Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown is a two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), humor columnist for The Kansas City Star (winning the Missouri Writer's Guild 2008 Conference Award for Best Newspaper Column), and Saturday Featured Blogger for Mom2Mom KC.

Hate List, her debut novel, was released last month.

A week ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm currently reading two debut YA novels, both of which just happen to be written by "house sisters" of mine (AKA: authors published by Little, Brown and Co.) -- Ash by Malinda Lo and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. Both excellent 2009 debuts. Both with strong characters, unique narrative voices, and compelling storylines. Both totally engrossing. And both ... nothing at all like the other!

Ash is a re-telling of Cinderella (you can never go wrong re-telling Cinderella, if you ask me!). But Lo's Cinderella story has a twist. Ash doesn't find herself falling head over heels with the prince on the white horse, but with a hunter... or make that the King's huntress... a female. What I like about Ash is not only that it's a bold re-telling of a classic story and not only that Lo is brave enough to tackle lesbian romance for a young adult audience, but that her narrative is beautiful and wispy and... real. I can hear the wind in the woods. I can see the fairy Sidhean as he stares at Ash, his chosen. I can feel the grass and stone against Ash's cheek as she presses it against her mother's grave. I'm right there with her. I read Ash at night, before bed, when I want to be engrossed in another world, and float along like a feather on a breeze in that world.

During the day, I've been completely and totally engrossed in Twenty Boy Summer. This book reminds me of being a teenager and finding my real passion for books and stories and characters that make me feel like I'm right in the story with them. Anna, the main character in Ockler's book, is lost when tragedy strikes just as she's finally found reciprocated romance in her triad of best friends. As Anna tries to put the pieces of her heart back together, her best friend Frankie challenges her to a contest -- 20 boys in 20 days -- which tests the limits of what's left of Anna's poor broken heart. The story is heartbreaking and feels so real... but what I love best about it is Ockler's voice, which reminds me so much of Judy Blume I can't help but feel 16 myself while reading it. I'm finding myself carrying this one around with me everywhere I go, so I can stop, drop, and read whenever a free moment arises.

Reading two books at once can sometimes get old for me, as it takes too long to get through either one. But with these two stories, I'm glad to be stretching it out a bit. I don't want either one to end!
Watch the Hate List video trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Brown's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue