Moody, atmospheric, and just a little bit punk, Finding Home takes contemporary YA to a new level of grit...
When Amy’s mum dies, the last thing she expects is to be kicked off her dad’s music tour all the way to her Aunt Lou in a depressing hole of a seaside town. But it’s okay — Amy learned how to cope with the best, and soon finds a hard-drinking, party-loving crowd to help ease the pain.
The only solace is her music class, but even there she can’t seem to keep it together, sabotaging her grade and her one chance at a meaningful relationship. It takes a hard truth from her only friend before Amy realises that she has to come to terms with her past, before she destroys her future.
YA: Taboo or not to taboo…that is the question.
I remember the first time I read a YA book that really resonated with me. It wasn’t a book about other worlds, fairies and dragons. I mean, sure, I read those and I loved them, but as a teenager, the YA books that really stuck in my head were the contemporaries; and, let me tell you, they weren’t the ones that talked about a simple first kiss.
Sure, kissing was a part of it, but the YA books I read were gritty, darker. John Marsden was my hero, and his worlds involved drugs, alcohol, abuse, sex and all sorts of taboo subjects.
When I went to write my first YA novel, that immediately flashed to mind. I thought ‘I want to write a book that’s real; I want to write like that.’
I should preface this by saying Finding Home is nowhere near as good as John Marsden’s works, but he was definitely an author I tried to emulate when I put pen to paper…or, fingers to keyboard…however you want to play it.
I was sick of reading YA books where sex for the first time is with someone you love and it’s amazing and beautiful. I was sick of reading books where the lead character has never had a drink before, even though when I was seventeen, I didn’t know anyone who hadn’t had a sip of something stronger than a lemon, lime and bitters.
That’s not to say Finding Home is all booze and sex; I think it’s important to find the line in YA. You can’t preach about the perils of underage drinking; but you can’t ignore it, either. And, for me, and for many other seventeen-year-olds I know and knew, sex and boys were a big part of being a teenager.
Of course, you need to send the right message. That’s an important part of being an author. And you don’t need to show every little detail when it comes to sexual interludes. One publisher who requested my book asked for a ‘Fade to black’ moment, and I thought it was a very good idea. Having said that, I think honesty in YA is refreshing. I think covering subjects that are more taboo generates interest from a younger audience.
But I also think it’s very important in issue-driven novels to end your work with a message. A message that summaries what your book is about; what you wish you had known or been able to tell people you loved, way back when. And for me, the message in Finding Home is twofold: don’t use alcohol as a crutch, and don’t have sex with boys who have girlfriends. Enough said.
Lauren McKellar is a writer and reader of Young and New Adult books. Her debut novel Finding Home is out now, and can be bought from all your usual eBook sites (links available here). She also works as a freelance editor for novels for all age groups and you can chat to her on twitter or facebook any time you like.
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