Meet Karen DelleCava and Selene Castrovilla!
Greg: Thank you both for taking the time during this warm summer week in the Northeast (great time to curl up with a book) to join me on my blog. Let's start with your favorite all time YA book.
Karen: I scanned my bookcases and so many titles jumped out and shouted, "Pick me!" I love YA novels that march fearlessly into difficult, taboo territories and give voice to a teen who may have thought they were all alone dealing with the same kind of issues. I can't choose one all time favorite but I'll say that Laurie Halse Anderson's and Chris Crutcher's brilliant novels never disappoint.
Selene: The Catcher in the Rye. I read it when I was about nine, because Tiger Beat Magazine listed it as my idol Parker Stevenson's favorite book. It was impossible not to feel Holden Caulfield's loneliness and pain - his yearing for acceptance and love. I completely identified with it. Teens are struggling to find themselves and their place in the world, and The Catcher in the Rye helped me do that. I wasn't alone at being alone. This theme carries through in my novel, Saved by the Music.
Greg: Awesome! Can you talk about the state of YA novels today?
Karen: Back in the day, I relied on a friend's breathless recommendation: "You have to read this book!" At school visits, I meet students who get pumped up about a book by hearing about it from friends, their school librarian and teachers. Word of mouth is still gold and today the Internet makes mining that much easier. Goodreads and YA bloggers connect readers with similar tastes and tons of breathless recommendations from those who've discovered a YA treasure.
Selene: I don’t remember anyone using the term “YA books” when I was growing up. Books were books. I like that teens have their own category, but everything is over-labeled, in my opinion. Why can’t an adult enjoy and identify a book about a teenager? They were once one, and I’ll wager it was the toughest time in their lives. YA books – and books in generally – are up against so many more distractions from when I was a teen. Social media, video games, twenty-billion cable stations, and of course texting...All of these distractions vie for teens’ attention. That’s why I wanted my books to be available for download. Today’s teens read most things electronically, whether we like it or not. We have to make sure our books are available for them on their terms.
Greg: I'm amazed by the diversity of themes and issues covered in YA. What are your thoughts?
Karen: YA authors must tap into the uncertainty, inexperience and raw emotions of the teen years with brutal honestly and at times a touch of humor. When they do, the work will resonate with teen and teen-at-heart readers. In A Closer Look, 14 year old Cassie has alopecia areata, a hair loss disease, which strikes during her first budding romance. The novel also explores the universal need to fit in. I do not have AA but I had an accident with boiling water as a kid and know what it feels like to be painfully self-conscious and uncomfortable in my own skin. Teen readers who write to me always ask if I have alopecia--guess I did something right.
Selene: To me, the biggest theme in YA is coming of age: alienation and trying to fit in, feeling somehow wrong but not knowing how to fix the problem, grief over loss of innocence, and trying to cope in a world where anything can happen. My novel Saved by the Music addresses the dilemma of not fitting in, and the measures one girl takes to try and be popular and the universal problem of loneliness. I think all good YA literature addresses teen angst. The trick is to be real, because teens can spot phoniness a mile away. When I write my novels I go back to being a teen and write from her perspective, and frankly, it’s not that far a journey into my psyche because I still have so many unresolved issues. The other theme I identified so strongly with as a teen was trying to function in an unpredictable world. How could I feel safe when at any moment, anything could happen? This is the theme in The Girl Next Door.
Greg: Do you find the time of year has any effect on the reading of YA? (Is summerstronger than the school year?)
Karen: With all the enthusiastic teen librarians, Goodreads, countless YA bloggers and their followers out there, YA readers seem like they're on the hunt for titles to devour year round.
Selene: I think teens who enjoy books read more in the summer, because they have free time and choose to fill it that way. Teens who don’t like books will read more during the school year, because they have no choice. I still believe that a teen who doesn't like books just hasn't found the book that turns him or her on yet. I’m proud that my nineteen year old son Michael has been reading a book a day since his summer break began.
Greg: This has been a great conversation! Thank you. Before you go…tell me what you are working on now.
Karen: I'm nearing the end of a first draft for my next contemporary YA. Then onto revisions! Greg, I so enjoyed your adult books Patchwork of Me and Well with My Soul, I can't wait to see what's next from you in YA. Thanks for having us here today!
Selene: I am addressing the theme of abuse and its consequences in my next teen novel, tied in with the overall confusion of coming of age. This novel is dark and gritty, but it also contains a love story. Love is the ultimate redemption, is it not?
Greg: Thanks for those kind words, Karen and so true, Selene. Please visit these amazing authors on their websites!Karen DelleCava