Greetings, old chums! Things have been so wild since Signs of Life came out — with readers embracing it just as excitedly as they did Melt. And some, even more!
Because these books are so intertwined (the Midwest Book Review calls them “literary Siamese twins”), we’re celebrating both of them in the Rough Romance Trilogy Tour. In addition, I’ve asked some dear friends to write guest posts on what Melt has meant to them. (Last time, Kelly Hager raved about me and my writing — which I must say felt awesome.)
Today, Cammie Smith shares her thoughts about Melt, and what it meant for her to teach it. Thanks, Cammie!
Take it away:
My introduction to Melt, and the subsequent journey I took with the novel, were both unique and life-changing. My friend, Joli, is very involved in the Young Adult fiction community, and is always recommending good books to me, as I am a high school teacher and I like to keep in touch with what my students are reading and what interests them. In December of 2014, Joli texted me and said, “You’ve got to enter this giveaway! This book is fantastic!” So, I entered Selene’s teacher giveaway, knowing nothing about her or her novels, and won 30 signed copies of Melt and the promise of a video conference with my students if I taught the novel in my classroom that year! I didn’t actually read the book until Selene sent me the signed copies, but I figured it would be great to have the free books for students to borrow, even if the novel wouldn’t work with my curriculum. Clearly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This novel grabbed my heart and held on tight from the moment I started reading it until long after I finished and put the book down. Melt is a phenomenal novel that, though painful, edgy, and realistic, teaches powerful lessons about life and human nature.
I have read, analyzed, and taught a lot of novels, and I can tell you without a doubt that this novel is the most accurate, realistic portrayal I have ever read of what it is like to be the child of an alcoholic/abusive parent. As a COA (child of an alcoholic) myself, the first time I read the novel, there were moments when I legitimately had to put the book down and walk away because I was so overwhelmed with Joey and Dorothy’s reality. I flew through the closet scene and when it was over, I realized that I had been holding my breath the entire time. The language is realistic, the situations are realistic, the mental repetition is realistic, the attempt to make sense of a world in which you have no control is realistic…this novel IS reality. And the lessons to be learned from it are undeniable…it isn’t just about drug use/abuse, or the dangers of teenage sex. It is about the redemptive power of love, it is about the vicious cycle of violence/abuse, it is about family and identity construction…and above all, it is about not judging a book by its cover. It introduces us to a girl who took a chance on a boy who was from the wrong side of town, walking down the wrong path in life. Instead of giving into the peer pressure from her friends, stereotyping him and walking away, she chooses to get to know him, ultimately falls in love with him, and plays a critical role in his journey to surrender and recovery. And because of her faith in him and the innate goodness that God gave him, he ultimately finds faith in himself. Without a doubt, the novel is an emotional roller coaster ride. One cannot possibly read this book and come away thinking that Joey’s behavior is acceptable; and yet, we have sympathy for him and we hope he will have the strength to break the cycle. We have nothing but respect and admiration for Dorothy as she navigates the waters of being the catalyst of change for Joey; we’d be remiss, though, if we didn’t admit that we thought it was crazy of her to take a chance on a boy from the wrong side of town with a drinking problem and an explosive temper.
As an English teacher, I believe that part of my job is to expose students to literature that teaches them about the world around them, about the human experience…about the plethora of human experiences. Teaching Melt gave me the opportunity to open up those lines of communication with my students, lines I never would have been able to cross had this novel not affected them so deeply; it was truly the highlight of my teaching career. My College Prep students last year flew through this novel because they were invested in the characters and the story; I had kids come to my room that I didn’t even know asking to borrow a copy of the book because they had heard about it through word of mouth and wanted to read it. They wanted to read. That doesn’t happen in high school! It’s a crying shame, but the reality is that kids lose their love of reading by the time they come to us at the high school. I believe we should embrace the use of this type of literature as a meaningful opportunity to discuss the impact that making bad choices (i.e. drugs, alcohol, violence, lack of self-control, etc.) can have on us and those we love. Essentially, what I’m trying to say here is simple: good literature is so important, be it canonical or current, because it gives us insight, knowledge, and wisdom about humanity and the world around us. It teaches us empathy, so that hopefully we can break down the barriers of judgment that we use to stereotype people who aren’t like us.
So…if you only have time for one book to read this summer, this needs to be the one (followed by the sequel, Signs of Life, which is just as fantastic, if not more so, than Melt!). Is there coarse language in this novel? Yes. Are there sexual references? Yes. Is the subject matter uncomfortable and raw and painful for some? Of course. But, does this novel make an impactful statement about the power of love…about what love can overcome? Does it show us that as dire as circumstances may be, there is always hope? That we can change the course of our lives if we face the darkness and refuse to be devoured by it? Absolutely!