There are a few words throughout the course of the novel that have been recurring in one form or another. Clearly, this is because they harbor some more profound meaning, or embody a theme. The paragraphs that follow mention my findings. I collected them through a couple of different ways. The first word is an interesting, recurring word that I spent some time thinking about as I read. The second is the result of me analyzing the plain text from BlackBoard in a script I wrote. The last word comes from what I think is a big theme of the novel.
By far, the word that has stuck out to me the most is ‘leftwrist’. It usually, but not exclusively, appears in the phrase ‘leftwrist [insert jewel, metal, object here] twist’. There’s also a slight variation on the phrase that follows the pattern ‘leftwrist twist of [insert jewel, metal, object here]’. According to the Amazon book search feature, it appears 60 times throughout the novel (30 on each side, perfectly parallel). As I have written, there’s usually some jewel or metal (or sometimes another object) in the phrase: ruby (p. S127), rosegold (p. S158), tin (p. S120), myrtle (p. S306), etc. It always (from what I can recall) is the left wrist. My initial thought on this is, perhaps, what I have on my left wrist: my watch. It’s quite apparent to us now that time plays an important role in the story. Also, what happens in a watch? There are hands completing revolutions around the face. It is a never-ending cycle, just like many of the physical features of the book suggest.
Another word that has some significance to Sam and Hailey’s story (or stories), is the word, and number, sixteen. So, Sam and Hailey are both 16 years old. What else? The word ‘sixteen’ appears eight times in Sam’s text and eight times in Hailey’s text. Everyone (should) know that ‘8 + 8 = 16’. Oh. And it also appear in Hailey’s timeline once. So, actually, that gives ‘8 + 8 + 1 = 17’. Even though this breaks the word count for ‘sixteen’, its appearance in the timeline is interesting because the entry it appears in states ‘I quit school when I were sixteen’ (p. H34). I’d have to guess that this is Hailey writing since this is her side of the novel. What else is significant about this number? Sixteen is also the age at which one can get a beginner’s license. What do the couple seem to have a new one of every few pages? Cars. It’s their medium of transportation. What does the age of 16 also allow you to do? Consent to sexual intercourse (which they seem to have a lot of, though it has been tapering a little as the story goes on). Becoming 16 is also a rite of passage in some cultures. You can see what else the number 16 has in store on the Wikipedia page.
Lastly, there’s the word ‘free’ and its derivatives. This word appears in a myriad of places in the novel. There are 80 occurrences and 70 occurrences on Hailey’s and Sam’s sides, respectively. This book is all about being free. Not only by the notion that the pair are pretty much free-roaming around the country, but also because the book itself is freely written. It’s free from constraints of a typical novel these days. Its structure is very different from what you’d expect. Even down to the text itself. It’s very open (even to misspellings and obviously intentional errors). Every aspect of this novel is moving. The characters, the story (it’s as if it is what is on the character’s mind, raw and unedited) the printed text (it’s changing size and shifting), the page indicators, the timeline… it’s a big aspect of the novel: free movement.
The book itself is an eye opener to what else is out there. We’ve all seen Shakespeare, Dickens, and Thoreau. But it’s nice to have a change of perspective every once in a while.