When I started drafting my first YA manuscripts, I completely immersed myself in the latest YA books. My earliest favorites included Gabrielle Zevin’s gem ELSEWHERE.
There were just so many parts of the book I found so clever. The idea that we age backward in heaven (don’t we all say it would be heaven if we could start old and get young?), the idea that we specialize in learning a new task in heaven (accounting for inexplicable talent when we’re reborn), etc.
One of my favorite inclusions in the book was a tattoo. (I’m not returning to the book to write about this aspect. I’m writing from memory. And I originally read this book soon after it released in 2005.) The main character becomes involved in heaven with a man who has a tattoo for his love. As they age backward, the tattoo gets brighter and brighter, looking newer and newer. The main character grows closer and closer to her love interest. At the point at which they fall in love, the tattoo disappears.
Really, ELSEWHERE isn’t a silly, funny, laugh-out-loud book. But it’s the first YA I thought of when I thought of writing a post about books that made me smile. A full fifteen years after reading it, I still remember those passages fondly. Probably imperfectly. But definitely fondly. A book doesn’t need to be a comedy to have light moments. It doesn’t need to be fluff to make a reader smile.
And maybe, if the book is a more serious read, those moments of levity have more of an impact. Maybe, if readers’ heartstrings are already being tugged, the sweeter passages land in a deeper place in their hearts too.