“I think that this is why young adult literature is so well-loved right now. Could there be a more vibrant and tumultuous time to rediscover? We have all of these old wounds that are so easy to re-open, and as for our young readers, they are sitting on high rise rooftops, not sure whether to rejoice or give up, to embrace their emerging adulthoods, or to cling to childhood for a little longer. Librarians, teachers, parents, friends – they can all help them find their way. And books and music and art and films can help them feel a little less alone as they find it.”
As soon as Nina spoke these concluding words to her speech, I knew I had to share them with you, so I raced to the front and copied from her notes while crowds of librarians posed for pictures. As soon as she was free, I did ask Nina’s permission to share her thoughts with you. Nina is so bubbly and fun. She’s also willing to skype with classes and I think she’d be a perfect author to connect with teens.
Nina LaCour grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. She has tutored and taught in various places, from a juvenile hall to Mills College, where she received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2006. She now teaches English at an independent high school of about 130 students. Nina’s first novel, Hold Still, was published by Dutton Children’s Books in 2009. Hold Still is a William C. Morris Honor book, a Junior Library Guild selection, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and a Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books of 2009. Nina won the 2009 Northern California Book Award for Children’s Literature and was featured in Publishers Weekly as a Flying Starts Author.
Nina shared with us her love of the movie Reality Bites which speaks to her with the “intensity and passion that characterize the teenage years.” She likes the juxtaposition of ecstatic desperation and happily singing the School House rock Conjunction Junction song which seem to show youths hunger to grow up yet longing to cling to childhood.
Nina shared with us two incidents in her growing up years that impacted her: losing her best friend from elementary school to drugs before their freshman year and the way her other friend’s suicide was handled. Having lost a student last year, I can relate when Nina says she couldn’t understand the gossipy tone in which it was discussed or how the teachers either ignored the incident or simply said “counselors are available.”
Nina turned to poetry. Her poem Blackberry Bushes comes from a really dark place while she was dealing with her friend’s treatment for drug abuse. At that time she had a teacher share “Sometimes life is more important than school.” With the emphasis on testing that occurs now, I doubt many administrators would agree with that. Testing, meeting AYP, forcing enough students through promotion to graduation, and attendance rates seems to be more important than teaching our students the coping skills to handle what life throws at them. Administrators and teachers are under terrific pressure to push all students to higher achievement levels – or they will suffer the consequences. What happens to students who feel this pressure but are dealing with their own problems in life?
But Nina does not despair. She loves the resiliency of youth. She did not realize when she wrote Hold Still just how many youth would write to her. She feels humbled yet compelled to answer them. Nina hopes her books will help youth feel less alone as they learn they can be crushed and yet live again – resiliency. Here is the tiny URL to a review of her book http://tiny.cc/ec231
The publisher description of Hold Still is:
An arresting story about starting over after a friend’s suicide, from a breakthrough new voice in YA fiction. “dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.” Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid–and Caitlin herself.
Her newest title we are waiting for is called Disenchantments and will be the story of an eighteen year old boy who takes a seven day road trip with three girls and learns how to overcome disenchantment with life and friends. It won’t be released til next year Spring.
When Nina showed us a photograph that touched her spirit – a photograph of someone who was obviously a cutter yet had moved on with living – I connected Hold Still with other books like Scars by Cherly Rainfeld, 13 Reasons Why, and all of the “friend deals with suicide” books that are out there. We can never have enough to put in students hands as long as we still lose even one of our future lights to suicide.
Check out Nina’s blog at http://ninalacour.com/I loved the book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XYJQa4u2jQ I will try to post it here, but these things get quirky. In the meantime, if you need more of Nina try these contact points:email: firstname.lastname@example.org facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ninalacourfans twitter: http://twitter.com/nina_lacour
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