These aren’t your parents’ children’s books.
The works of famed young adult author Wendelin Van Draanen might be geared toward shorter readers, but the serious subjects they tackle are a tall order regardless.
And Draanen has never sugar-coated her prose, a philosophy which has obviously come to pretty sweet ends. She’s the author of more than 30 novels for young adults, many of which have been translated into multiple languages, two of which have been made into movies; one a Rob Reiner-helmed feature and the other a Nickelodeon TV movie.
I recently got to chat with Draanen for the BI Review in preparation for her upcoming visit to the island to celebrate the release of her new book “Wild Bird.”
This will be Draanen’s second trip to Bainbridge, but her first for business. She recently chatted with the Review about her new book, relating to readers and the state of YA literature in today’s culture.
*This transcript originally appeared in the Bainbridge Island Review, and has been edited for length and clarity.
ME: Is this new book very different from your previous work? What do you hope readers take away from it?
WVD: It’s within the realistic young adult thing that I do. I guess what’s different about it is the setting’s completely different. It takes place in a wilderness therapy camp in the desert. And the teen that I’m writing about is very troubled. Usually I write about a character that’s going through something, but this character starts off in a really bad, belligerent, kind of antagonistic place. I guess that’s different.
I do like an uplifting ending. If you’re starting from a bad place you have room to move in that direction.
ME: What are some of your special considerations when you begin a project knowing you are writing for a certain age demographic?
WVD: Primarily I want it to be a subject that moves me and that I think is relevant to my audience. It also has to be something that I can live with for a couple of years. So if you have an idea for a book, it needs not to wear thin after a while. It needs to have some depth to it for you.
Also, I like a book that explores new territory — at least new territory for me — so I feel like in the process I’m also learning something. To keep my interest and to keep my emotion in the work, it needs to be something that resonates with me.