I'm Nancy Werlin, and I'd like first to thank Carrie, Gracen, and Margay for their generous invitation to do a guest blog post. (And Margay is a Lowell of the Boston Lowells! I'm from Boston, too, though my family is, er, rather less distinguished than the Lowells. We're nice, mind you, but pure peasant.)
I write young adult fiction. My seventh novel, Impossible, was just released on August 11, 2009, in paperback from Penguin. Impossible is a genre-bending mix of contemporary, suspense, romance, and fantasy that was inspired by the song "Scarborough Fair."
Click here for a one-minute book trailer that introduces the book!
Although Impossible was originally released in hardcover as YA fiction, the paperback release will also be classified as adult, in part because the Publishers Weekly's Cuffie awards of 2008 called Impossible a "best novel for young readers that adults would love if they knew about it," and then Penguin, my publisher, said, "Hey! We think so too."
Click here to find out more about the book and here to find out more about why I desperately needed to write this particular book.
But now, I want to talk more about young adult fiction, because I think there's a great deal of it that adult readers would love if they only knew about it.
Often, adult readers who don't know much about YA fiction wonder why a writer would choose to work in this field. It usually turns out that they haven't read any YA fiction from the last 10 to 15 years and so are unaware of the astounding vibrancy of the genre. It's fair to say that fiction written for older teenagers nowadays is in a golden age. YA fiction can be and usually is as well-written and involving as fiction about adults, but it features a teenage protagonist. I can imagine no more interesting characters to work with than teens, and no more fascinating material than watching a teen transition -- under enormous pressure -- from child to adult, which is what happens in all of my books. When are your choices in life more important than when you're a teen?
Writing YA also enables a genre-bending writer like me to have all of my books shelved together at the bookstore, even though I write
The Killer's Cousin and Locked Inside
(Edgar award honorees),
science fiction crossed with contemporary
and contemporary literary
The Rules of Survival
(National Book Award finalist),
as well as romance
Are You Alone on Purpose?
(Impossible, of course, is both of these).
So whether or not you're interested in my books, I hope that you'll wander into the YA section of your library or bookstore soon and start browsing. It's not for nothing that books like the Harry Potter series, The Book Thief and Twilight are dominating bestseller numbers, but what you'll discover as you browse is that these are only the tip of the iceberg. The quality and range of American (not to mention British and Australian) YA fiction (and heck, nonfiction) is nothing short of extraordinary. I promise.
And frankly, I ought to know. This year, I'm chairing the National Book Award judging panel for our category, Young People's Literature. Our panel (Kathi Appelt, Coe Booth, Carolyn Coman, and Gene Luen Yang -- all of which we in children's books know are writer names to conjure with) is reading upwards of 250 books published in 2009. We can pick only five books for the short list of finalists. While I'm forbidden to talk about our reading in progress, I can tell you that it's going to be a tough, tough choice, and that I personally feel humbled and incredibly lucky to be writing books for young people right here, right now.
[Thanks to Nancy for joining us even though her schedule is soooo busy!]