Several years ago, my book club read a book that's now famous -- 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The book amazed me and I asked my son if he'd be interested in reading it. He was and when he finished, we had a long and amazing discussion about Jay's novel, which you can read here.
I shared that blog post with Jay Asher himself and he thanked me for it. I learned so much from this single discussion with my son that I've tried to continue it. We have our own private book club and have read everything from Harry Potter to Game of Thrones. What's grown from these book discussions is a mutual respect for each other's opinions. This boy is nineteen years old now and starting his own life, separate from mine. *pauses for tears* Okay. I'm back. Sorry about that.
My point is that even though he's now an adult and has his own interests, we were able to carve this little niche for us -- it began with a love of books and has grown over time to include movies and even TV shows, like Breaking Bad, to which he introduced me a few months ago. We binge-watched the entire series in a few weeks, digging deep into main character Walter White's motivation for turning bad. And every time my son offers an opinion, it's like that first one after reading 13RW -- he just staggers me with the depth of his insight.
When I first had the idea for the book that would become SEND, I was always aware I'd have two audiences. Young Adult books may be written for teen readers, but their parents, their teachers, and their librarians are the ones buying our books for them. I not only wanted to write a story that appealed to both age groups, I wanted to write stories that would bring them together and forge those bonds that will grow as the child grows, becoming the foundation for a strong relationship similar to the one I have with my son thanks to Jay Asher. I wrote the Discussion Guide with this goal in mind.
SEND is a story I hope will encourage readers to think outside of their own spheres. Getting teens to express empathy is no small feat. By writing a character who so desperately wants forgiveness, I hope readers will use Dan's ordeal to have conversations about empathy, which in turn leads to conversations about bullying without beating kids over the head with it. In TMI, the conversation to have is the risks about sharing too many private details online and about what being a good friend is all about.
But the upcoming SOME BOYS (August, 2014) is the one that will be the toughest to talk about. This is a story about rape and rape culture. Main character Grace Collier is not a sweet innocent girl attacked by a masked stranger, but a tough girl who dresses inappropriately (according to her parents) and behaves even worse, and is attacked by a nice boy (according to pretty much everyone).
So that means she deserves to be raped, right?
Everybody always answers that question with "Of course not, BUT...." and the but is typically followed up with a statement about how she shouldn't have been out drinking with her friends, or wearing that particular outfit, and so on.
This is an important story and because it is, I added not only a discussion guide, but I'm also working on conversation cards that will tackle the myths so often associated with rape and rape culture. I want readers -- teen readers and the adults in their lives -- to read this book together and understand how both boys and girls are affected by those myths. Most of all, I want parents to look at their teens with pride when they share an insightful conclusion reached from reading the story, the way I did when my son read 13RW.
Use my novels in your classrooms, your teen reading rooms, and your living rooms, with not only my blessing but my enthusiastic encouragement and feel free to contact me if the discussion guides aren't enough.