Creating Worlds – Young Adult Readings at WORD Christchurch

Cover of Daughter of Smoke and BoneI kicked off a very full weekend at the WORD festival with some good old oral storytelling. Listening to stories read aloud is one of my earliest memories and my memories sitting in early intermediate school captivated by The Giver and terrified by Goosebumps are much easier to recall than what we learned in class afterwards…

Creating Young Adult Worlds was a great session, with five authors writing for young adults reading aloud from their work. Karen Healey, Laini Taylor, Meg Wolitzer, Elizabeth Knox and Tania Roxborogh gave us all a taste.

Laini Taylor read “the most embarrassing” chapter from the first book in her incredible fantasy trilogy Daughter of Smoke and Bone, in which art student Karou gets a satisfying revenge on her ex-boyfriend. The passage went from hilarious to heartbreaking in the space of a sentence, and included some pretty excellent life advice from a monster:

But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and…no inessential penises either.

Karen Healey read from a short story ‘Careful Magic’ which will appear in an up-and-coming anthology Kaleidoscope. Within minutes she crafted an intriguing magical world and a few really fascinating characters that I can’t wait to read more about. Kaleidoscope is a collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories featuring diverse characters, from disabled superheros, time-traveling Chinese-American figure skaters, to transgendered animal shifters. It’s is not in our library yet, so while you’re waiting why not catch up with Karen Healey’s other novels and short stories?

Elizabeth Knox read a passage from her historical-fantasy novel Mortal Fire, based in Southland, an imaginary country similar to New Zealand, which will be known to readers of her Dreamhunter series. Mortal Fire won the New Zealand Post Book Awards this year for best Young Adult Fiction. The story features some really interesting characters, though my favourite is Canny, daughter of a war heroine, Pacifica maths whiz and stubborn as anything.

“People get over things, cultures don’t.”

Cover of Mortal Fire Cover of Third Degree Cover of Belzhar

Tania Roxborogh read from the 2005 novel The Third Degree. The story is based on the author’s real experience of being badly burned when she was young and strongly features her relationship with her mother. Though the story begins when main character Ruth is starting university, many of the themes will be familiar to anyone who had to spend time in hospital as a child. There were some excellently gruesome medical scenes!

If I had to choose out of the five, I’d say that I am most excited to read Meg Wolitzer‘s new book Belzhar. I couldn’t describe it better than Karen Healey did in her tweet:

Intrigued? We have Belzhar on order so get your name on the waiting list!

Find these authors on our catalogue:

WORD Christchurch

The Interestings – WORD Christchurch

There are some similarities between Jules of The Interestings and the author, Meg Wolitzer admits.

I did go to an arty summer camp when I was a teenager, and I too was from the suburbs. Everyone else seemed to be from New York City and I found them fascinating, they were so sophisticated but not jaded. I met my closest friend at this summer camp, and at the end of it I was changed. I couldn’t go back to who I was before I went away.

So far, so similar. But The Interestings isn’t just a nostalgic look at one teenage sumMeg Wolitzer — WORD Christchurchmer, it’s about the moment when you find your people, your cohort. Kate de Goldi describes it as a novel about a group or community anchored by the main narrative of Jules. It’s a novel about how talent does or doesn’t last, the way some things fade over the decades, and the way we shuttle back and forth in time within our thoughts.

But what about Wolitzer’s other novels?

The Ten-Year Nap:

I was interested in exploring what happens when women stop working to be with their families. After you have children, time seems to stand still for a while.

The Uncoupling:

I wanted to write about the aging of women’s desire over time, but when I tried it sounded like a magazine article. Instead I used the idea of this literal spell that is cast over a town, because when you think about it love is like a spell. When you’re in love you want to talk to your lover ten times a day, but when you’re out of love suddenly you don’t think about them at all.

And then there’s Wolitzer’s upcoming novel for young adults, Belzhar, featuring a main character at a boarding school for highly intelligent teens with emotional issues. The title is a play on Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and the novel asks, “What is the thing that we just can’t bear?”

Wolitzer talked about the angst that teenagers go through, and how there is no hierarchy of pain — the despair teens experience is the worst thing that has happened to them, and should be taken seriously. With that and Sylvia Plath it sounds like a grim read, but judging from the laughter during Wolitzer’s session and the humour inherent in her adult novels, I can’t imagine that it will be anything but enjoyable.

Cover of The Interestings Cover of The Uncoupling Cover of Belzhar

P.S. Just for reference, Wolitzer recommends pairing her books with a nice sauvignon blanc.