Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tough Subjects for Young Readers

As a young reader myself, I leaned towards adult novels that took on the big issues – family sagas, emotional turmoil, secrets, pain. It wasn’t until I read S.E. Hinton as an eighth grader that I actually first saw myself reflected in a young adult book, with the rough and tumble crowd going through some really difficult challenges in life.

It meant a lot to me at that time, to find many of my feelings mirrored on those black and white pages.

So when I set out to pen my first young adult novel, there were two tough subjects I wanted to approach. Addiction and chronic illness.

The downside of tough issues is that they are, well, tough. A lot of people can find them sad or depressing or just plain negative. The best part about books and stories to me, however, is that everyone sees themselves as having a place in the world. In knowing and being able to put a finger down next to a character’s name and realize: I am not alone.

I wanted to offer that to my readers as it had once been done for me.

In Break the Spell, my main character Allison is keeping secrets and hiding her pain so as not to burden her family and friends with her illness. My secondary character Ethan is on the run as he decides whether or not to take the fall for his drug-addicted brother. The two collide in the abandoned high school and take refuge there for one long weekend. I’ve always been fascinated by isolation, and what it can bring out in people. In some, it pulls out the worst. In others, it offers an opportunity for examination and a cease fire from the world to actually find some answers to the problems that have been plaguing us.

Allison and Ethan don’t have an ideal happy ending. Because most lives don’t have a fairy tale ending. We all keep moving forward with less than ideal situations, conditions or tasks. It’s through connections, however, like my two main characters, or like young me finding myself in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders as I read it alone under the front yard maple tree one weekend: That we find the courage to keep going.

That we realize, I am not alone.

Happy reading!

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