Summer is finally upon us, and to kick off this time of year the Mission Viejo Library hosted four authors of young adult fiction to come and speak as part of Simon & Schuster Publishing’s Summer Lovin’ 2.0 Tour.
First to speak was Jody Casella, the author of Thin Space. This book is about a boy whose twin has just died in a car accident. As he is a survivor of the crash, he feels that his brother’s death was his responsibility, so he spends his time walking around with no shoes, trying to enter the thin space between the living and the dead world to make things right. This is Casella’s sixth book, and though she is not a twin herself, the losses that she has had in her life allow her to make the loss in the book realistic for readers. Casella had always wanted to be a writer and though she chose teaching as a career at first, she let that go to pursue writing. Now, she spends pretty much every day in her pajamas, except when she has to walk her dog, working on multiple projects. (Sounds pretty comfortable!)
The next author who spoke was Sarah Ockler, who described her newest book, #scandal. This book is about an introverted high school girl whose best friend gets sick right before prom and asks her to go to the dance with her boyfriend. This causes problems since the girl has secretly had a crush on that boy for several years. When a picture of the two of them gets posted online, the girl has to deal with the aftermath. Ockler came up with the idea for this novel based on her own experience with people who had shifted relationships and much of their lives to online connections. When asked about the hardest part of writing, Ockler responded that the revision process is probably the most difficult and time consuming. In her spare time, she reads YA literature exclusively as adult literature has become a bore for her.
Next, the audience heard from Suzanne Young, the author of The Program and its sequel, The Treatment. This series is set in the near future where teen suicide has become an epidemic, and the government has set up the Program to erase teens’ most scarring memories. It deals with the theme of how you would live your life without a memory. Would you make the same friends? How would you respond to certain events? Young stated that the idea for these novels was actually derived from a commercial listing the side effects of a particular drug. That got Young thinking what the world would be like if everyone took that drug. Young is currently a high school teacher, and she says that when her books come out, her students are very excited that she is a published author. Her students can receive extra credit if they attend her book signings! She even lets some of her senior students comment on the storyline of a soon-to-be novel to get input to help her write.
The last author to speak to the audience on Sunday was C.J. Flood, who complained of being jet-lagged from her journey from England. Infinite Sky is her first novel, just like this was Flood’s first trip to the United States and her first time trying a Tootsie Roll, which surprisingly, she strongly disliked! Infinite Sky is about a girl who has to deal with her mother being gone, her father not acting right, and her brother being depressed. The story starts out with the girl attending a funeral, but you won’t know who she’s mourning unless you read the book. This story comes indirectly from Flood’s own life, since her parents got divorced when she was eight years old. At the moment, Flood does not work on multiple projects, but in the future she hopes to do so and to be able to write books faster, like the other authors in the panel.
Overall, this was a fantastic event. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the lives of these authors outside of the book writing. They were very encouraging to aspiring writers and gave attendants a sense of the pride that one feels after publishing a novel.
And, to top it all off, there was free pizza and soda at the conclusion of the event!
– Leila S., 8th Grade