna Jo Napoli’s Bound.

At that point, Inside the Shadow City was the only published Kiki Strike book. Thank goodness the author, Kirsten Miller, blogged. I started visiting kikistrike.com every time I had Internet access and devouring Kirsten Miller’s endless posts about bizarre reality. When book two, The Empress’s Tomb, came out, I immediately ordered it via interlibrary loan and devoured it.

But book three . . . The Darkness Dwellers came out when I was a junior in college. I wasn’t keeping close track of Kiki Strike anymore. I was focused on my own writing and, you know, class. So it wasn’t until just recently that I got my hands on the third book in the series.

I have to admit — I was nervous I wouldn’t like Kiki Strike anymore. College has the dangerous ability to make “literary types” (which I sort of am, but not in the over-analytical English major sense) pretentiously picky about books. And, in my attempts early this year to read and review fiction, I’d failed to find a book I actually liked.

Would Kirsten Miller’s Kiki Strike be as good as I remembered? Would I still like to read the bizarre adventures of young teenage girls running around New York City?

The answer:

YES.

Kiki Strike: The Darkness Dwellers is as good as the previous two books and, I would say, actually takes it up a notch. Kirsten Miller does a great job of weaving multiple characters and storylines together in a way that keeps you on your toes, guessing, and pulls you along into the action — and this is Kiki Strike, so action means more than “stuff happens”. These girls kick butt. They’re also not airheads in any way, shape, or form, which too often happens in so-called “children’s” literature, when authors don’t respect their audience. These girls are smart, resourceful, and remarkably self-aware — all traits that most “kids” possess, but grownups overlook.

I read this book faster than anything else I’ve read recently. I repeatedly found myself staying up later than advisable on work nights to get another chapter in. And Kirsten Miller’s witty sarcasm had me literally laughing out loud. So if you like fun books that incorporate random trivia with adventures that could happen (if adults ignored/paid no attention/didn’t believe what their kids were up to), read The Darkness Dwellers. And if you know an 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-old girl who’s interested in more than lip gloss and boys, buy her a copy (start with the first one). Heck, boys those ages might be interested, too.

In 2008, I interviewed Kirsten Miller, author of Kiki Strike, via email for my then-magazine Messenger Girl.