Isn’t she cute? And her book is fantastic—I mean, way better than the usual debut fantastic. Emma’s protagonist in The Patterns of Paper Monsters is an adolescent named Jacob, who is in a Juvenile Detention Center. And though we know from the beginning that he is a criminal of some sort, it doesn’t take long to fall in love with him. His outlook on life is at once muddied with hormones but also shockingly clear when it comes to the people around him. Jacob is a character who we cheer for, laugh with, and hope he will somehow overcome his ill-fated family, peers, and situation.
What intrigued me most about Rathbone’s voice is her humor. It isn’t your run-of-the-mill literary wit, it’s the kind that makes you think how in the world did she come up with that, while trying to catch your breath and wiping away laughter tears from a red, squinty face. She absolutely nailed the thoughts of a male teenager (sex, sex, sex), while retaining a certain amount of innocence and naivete.
We talked on the phone yesterday about the triumph of finally being published, and the agony of the wait. Emma said she started a second novel, but soon realized that what she enjoyed most about writing Patterns. . ., the humor aspect, was missing. She deciphered that humor is an integral piece of her writing and her voice, and started over on another project. When she gets weighed down beneath words, she sometimes listens to classical music, and this seems to lift her confusion and enable her to resume. After graduating with an MFA from the University of Virginia in 2006, Emma set out to take on writing a novel, and went through many drafts and revisions until she felt satisfied with the story. She queried different agents, went through rejections, and then after finding the right one, began the wait of the selling process. She said that she wished she could have bottled the feeling she had after she received the news that Reagan Arthur, an imprint of Hachette Books, bought her novel. Inevitably, life goes on and thoughts turn to selling copies and writing the next book.
It is such an achievement these days when ANY book makes it into print, and an even greater one when the book is of such great quality as The Patterns of Paper Monsters. Go out and buy this one, not just because you want to support a new author, but because it is truly deserving of your dollars.