by Dave Amaditz and
Welcome to February’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Cal Armistead and her novel, Being Henry David. This is the type of book that you’ll fly through because you have to find out what happens next. Then you’ll want to go back and re-read it a second time. We hope you enjoy our answers and encourage you to buy the book.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave – This is a point in the story were Hank, the main character, who has lost his memory because of some awful trauma, is beginning to find out who he was. He is in examining a newspaper article when this particular connection happens.
With detached curiosity I stare at this Daniel Henderson, huffing and puffing his way through a race, examine the contorted face of a stranger. I feel nothing.
But then slowly, a sensation creeps up on me, like a ripple circling from a stone thrown into a pond. It grows into a wave, starting somewhere in the roots of my hair, reaching tendrils into my scalp and neck and face, and I feel the flush, a red burn spreading over every surface of my skin. And then, with a deep shudder to the bone, to the brain, to the heart, I switch places and I become that boy.
Marcy – Slowly, Hank learns about himself and his situation. Emotions run high as Hank realizes bad stuff must have happened to him before he got amnesia.
And there are the crimes I might have committed before I woke up in Penn Station. And there’s that other thing. Maybe you killed somebody. Did somebody hurt my sister? Did I kill the guy? Is this what I’m blocking out?
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave - Marcy chose a great chapter ending that you’ll read about below, but I chose this one because I was worried while reading the whole way through that trouble from New York City would catch up to Hank, trouble with guns.
Out of the darkness behind the school comes a raspy shout, and the two of us freeze. “Back off,” it says. “Or I’ll kill you.”
Marcy –The main character Hank doesn’t remember anything from his past. The only clue is a book he’s holding – Walden – by Henry David Thoreau. As he is reading the book searching for clues, he is transported into Thoreau’s world. Loved this vivid chapter ending!
Instead of the stink of the alley and the echo of sirens and honking taxicabs, while I’m reading the book it’s actually like there’s fresh air rustling leaves in a tree over my head. I hear the water and birds singing. Somehow, I know this place in Henry’s book. I can remember being outside like that, in the woods, near a lake. It’s familiar in a way I feel to my bones. It’s the closet feeling so far to home.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave – Like Marcy, my favorite character is Thomas. He’s been through so much and hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from so he is able to help Hank through the dark times while he is trying to figure out who he really is… And maintain a sense of humor, as evidenced in this quote.
“So, I suppose this is where you tell me you’re not actually Thoreau reincarnated.” Thomas says at last.
Marcy – Thomas! He is this diverse character who’s a kind-hearted, off-the-radar kind of guy and who does everything he can to help Hank.
Hank asks Thomas,
“Why would you do this for me?” I whisper.
“Like I told you. When I was younger, some good people helped me out, and that made all the difference,” he says. “This is my chance to pay that back. Maybe you’ll do the same someday for somebody else.”
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave – There are so many great descriptions throughout the novel (and you’ll see below that Marcy has the same sentiments) but there were a certain few that stuck out to me, all of them dealing with the beast, a metaphor for Hank’s memory returning, that stuck with me the most. I’m torn between a few of them, so I’m going to give you two separate examples.
He laughs after he says maybe you killed somebody, loving his own crazy joke, and I tried to join in, but my face is frozen. My pulse hammers in my ears and something dark lurches in my chest like a beast waking from a deep sleep. A wave of dizziness breaks over me and I grip the edge of the table so I won’t fall off the chair.
And, from later in the book…
I almost fall down the concrete steps, vision bombarded with black-red flashes as the beast roars to life from its pit inside me. But it’s just not one beast, not anymore. It divides itself into a billion smaller versions of itself, each with curled claws, red eyes, rising, choking, leaping at my throat, trying to kill me for starting to remember what is crucial to forget.
Marcy – There were so many descriptions that it was extremely hard to pick – between all of the beautiful quotes by Thoreau and thoughts from Hank. But, if I had to pick my favorite it would be when Hank is about to perform on stage with Hailey. He is so nervous, he’s frozen, he can’t play a note.
But then, the silence is broken by the sound of a voice. A girl’s silky alto voice. At first, I’m so lost in my own head that I don’t recognize the voice or the song. But it cuts through my panic and I recognize that it’s Hailey. Singing “Blackbird,” a cappella, without me. Her voice soars to the rafters, so beautiful.
I’m mesmerized along with the rest of the audience, just listening, until she reaches the end of the first verse. Then, as if they have finally come to life, my fingers relax and start to move. They form chords across the frets, hover above the strings and then come in perfectly for the intro of the second verse. The music consumes me and the magic takes over at last, transcending my fear. Hailey joins in and starts singing the second verse like this is exactly how we planned it all along.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave – This line is simple, but to me it says what any parent would want someone else to say a runaway, or a child that is lost.
“Hank, call your mother,” she whispers, like she knows something about me that I don’t. I guarantee she would sacrifice her own life just to have you back home. Understand?”
Marcy – I cracked up when I read this paragraph. Hank walks into Hailey’s house for the first time so they can practice their song. Her family owns this beautiful, pristine house.
She leads me into a room that’s all white. No Kidding. White rug, white sofas, white walls, even a white grand piano. I’m afraid to have a dirty thought in this room. Which is difficult, considering the way I’m starting to feel about Hailey.
To read more about Cal Armistead’s debut YA novel Being Henry David please go to: