Confessions Of An Edgy YA Writer-Part 3

cliffedgePart 2 ended here: I write edgy YA because it tells a truth about what life is like for a teen.

Part 3 begins here: I write edgy YA because I have complete faith that teens can handle the edge.

There are three basic stages of books for kids: Picture books explain the world to little ones with inventive stories about the basic rituals of life: going to school, going to bed or getting a sibling. Middle grade books thrust kids into their first adventures slightly beyond the reach of adults so that they can begin to figure things out own their own. In young adult books, the characters (and readers) are trying to understand themselves in the world. They are exploring their own lives, trying to figure out who they are and what makes sense. They are reexamining the status quo. They’re asking why and why not?

I wrote EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN specifically for that young adult reader. Why? Because I want the characters in EVIDENCE to shed light on a teen’s exploration of self and the world.

When Leann can’t respond to Marshall’s simple genuine proposal of love because she was molested by her uncle and his son, I hope young adult readers will understand the cost of incest.

When Izzy has a theory about losing her virginity and acts on it with her friend, I think teens will comprehend her thinking. I think they will also appreciate the reaction of her friend Alex who isn’t so cavalier about sex and losing his virginity. This tricky rite of passage is important to teens and they will come to their own conclusions about this portrayal.

When Karla murders someone, I make sure to portray her in such a way that readers will realize how that vicious act grew out of a betrayal by her parent. I think that right or wrong won’t be the conclusion, but a deeper understanding will.

When Dwight runs away from home because he finally sees that his father enjoys beating his mother and him, I think readers will grasp how hard it was for the boy to get to the moment of running away.

Life is tender. Yes, we want to protect our kids. But we also want to help them develop their powers of discernment. I hope that EVIDENCE will sharpen their perception because life isn’t a choice between right and wrong, good and evil. Life isn’t black and white. It’s a bit more subtle. It’s full of grey areas.

Edgy YA writers take kids to dark places and turn on the lights because those readers are smart and they are trying to figure stuff out.

Why do I write edgy YA?

Because I have complete faith in my readers. They know the view is more expansive out here on the edge.







scavenger hunt


Welcome Hunters,

team blueYou have now entered the world of Team Blue.

Hunt well, my book ravenous friends. But before you notch your bow, a reminder of the rules and directions:


1. Somewhere below, I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the Team Blue, and then add them up. (With or without a calculator.)

2. Once you’ve added up all the numbers in Team Blue, click here and fill out the form so that you may officially qualify for the grand prize.  Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

3. After you are done hunting Team Blue, you can move on to other teams: Red, Orange, Green, Gold and Indie. One Hundred and Twenty authors. Wow. And that’s not even my favorite number. Check out the YA Scavenger Hunt Page for a list of authors and teams and details.


This contest is open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 5, 2014 at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Enough with the rules, already.

jessicabrodyOn to the fabulous author that I am hosting: Jessica Brody. She is the author of ten novels, including the sci-fi/suspense series: UNREMEMBERED (March 2013) UNFORGOTTEN (February 2014) and UNCHANGED (February 24, 2015). UNREMEMBERED, the first book in the trilogy is currently in development as a film. Wait, did I just say trilogy? As in three books? Three. 3. Love that number.

For the Scavenger Hunt, Jessica is sharing an exclusive excerpt of the upcoming third book in the trilogy: UNCHANGED:Unchanged_CVR_FINAL

“Diotech is trying to help people,” I tell him boldly.

“Diotech is trying to control people.”

No! A voice screams in my head. Don’t listen to him. He’s trying to lure you back in. He’s trying to deceive you again.

That’s a lie,” I assert, keeping my voice stern.

“Like all the other lies I told you?” He smirks, the sarcasm still thick in his tone.


He takes a step toward me. I instinctively take a step back. “So when I told you I loved you?”

I can feel my legs starting to wobble. “Lie.”

He takes another step. I retreat again. The tent wall is at my back now. I can’t move any further.

“And when I told you I’d always protect you?”

He’s too close. His scent has reached me. It’s masked by a layer of sweat and dirt, but my nose can still identify it. My mind can still pair it to memories.

Memories that should keep me from him.

Not draw me in.

“Lie,” I say again.

Another step and he’s upon me. His nose is inches from mine. The air that leaves his mouth is the same air I breathe in. “And when I told you I’d never stop looking for you?”

My throat is dry. I try to wet it but there’s nothing to swallow.

Somehow, I am no longer cold. And I hate him for that.

I will my body to shiver again.

“Lie,” I finally manage to squeeze out. But even I can hear the waver in my own voice.

He smiles. It’s not playful. It’s not spiteful. It’s something else.

“Yet here we both are,” he says.

Unremembered-FINAL1-709x1024I’m intrigued. Are you? If you want to check out more of Jessica’s books, go here. And if you want to download the first five chapters of UNREMEMBERED, click here.




Ready to move on to the next link in the Hunt?



Click HERE.


Confessions of an Edgy YA writer: Part 2

Here’s where I ended my last postSo yes, I write edgy YA. Because I think teens want to look over the edge but they don’t necessarily want to jump.

Here is where I am beginning this post: I write edgy YA because I think teens live on the edge all the time.

I went to see the film BOYHOOD (trailer below) last night. It is a masterwork by Rick Linklater. Filmed over a twelve-year period, it follows a boy Mason and his sister as they grow up in a family, which is not a very unusual family by today’s standards. The kids are the product of young love, two people who fit well together in bed but had a harder time growing up and being parents together. So they split up and the kids watch as their loving mother careens from school to jobs to bad marriages trying to make a life for them. Their father tries to be meaningful in their lives but it’s hard to get meaning out of two overnights a month. Nothing horrible happens. No one gets murdered, raped or beaten but here’s the deal, Linklater takes us so close to what it’s like to be a kid witnessing the vagaries of the adults in his life that every scene has a sense of danger. The little betrayals, vicissitudes, and inattention of adults jerk kids around. Adults don’t mean to do it. They just do. They are human.

In a bit of a cultural zeitgeist, I saw a very similar film a few weeks earlier: HELLION by Kat Candler (trailer below). Again, two siblings are left to fend for themselves as their father goes off on a three-week bender following the tragic and unexpected death of his wife/their mom. Nothing horrific happens but the audience has the sense that life could go terribly off the rails at any moment. As the father careens, so do the boys. As others adults try to help, they inadvertently pull the rug out from under the boys. It is all well meaning and full of love but oh so painful to watch.

Edgy books give teens a glimpse of protagonists figuring the uncertainty of life. Because that’s what the edge is: uncertainty. As far as I know, no one has been able to predict the future so we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Not knowing is exciting and scary. For a teen, that uncertainty is even more extreme because they’ve already fallen off the cliff of childhood. Now they are climbing up some weird precipice called adulthood. In a way, teens live on the razor’s edge between childhood and adulthood.

So yes, I write edgy YA because it tells a truth about what life is like for a teen.

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Confessions of an Edgy YA Writer-Part 1

I write edgy young adult novels. There I’ve said it. On September 16, 2014, when Evidence of Things Not Seen is published, I will join peers like Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Levithan and Coe Booth to name but a few who push the envelope in contemporary realistic fiction.

My goal is not to write edgy YA. My goal is not to titillate readers or incite controversy. My goal is to write honest and true characters.  My goal is to show how those characters grapple with tough moments. My goal is to write a book for teens that is cleared eyed and doesn’t wrap life up in a bow.  My goal is to write books that hold grit and dirt right next to faith and mystery.

Recently at the Texas Library Association, I got to hear Laurie Halse Anderson. She noted that it has been 15 years since SPEAK was published and she continues to write challenging books. Why? Because she learned from her minister father that Jesus was a storyteller and the reason he was a storyteller was because stories helped people learn, understand and prepare them for the world. She thinks that it’s important for kids to read books that allow them to tackle tough subjects safely. She thinks we do a disservice to kids if we protect them so much they are vulnerable when they go out in the world.

I agree.

In a May 6 Publisher Weekly article about the 2014 PEN World Voices Festival, Krystyna Poray Goddu reported about the panel, On the Edge. Moderated by Viking editor Sharyn November, panelists British novelist Sarwat Chadda, Canadian writer Niki Walker, author and photographer Susan Kuklin, and writer Robie Harris discussed sex and violence in children’s literature

While all the panelists were against censorship, they respected parents who chose not to buy their books. Robie Harris said, “There’s a difference between saying ‘I don’t want my child to read this,’ and saying ‘I don’t want any child to read this.’ I have had librarians tell me they would never have my books in their home, but that it’s their job to have them in the library. Those librarians are heroes, in my view.”

Panelists agreed that the concern about children reading inappropriate material for their age can be unjustified because young readers self-censor. “Kids who can’t handle something in a book don’t read it,” said Harris. “November added, “Often you read so you don’t have to experience. Parents need to trust their own child-raising skills and their own children more.”

In my view, what’s lovely about books is the time readers can take to reflect and reread. As much as I love movies, they can be a bit of a barrage. Books, though, give the reader time to revel, contemplate, even think about what they might have done in a similar situation.

So yes, I write edgy YA. Because I think teens want to look over the edge but they don’t necessarily want to jump.

Getting Unquiet

Okay…so I didn’t mean to go quiet for nearly two years. Certainly my life wasn’t quiet during that whole time. In fact, some very loud things happened to me during my absence from this blog: I got an agent who sold my manuscript, which is going to be published on September 16, 2014. That’s some pretty holy crap, shout out loud news, right? I did some pretty significant shouting over on Facebook, Twitter and Emu’s Debuts. But not here.

For one thing, I had to tuck in and write, revise, repeat on for the novel and for another, well, this blog and this site was feeling a little out of date. I thought, “Well, I’ll keep quiet just a little longer while I redo my website and blog and, you know, prepare for the new baby’s arrival.” Only painting the baby’s room and is taking way longer than I thought so I’m not going keep quiet any longer. I’ve got things to say.

Stayed tuned.