This didn't post earlier because I actually needed time to mull things over in my head and get a coherent picture. And because I was tired, but that might have been due in part to the mulling.
Yesterday I recommended a site, Mark Reads, after going through his entire series of reviews on Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. One of the reasons I was beyond excited about this is because while I loved the books, recommend them without pause, and will go see the movie on release day--I can't read them again. I honest to God can't. I read the series in 2 days and had disturbing dreams verging on nightmares for, oh, a week or so. Having read the reviews, I was reminded why I love the series--but I've also been blessed with those disturbing dreams again.
I had a similar experience a few months ago after reading Feed and Deadline by Mira Grant. I've never been one for post-apocyloptic novels, especially when you throw in zombies. And yet Grant's books sucked me in--I was actually a little annoyed that it was my birthday weekend and so I couldn't just hole up and devour them. When I came to the last sentence in Deadline, I literally--and I do mean literally--had chills and goosebumps all over me. The final book in the triology comes out May 2012 and I can't wait. At the same time, I could barely sleep for three or four days, and when I did, I did not have pretty dreams.
Now, before someone gets the idea that I'm just a total scaredy-cat, let me take this moment to say I'm a horror movie fan. Love them, whether they're good or bad or even awful. Does this mean I don't jump or I laugh at them? Not by any means. But nine movies out of ten do not affect me after I watch them. The two to three which have--The Blair Witch Project (1 &2) and Paranormal Activity--really did their job. I woke up in the middle of the night after watching Paranormal Activity, absolutely terrified, and had to call my mom before I could go back to sleep.
Grant and Collins, writing for different audiences, with different premises on the end/beginning of the world, heck, with totally different writing styles, managed to achieve the same effect on me. How?
In the same way the movies listed above did. They took the most basic of human emotions--love, fear, hatred--and blew them up. Blew them out of the water. I will never forget any of those books or movies because they made me feel to such an extreme as to be absolutely haunting.
If, just once, I have someone say the same thing about anything I've written, I'll know I've done an amazing job.