The September 15, 2011, issue of Booklist, a prestigious 100-year old magazine published by the American LIbrary Association, includes SO SHELLY in its list of “Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth: 2011”: http://www.booklistonline.com/Top-10-Romance-Fiction-For-Youth-2011/pid=5013872 In the words of Shakespeare’s Juliet, it is “an honor I dreamt not of” but one by which I am humbled and for which I am grateful.
If I show even the slightest hesitancy to be floored by this honor, it is due to the designation of SO SHELLY as a “romance.” The word is a tricky one that inspires a number of understandings and responses. Sadly, in its modern interpretation, the use of the term is often limited to the “Harlequin”-type romance. These novels, though widely-popular and perfectly legitimate, tend to be formulaic and dismissed by many as “plot-boilers.” I do not believe SO SHELLY conforms to either of these descriptions.
The Romance, however, as a story form, has a long, vaunted, and perpetual place in literary history. Modern day manifestations of this form are all derivatives of the Medieval Romance and the Romantic Movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The medieval form featured larger-than-life heroes and villains, dangerous quests, ingenues, supernatural beings and events, and a lightheartedness of tone and purpose. The more recent Romantic Movement borrows from its medieval predecessor and adds such elements as its nearly-pantheistic love of nature, an emphasis on freedom and nonconformity, high emotion, the spirit of rebellion and revolution, a tendency towards excess and spontaneity, and an appreciation of the exotic. It is this second spell of Romantic literature that inspired the trinity of characters at the center of SO SHELLY: Lord Byron, Percy Byshhe Shelley, and John Keats. Our modern day fascination with horror, supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, witches, etc.), and the paranormal can be traced to the gothic novels of this second manifestation of Romanticism. Therefore, as a literary descendant of these two forms of Romance, I am thrilled to see SHELLY included among Booklist’s honored works of Romance fiction.
Perhaps the greatest outcome of earning Booklist’s distinction would be to expand the readership of SO SHELLY across genres. In my experience as a student, teacher, and lover of art and literature, the greatest pieces have always been those that defy easy categorization. I can only hope that SO SHELLY is one such definition-resistant novel.