Monday, April 30, 2012

The End of The Chapter: The Moth Diaries

As each chapter ends, the desire to put the book down in order to go to the bathroom, go to sleep, or get going to work may come over the reader. Smart authors avoid this by making the ends of their chapters so fantastic that the reader has no choice but to continue on their literary journey, uninterrupted. Some do this with thrilling cliffhangers, others with painful emotional reveals. Regardless of the technique, the end of the chapter has a certain feel to it, a teasing look that says, “Sure, this part of the story’s over. But don’t you want to find out what happens next?

Today, I am celebrating the end of the preface in The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein (Bantam, 2003).

“To anyone who wonders whether it’s possible to survive adolescence, that’s as much as I can offer of reassurance."

This chilling line closes out the preface, in which we learn that after the events chronicled in her diary, the protagonist was sent to a mental institution for being a psychotic with a personality disorder. Talk about an unreliable narrator. Klein is telling us right from the start that we should be suspicious of every word we read.

These words also nicely set up a big theme of the novel. Adolescence is a strange disconnected time; you have left childhood behind, but you still barely resemble the adult you may become in the future. Earlier in the preface, the narrator says that she looks at her journal and sees “words in an unfamiliar handwriting.”

Those in the throes of adolescence fluctuate madly between the heights of elation and the depths of despair. Every event is either the best thing that ever happened to anyone or the end of the world. The narrator assures us that as intense as these feelings are, one day we will look back on them and wonder what the big deal was. It’s cold comfort to those in the midst of it, but it’s the best she can do.

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