Monday, October 3, 2011

Classic Covers: The Secret Circle

These are the beautiful covers of the Secret Circle books, as I read them in the St. Agnes branch of the library on the upper west side of Manhattan in 1992.  I went to the library every day after school to wait for my dad to pick me up.

The library was a quiet temperate sanctuary after a crazy day of junior high.  More importantly, there were shelves full of wonderful books for me to browse, including every book in every LJ Smith series (The Secret Circle, The Vampire Diaries, The Forbidden Game, Dark Visions, and Night World).  But I found the Secret Circle books first, and I read them over and over again in my library haven. 

The Secret Circle books, for those who have not yet seen the television program, feature a young girl named Cassie who moves back to her mother’s hometown and discovers that she is a witch.  She finds friends, a coven of fellow witches who are the children of her mother’s old circle, and she finds love.  True, soul mate love.

Reading the books, I yearned to be a witch and to have a soul mate.  But real-life sixth-grade love did not live up to the LJ Smith version.  A boy, who I will call CW, came up to me in the schoolyard and asked me out.  Which may sound spontaneously romantic, but with the crowd of sixth-grade girls around me shrieking “Ooooooooooohhh” and “Say yes!  Say yes!” the scene was less starry-eyed and more embarrassing.

I said yes, because of course you said yes when a boy asked you out.  How else will you be able to tell if he is your soul mate?  But by the time I got home and found two messages from him on my answering machine, I had changed my mind.  Maybe because I remembered that a few months earlier, he had asked out a girl in my class who kind of looked like me.  Maybe it was because he was a complete stranger (and obviously a serial asker-outer of girls).  Or maybe it was because some part of me knew that he was not my soul mate.  Not the way Cassie and Adam were soul mates in the Secret Circle books. 

I dodged his calls, planning to avoid him, for the rest of my life if necessary.  But my mother insisted that it wasn’t right for me to ignore him.  I felt like vomiting the next day when I went up to him in the cafeteria and told him that I had changed my mind; I didn’t want to go out with him.  But afterward I was euphoric;  I had done it!  I was the bravest girl in the world!  

That feeling lasted until about 3:10 when, almost at the library, I was approached by a large girl, two years older than me, who introduced herself as CW’s best friend.  “Why don’t you like him?” she asked, frowning, her arms crossed, her body blocking my passage to the library.  “He’s a really nice guy.  You should go out with him.”  She loomed over me. 

I wondered if I was about to get into my first fight.

And then CW himself popped up and said “Whatever you don’t like about me, I’ll change it.” 

And even I, at only 11, knew that was a crazy thing to say to someone who you had never spoken to before you asked them out.  I insisted that I absolutely would not go out with him, and I escaped into my refuge: the library, where I could read about the Secret Circle and daydream that someday a boy would ask me out who would actually be my soul mate.

Love hadn’t worked out, so I tried being a witch.  I attempted a spell from the books that involved cutting an apple in half, sewing two seeds together, and then sewing the two halves back together.  It was supposed to bind my soul mate to me, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to get started even though I hadn’t met him yet.  But it turns out that it is really hard to sew apples, let alone apple seeds. 

I also tried a spell designed to create a talisman for strength and courage.  I was supposed to find a nice flat stone and carve words of power onto its face.  Turns out it is also really hard to carve words onto a stone. 

Having failed as a witch, I settled for just enjoying the Secret Circle books.  I still love them for teaching me about who I am: someone who believes in true love and was willing to hold out for it.  And someone who still wishes she had magical powers.

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