YA Thriller Round-Up

I’ll admit it. I was way too chicken to read Lois Duncan when I was a teen. I was the kid who made my mom hide a beloved (but scary!) picture book in the closet so the Yeller Belly Swamp monsters couldn’t get me. I kept my eyes closed through the entirety of Jurassic Park in the theater. (It was 1993. I was eleven. It’s still embarrassing.) I had to secretly ask my fifth grade teacher to stop reading an R.L. Stine novel out loud to the class because it was giving me nightmares. By the time I was in high school, my tolerance for all things scary wasn’t much higher. The only Stephen King I could read was Carrie. I still haven’t seen Nightmare on Elm Street or even Silence of the Lambs. (To my credit, I did check the latter out of my college library for an entire semester. It sat on top of my TV/VCR mocking me for months.)

But here’s the twist: I’m all grown up now, and I love thrillers. Don’t get me wrong—I still can’t watch a horror movie without freaking myself out every time the floor creaks for a solid week. But give me a good suspense novel or psychological thriller, and I’ll be turning the pages so fast you’d think my fingers were racing my heart. I love an unreliable narrator and a toxic friendship and a plot twist I didn’t see coming. I especially love a young adult thriller, so in honor of Lois Duncan, a master of YA suspense who passed away on June 15th of this year, I’ve pulled together a round-up of some of my favorite character-driven, suspenseful, and psychologically thrilling YA novels from the past two years.

2014

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Delacorte 2014)

After her accident, Cadence Sinclair Eastman suffers from migraines and the stubborn shadow eclipsing her memories of what happened the summer she was sixteen. In this lyrical, riveting suspense novel, Lockhart masterfully steers us through the spectrum of trauma, recovery, and letting go and delivers an ending that will make you flip back to page one.

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Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Disney-Hyperion 2014)

Armentrout spins a compelling “whodunit” about a girl suffering from total amnesia following a traumatic incident that left her damaged and her best friend Cassie missing, presumed dead. Samantha’s new life is a puzzle, but she’s not sure she wants to put the pieces back together if it means returning to the person she used to be. But Cassie is still missing, and someone wants Samantha to know the truth about what happened.

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Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn (St. Martin’s Griffin 2014)

Jamie’s sister Cate went off the rails two years ago, and now that she’s been released from juvie, Jamie isn’t sure he wants his big sister back in his life. Now that she’s out, bad things have started to happen all over again, just like they did before Cate was locked away. Cate’s reappearance stirs up memories from Jamie’s past, and he’s not sure how much remembering he can take. In this compelling, character-driven psychological thriller, Kuehn tugs at the threads that tether the human psyche until everything comes undone.

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Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Disney-Hyperion 2014)

After almost dying for the second time, Sophie resolves to find her best friend’s killer, even when it means endangering herself all over again. In this suspenseful murder mystery with an intricately wrought non-linear structure, Sharpe presents readers with an alluring, unexpected love triangle, a compelling voice, and a heart-thudding race to a conclusion that doesn’t disappoint.

2015

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We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean (HMH Books for Young Readers 2015)

Alice Monroe is doing time in a mental ward, but it’s her twin sister Cellie who set the fire that killed Alice’s boyfriend and endangered Alice’s life. Fed up after spending years as her twin’s protector, Alice resolves to get revenge. But as she puts her plan in motion, Alice begins to realize she may only know a fraction of the truth.

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Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul (Balzer + Bray 2015)

Mattie swore off Jolene and her dangerous, intoxicating brand of friendship the summer after sophomore year. But now that high school’s almost over, Mattie finds herself tempted by the revelry of senior year and by the former best friend she could never really quit, no matter how toxic their relationship might have been. Drawn back into Jolene’s web, Mattie struggles to draw the line between reality and delusion, devotion and poison.

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The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (Algonquin Young Readers 2015)

In this thrilling, contemporary ghost story, Suma takes us deep inside the very different worlds of Violet, Orianna, and Amber. Violet has clawed her way to the brink of breakout career in ballet. Amber has been locked inside the walls of a juvenile detention center for years on a manslaughter charge. Ori is the girl who touches both of their lives, whose own story may be over before it’s even begun. With justice holding a mirror to each girls’ face, questions of guilt and innocence become tangled and unwound in the resolution of their three stories.

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Damage Done by Amanda Panitch (Random House Books for Young Readers 2015)

Lucy Black used to be Julia Vann. She used to be a lot of things: a twin, a girlfriend, a “normal” high school girl. But then 22 seconds in a locked band room with her twin brother and a loaded gun changed everything. Now, 11 people are dead, her brother is behind bars, and Lucy has a new name and a new life. As Lucy is compelled to confront the darkness in her past, her new identity begins to unravel, revealing all the secrets she’s tried so hard to keep hidden.

What to Read Next

There’s a fresh crop of delicious-sounding YA thrillers that have just been released or are coming out soon! Here’s what’s on the top of my reading list for 2016:

 Mirage by Tracy Clark (HMH Books for Young Readers 2016)

With Malice by Eileen Cook (HMH Books for Young Readers 2016)

Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch (Random House Books for Young Readers 2016)

How to Disappear by Ann Redisch Stampler (Simon Pulse 2016)

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas (Delacorte 2016) 

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten (Doubleday Canada 2016)

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn (Dutton Books for Young Readers, forthcoming August 2016)

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig (Feiwel & Friends, forthcoming October 2016)

Shelfie: 2015 in review, 2016 up ahead

Shelfie_10.20.15 Happy 2016! I don’t have any big reading resolutions for the new year aside from diving into a bunch of great books. Here a little year-end round-up of a few faves from 2015 and a preview of the titles that are lighting up my TBR pile in 2016.

2015 in YA (in reading order):

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

This suspenseful murder mystery, presented nonlinearly, has a great, unexpected love triangle and a compelling voice. The first best thing I read in 2015 (and re-read a few months later!).

Winger by Andrew Smith

He may have had a rough year on social media, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this moving boarding school contemp. Smith takes the story to a really powerful, unexpected place.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

This was my introduction to the inimitable Courtney Summers, and I want more! Now! This book was a dirty, vicious, and spot-on take on bullying. But it’s not like an issue book, OK? It’s just really well-done.

Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick

Great contemporary realistic about a likable girl making some unlikable decisions during her last year of high school.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Voice, voice, voice! Really engaging, character-driven look at a girl facing the beginnings of mental illness during a summer spent housesitting for her parents.

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Compelling “whodunit” about a girl suffering from total amnesia following a traumatic indecent that left her damaged and her best friend missing, presumed dead.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby 

With one foot in the real world and the other firmly lodged in the realm of the fantastical, Ruby’s novel is mysterious, literary, and unlike anything I’ve read before.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

A riveting and fun exploration of reality, delusion, and high school relationships with a killer twist.

The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

Beautiful magical realism set in a world where a spell can be bought to cure just about anything, but sometimes the cost is unbearable.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

More beautiful magical realism exploring innocence, guilt, dance, juvie, and a final gesture toward redemption or revenge.

George by Alex Gino

This is middle grade, but I’m squeezing it in with the YA crowd because it’s the only MG I read all year. Equal parts sweet and provoking story of transgender George’s quest to play Charlotte in the school production of Charlotte’s Web and show everyone what she knows to be true–that she’s a girl.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Raw and suspenseful story of what happens to Minnow after an extremist religious cult takes her childhood–and her hands.

2015 in Adult (in reading order):

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I loved this novel, which follows a creative group of teenagers that meet at a summer art camp through the successes, jealousies, and struggles of their adult lives.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

This could easily fall under YA (it’s a classic coming-of-age story), but I’m pretty sure DiSclafani’s literary debut has been shelved under adult. Either way, it’s a suspenseful and taughtly-written drama about a girl sent away to a special private school after disgracing her family in the 1930s.

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchia Dunlop

I’ve been pretty YA-centric so far this year, but I did squeeze in this great food memoir. Mouth-watering and thoughtful writing on an English student’s experiences eating, traveling, and cooking in Sichuan provence and elsewhere in China.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I finally read Fun Home in anticipation of seeing the musical on Broadway this summer. (High marks to both!) Bechdel moves seamlessly between family drama, coming of age discovery, and literary criticism in this artful graphic memoir.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

Memoir of Jessop’s escape with her eight children from her oppressive and abusive life in the FLDS cult.

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The 2016 TBR Pile — here’s a sneak peak!

Non-Fiction (mostly creepy cult stuff)

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill (currently reading)

Off the Grid by Nick Rosen (currently reading)

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall

Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple by Deborah Layton

Not Without My Sister: The True Story of Three Girls Violated and Betrayed by Those They Trusted by Kristina Jones

A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Fiction (mostly all YA)

Life By Committee + OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Tease by Amanda Maciel

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

Like It Never Happened by Emily Adrian

Me Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

The List by Siobhan Vivian

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul

The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

I Was Here + Where She Went by Gayle Forman

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

I COULD GO ON! But I’ll stop there and see where the year takes me. 2016 is shaping up to be a year of change, some uncertainty, and some exciting new starts, but one thing’s for sure–I’m really looking forward to all the hours ahead with a cat in my lap and my nose in a book.

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Shelfie: What I’m reading in 2015

Shelfie_10.20.15

I know, I know. It’s not December yet. It’s TOO EARLY for a year-end round-up.

Which is why…this isn’t one!

Consider this a check-in as the first be-hatted days of autumn begin to sneak up on Brooklyn. As October comes to a close, there are just too many good books on my shelf to wait until December. So here’s the best of what I’m reading in 2015 (so far!).

In YA (in reading order):

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

This suspenseful murder mystery, presented nonlinearly, has a great, unexpected love triangle and a compelling voice. The first best thing I read in 2015 (and re-read a few months later!).

Winger by Andrew Smith

He may have had a rough year on social media, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this moving boarding school contemp. Smith takes the story to a really powerful, unexpected place.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

This was my introduction to the inimitable Courtney Summers, and I want more! Now! This book was a dirty, vicious, and spot-on take on bullying. But it’s not like an issue book, OK? It’s just really well-done.

Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick

Great contemporary realistic about a likable girl making some unlikable decisions during her last year of high school.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Voice, voice, voice! Really engaging, character-driven look at a girl facing the beginnings of mental illness during a summer spent housesitting for her parents.

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Compelling “whodunit” about a girl suffering from total amnesia following a traumatic indecent that left her damaged and her best friend missing, presumed dead.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby 

With one foot in the real world and the other firmly lodged in the realm of the fantastical, Ruby’s novel is mysterious, literary, and unlike anything I’ve read before.

In food writing:

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchia Dunlop

I’ve been pretty YA-centric so far this year, but I did squeeze in this great food memoir. Mouth-watering and thoughtful writing on an English student’s experiences eating, traveling, and cooking in Sichuan provence and elsewhere in China.

In (almost) adult: 

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I loved this novel, which follows a creative group of teenagers that meet at a summer art camp through the successes, jealousies, and struggles of their adult lives.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

This could easily fall under YA (it’s a classic coming-of-age story), but I’m pretty sure DiSclafani’s literary debut has been shelved under adult. Either way, it’s a suspenseful and taughtly-written drama about a girl sent away to a special private school after disgracing her family in the 1930s.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I finally read Fun Home in anticipation of seeing the musical on Broadway this summer. (High marks to both!) Bechdel moves seamlessly between family drama, coming of age discovery, and literary criticism in this artful graphic memoir.

The TBR Pile

Here’s a sneak peak at just a few of the books in my To Be Read pile for the rest of 2015 (and beyond):

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

Tease by Amanda Maciel

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

George by Alex Gino

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Where You End by Anna Pellicioli

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

2014: My Year in Reading and Writing YA

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I’d been interested in writing YA fiction for a long time, but it was a low simmer kind of plan. A when-I-have-the time / a good idea / enough literary publications under my belt kind of plan. My BA in writing and literature from Sarah Lawrence didn’t take me there. Neither did my MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University, my freelance work as a small press editor, or my career in academic administration. What brought me to YA as a writer was reading YA. In 2014, what had previously been an occasional re-visitation of beloved classics (The Princess Bride, The GiverAre You There God? It’s Me Margaret) and a toe-dip into the bestseller list (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games) became a full-on, no holds barred cannonball into the rich, diverse deep end of YA. As a reader, I fell in love. As a writer, I found my YA stride.

It’s late December, on the cusp of the new year, and here’s the report: on the writing front, after getting feedback from my beloved beta readers earlier this month, I’m deep in the revising trenches on the draft of my first novel, a spec fic YA set in a near future NYC boarding school. I’m balancing revising time with drafting the beginning stages of a brand new work in progress, a YA contemporary about first love, and sweet revenge. I’m looking forward to a 2015 filled with more writing, revising, and hopefully querying!

On the reading front, suffice to say I read a lot of YA fiction this year. Inhaled might be the more accurate term. I lived and breathed YA to the point where my husband would frequently ask me how I was liking such-and-such book…referencing something I’d finished two books ago! I started my YA reading in earnest in May 2014. 8 months and 36 books later, here’s what I read in 2014.

Blue = personal fave

Divergent series (Veronica Roth)
*Divergent
*Insurgent
*Allegiant

Gallagher Girls series (Ally Carter)
*I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

Feed (M. T. Anderson)

The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

Delirium series (Lauren Oliver)
*Delirium
*Pandemonium
*Requiem

We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)

The Outsiders (S. E. Hinton)

Forever… (Judy Blume)

The Hunger Games series (Suzanne Collins)
*The Hunger Games (re-read)

The Truth About Forever (Sarah Dressen)

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (Matthew Quick)

If I Stay (Gayle Forman)

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Ned Vizzini)

Uglies series (Scott Westerfeld)
*Uglies
*Pretties

I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)

Matched series (Ally Condie)
*Matched

Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green and David Leviathan)

Imaginary Girls (Nova Ren Suma)

Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell)

The Selection series (Kiera Cass)
*The Selection

Razorland series (Ann Aguirre)
*Enclave

The Giver series (Lois Lowry)
*The Giver (re-read)
*Gathering Blue

The Maze Runner series (James Dashner)
*The Maze Runner

Wintergirls (Laurie Halse Anderson)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)

Gone series (Michael Grant)
*Gone

Some Boys (Patty Blount)

*

And here’s what’s at the top of my list for 2015:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

The House of the Scorpion (Nancy Farmer)

Unwind (Neal Shusterman)

Stray (Elissa Sussman)

Hate List (Jennifer Brown)

Looking for Alaska (John Green)

Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver)

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (Anton DiSclafani)

Afterworlds (Scott Westerfeld)

#scandal (Sarah Ockler)

This Song Will Save Your Life (Leila Sales)

The list goes on, but I’ll stop there. You can always keep tabs on what I’m reading right now on the home page of my site. Here’s to all the words and feels in 2015!

YA Reading List: Fall Edition

Fall is really in full swing now, and suddenly an update to my summer YA reading list seems overdue! Here’s the rundown: on Memorial Day weekend, I started a reading list of 26 books / book series. A little over 4 months later, I’ve read 16 books or series on my list (20 books in all). I’ve been blogging about my progress throughout the summer, but between starting a new job in August and things picking up with my own writing and editing, it’s been a little busy here in Brooklyn, so I’m going to dial back the blogging to focus on making some serious progress toward finishing my list. And of course, because I am a rabid overachiever, I already have the next installment ready and waiting! You can keep track of what I’m currently reading on my home page and over on Goodreads. You can find the original summer reading list here.

Here’s the remainder of my summer list:

Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell)

Matched series (Ally Condie)

Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green and David Leviathan)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

The House of the Scorpion (Nancy Farmer)

Unwind (Neal Shusterman)

The rest of The Giver series (Lois Lowry)
*Gathering Blue
*Messenger
*Son

The Maze Runner series (James Dashner)

Requiem (Delirium series) (Lauren Oliver)

Specials & Extras (Uglies series) (Scott Westerfeld)

And here’s what’s on deck:

Complicit (Stephanie Kuehn)

Paint It Black (Janet Fitch)

Imaginary Girls (Nova Ren Suma)

17 & Gone (Nova Ren Suma)

Hungry (H. A. Swain)

The Program (Suzanne Young)

Legend (Marie Lu)

Wither (Lauren DeStefano)

The Selection (Kiera Cass)

Across the Universe (Beth Revis)

Enclave (Ann Aguirre)

Gone (Michael Grant)

Partials (Dan Wells)

Article 5 (Kristen Simmons)

Inside Out (Maria V. Snyder)

Eve (Anna Carey)

The Pledge (Kimberly Derting)

XVI (Julia Karr)

The Line (Teri Hall)

Summer Reading List: All YA, All the Time

Happy Memorial Day–the totally unofficial start of summer. It is 81 degrees here in Brooklyn today, so I think that counts. In addition to the long-awaited warm weather, this holiday weekend marks the start of my summer of Young Adult novels. I may or may not be writing one of my own. Consider this the best kind of research.

thegiverDisclaimer: I’ve been reading and loving YA since since I was in braces, incidentally also since before the term “young adult” existed to describe books written for the 12-18 (or 12-40, let’s be real) set. There are a good number of classics (and contemporary classics) that don’t appear on this reading list. I’ve read them! Or some of them, at least. A few favorite books and series include: The Giver (Lois Lowry), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Hobbit (JRR Tolkein), The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger), The Perks ofprincessbride Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), The Princess Bride (William Goldman), Lord of the Flies (William Golding), Go Ask Alice (Anonymous), The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper), Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret (Judy Blume), The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier), A Ring of Endless Light (Madeline L’Engle), Weetzie Bat (Francesca Lia Block), Harry Potter (JK Rowling) & The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins).

I’ll keep the following list updated throughout the summer & post about the books I’m reading here on my blog. Here we go!

Summer Reading

NB on series and on authors with multiple titles: the plan is to read the first book. If I’m hooked, on to book two!

NB on order: this list is vaguely organized by the availability (or not) of books via the Brooklyn Public Library system. I’ll read what I can get my hands on for free first, don’t judge! If anyone has any books they want to donate to the cause, I won’t say no. Recommendations also welcome.

MM_Summer Reading
Me reading Divergent. J/K. Totally Marilyn reading Ulysses. Same thing.

Divergent series (Veronica Roth)
*Divergent
*Insurgent
*Allegiant

Graceling series
*Graceling

Gallagher Girls series (Ally Carter)
*I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

Feed (M. T. Anderson)

The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

Delirium series (Lauren Oliver)
*Delirium
*Pandemonium
*Requiem

We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)

The Outsiders (S. E. Hinton)

Forever… (Judy Blume)

The Truth About Forever (Sarah Dressen)

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (Matthew Quick)

If I Stay (Gayle Forman)

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Ned Vizzini)

Uglies series (Scott Westerfeld)
*Uglies

The rest of The Giver series (Lois Lowry)
*Gathering Blue
*Messenger
*Son

The Maze Runner series (James Dashner)

Matched series (Ally Condie)

Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green and David Leviathan)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

The House of the Scorpion (Nancy Farmer)

Unwind (Neal Shusterman)

I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)

Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell)

Chanelle Benz is The Next Big Thing

I’m so happy to play host to this Next Big Thing interview with Chanelle Benz here on my blog! Here we go…

What is/was the working title of the book?

“The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

First I wrote “Adela” (a 19th century found object piece narrated by a collective We in a baroque, Gothic style,) which came partly from an English class I’d taken called “Cultural Formations in the West Indies,” partly from my own predilection for theatrics, and partly out of the ether with this sentence by the creepy child narrators: “We did not understand how she came to be alone.”

Around the same time as I was writing “Adela,” I was starting David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas,  and I came up with an experiment for myself: what if I wrote a collection of spy, post-apocalyptic, nineteenth-century, western, etc. stories? How many could I do, if any? I’ve ended up with 9 stories ranging from a monk during the 16th century dissolution of the monasteries to a pudgy ninth grader grappling with violence, privilege and Quakerism in modern-day Philly.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary Fiction. Short story.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha ha. You have NO idea how much I love this question. I’ll reveal just a few of my castings. I’d love to see either Ralph Fiennes, Richard Armitage or Alan Rickman in the embittered monk story “That We May Be One Sheepfolde.” Chad Coleman (Cutty in The Wire) as the father in “James III.” Benedict Cumberbatch as Frederick Crawford in the slave narrative “The Peculiar Narrative of the Remarkable Particulars in the Life of Orrinda Thomas.” Amber Gray as Adela. I could go on…

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead” is comprised of mostly voice-driven stories that experiment in genre and form, but are thematically connected through the issues of history, gender and race.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

 3 years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was a theater actor before this so I feel like I have a lot to learn, to read, to see if I can do. I wanted to understand and master the mechanics of the short story—a lofty aim inspired by George Saunders. I also wanted to see how many worlds/vocal performances I could build like David Mitchell. But the stories themselves came from all over the place—ex-slave narratives, Sir Thomas More’s letters, wandering the graveyards of the Deep South, my childhood obsession with Billy the Kid.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My story “West of the Known” is in the brilliant, new lit mag The American Reader.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The latter.

Who are the NEXT Next Big Things?

Christopher Brunt, Martin De Leon, and Rachel Abelson.

…and a big thank you to Kit Frick for tagging me–looking forward to reading her chapbook!