When I discovered it was my turn to blog immediately on the heels of Cynthia’s release party for WE’VE GOT A JOB, I realized at once that I had a tough act to follow. What a fabulous week of interviews, contests, and information it was! And speaking of Cynthia’s release party, she has asked me to share this message:
Thanks to everyone—EMUs and EMUs followers alike–who helped celebrate the release of We’ve Got a Job. The two winners of a free signed book will be announced on Thursday. Everyone who commented last week is entitled to an “I can be a hero, too!” badge. Email Cynthia off-line with your address if you’d like one. And, if you bought a copy of We’ve Got a Job last week, let Cynthia know so she can send you a signed bookplate.
I didn’t contribute a post last week during the big event, but I did feel the excitement. I’ve been feeling the excitement for months, as Cynthia’s wonderful book has earned starred reviews, been handed out as an ARC at national events, and even been mentioned on a Newbery watch list–and all before its release.
I’m just tickled pink for Cynthia. Pink. Not green with envy. Tickled Pink. Really.
Okay, so maybe there’s a little hint of green. I’ve always had an olive complexion, but maybe it’s looking a little more chartreuse lately.
It’s not Cynthia’s stars, or sales figures, or loving reviewers that make me envious. I know how hard she has worked and how committed she is. She deserves every single second of joy and success this moment can hold.
Her book, though, that’s what’s turning me ever-so-slightly green. It is beautiful, and beautifully written, but more than that, it’s socially powerful. It’s a story that NEEDED to be told, and that we should never, EVER stop telling. And I can’t think of a better way to tell it. I want my book to be that meaningful and important, but how can anyone live up to that standard with a fluffy bit of frou frou fiction?
I decided this was a question that needed an answer, so I queried my fellow EMUs (except I tricked them into responding by phrasing it more like “the significance of what we do.” I’m crafty that way.)
Here’s what they said (I leave it to you to figure out who said what):
GEEKS GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES is a big, sloppy, affectionate ode to the fringe kid. My editor said it is essentially about a boy who feels unlovable, incapable, and undeserving of acceptance and respect, but eventually realizes that he is eminently lovable, highly capable, and undoubtedly worthy of acceptance and respect. And if even one of my future readers walks away from my book with the tiniest scrap of belief that those feelings are attainable, well then – that would be significant, wouldn’t it?
I want NERVE to offer readers a page-turning story, but I’d be thrilled if it also generated conversation about privacy. The main character in my book is seduced into a game of dares, which takes advantage of information she’s given away freely online. Loss of privacy may be the currency we pay for a greater sense of community, but the Internet has greatly magnified that equation. I’d love it if my book gets folks talking about where they’d draw the line.
HENRY FRANKS is young adult horror so on the importance scale from SEE SPOT RUN to WE’VE GOT A JOB I’d have to say that HENRY FRANKS is probably closer to Spot…it’s escapism I guess, a way for readers to get a little creeped out and have some fun. The important part would be the search for identity, which I believe everyone can relate to. Trying to find yourself, find your friends, find your future. Those are the over-arching themes, all tied up with a pretty bow (if, by ‘pretty bow’ one includes a serial killer, a hurricane, a love story and a joke or two…).
FLYING THE DRAGON is for the kid who has just moved to a new school, who feels out of place in his or her own skin, or who is dealing with a relative who is terminally ill. It’s for a kid who is dealing with culture shock, or the kid who has a non-English speaking classmate and doesn’t know how to reach out. It’s for kids who are curious about other cultures. And it’s for kids who feel caught between two cultures.
For LEAGUE OF STRAYS, I feel the importance is to let teens know the dangers in following others blindly. My character, Charlotte, ends up in a new school Senior year and gets caught up in “friendship” with several kids, one of whom is a sociopath, who she follows until it becomes very challenging for her to repair her life. It’s also tangentially about revenge and bullies and the damage they do. Lastly, it’s about developing your own dreams and holding onto them.
While FANGIRL is primarily a fun and funny novel, the main character, Blaze, must deal with intense bullying after her evil ex posts a ‘sext’ photo of her online. Instead of giving up, Blaze fights back and refuses to lose her sense of humor despite feeling utterly defeated. Unfortunately, most of us have experienced being the subject of gossip and it always hurts. I hope that readers will be able to draw strength from Blaze and realize that they cannot be defined by what others think of them. Oh, and also, Gossip Mongers Suck!
Every reader is going to get something different out of THE WICKED AND THE JUST. It’s going to be important in more ways than I can imagine. So here’s why it is important to *me*. At its heart, it’s a story about power and its exercise. Having power and knowing how to use it are two different things, and kids live in a world of uneven power that is uncomfortably hierarchical at times. The medieval world is similar, and I hope I capture that and make it familiar, relatable and survivable.
I’ll tell you right up front—WATER is devastating. My characters endure trauma that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I don’t think this book is important because of the suffering. It is important because of the hope that rests beneath the parched surface of this story: the idea that you can find family if you are brave enough to let down your defenses; you can make a home for yourself, even out of the dust.
HOLY COW!!!! And to think all this time I’ve been writing about chickens and a fish with whiskers! (Although actually, my book KATERINA’S WISH does address issues of immigration, prejudice, and choosing between fighting for what you believe in or settling for second best. Its only a little bit about chickens.)
What I really love about all these answers, is the passion behind them. The messages of hope and strength and comfort with which all these authors are marching forward. Some of these stories are fun, some are scary, some are serious or adventurous. All of them offer kids a chance to go somewhere or be someone different for a short time, and learn important things about themselves and the world while they are at it. The strength and solace we all hope kids find in our books is truly awe inspiring, and makes me proud to be part of this community. Like Birmingham’s civil rights marchers, we’ve got a job, too!
And that’s a pretty wonderful job to have, even if there is some frou frou fluff along the way.