Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie Kuehnert is the author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Ballads of Suburbia.

Last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished reading my first Sarah Dessen book. I've heard so many good things about Sarah Dessen and since she's a real master of contemporary YA and that is what I write, I was curious to see what her writing was like. The book I chose to check out was Just Listen. It's got a music theme to it and that's my big thing so it seemed perfect.

Just Listen is the story of Annabel, the youngest of three sisters, all of whom modeled. Her middle sister Whitney is struggling with anorexia, which has changed the dynamics at home. And Annabel has changed too. Something happened at the beginning of the summer, something Annabel refuses to talk or think about, but it involves her best friend Sophie's boyfriend Will Cash and now Sophie's not speaking to Annabel. In fact no one is speaking to her until Owen, a music lover who recently went through an anger management program. He teaches Annabel about the power of music, but also the importance of being honest about your feelings.

I was immediately interested in the dynamics of Annabel and her sisters. I don't have sisters, but I've always wanted them. My mom comes from a family of five girls, so I've long been fascinated by the sisterly relationships. I also loved the character of Owen. I'd truly never read a character like him, especially filling the role of love interest in YA Fiction. He truly felt like a real kid, someone I could have known at some point in my life. I think he brought the freshest angle to this story.

Sarah Dessen really did do an amazing job of taking some standard YA issues like anorexia, trouble between friends, and the things Annabel was going through (I don't want to give spoilers!), and making them her own, which of course is something I strive to do as a writer. This book definitely taught me some writerly lessons. What I noticed immediately was how Sarah wove the backstory into the book. That's something I always struggle with, so I love to see it done gracefully and take note. But soon enough I was so into the story I stopped thinking as a writer and that's the biggest compliment I can give a book!
For more information on Stephanie Kuehnert's writing, visit her website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue