I have always been a big reader (stop snort laughing, family) – so much so that I called it modeling behavior by way of rationalization for the times I
had my nose in a book I mean, read while my young children crawled over me on the floor in the family room. Now they are both avid readers, so I guess it worked out. I have car books (sometimes downgraded to magazines or if I am really desperate catalogs) an upstairs and downstairs book, books on an e-reader and my iPad, and while I am not really into books on tape, I did see a really cute gadget at the Newton Free Library that is loaded with picture books for young readers and I recently also found a great list of recommendations from our middle school’s librarians – here.
Anyway, having professed my love of Young Adult fiction, and finding so many like minded souls here, means I no longer have to be pretending to just be pre-reading the titles for my children (which I am so totally doing anyway). I get to read YA with abandon. I even got to meet one of my favorite YA authors at Pragmatic Mom’s house when she visited for her daughter’s book group, Karen Day. My mother-daughter book group read No Cream Puffs last year and loved it.
Karen Day is one of those super creative, thoughtful people who really remembers what it is like to be 12 years old and is able to capture those feelings and share them with the insight I wish I possessed at that age – who am I kidding? I wish for it now. I have also had the pleasure of getting to know Karen at the Newton Free Library and she is the kindest person you would ever want to meet.
I loved her new book, A Million Miles from Boston and I really like how she writes so clearly about how she brought the story to life.
From Karen Day’s blog post about the story behind the story:
In my new middle grade novel, A MILLION MILES FROM BOSTON, 12-year-old Lucy can’t wait to leave her home in Boston and travel to Pierson Point, Maine, where she spends summers at her family cottage. This is the place where memories of her mom, who died when Lucy was six, are strong and sacred.
From the beginning this was a very difficult book to write. I wanted to write about Lucy’s distorted memories of what happened to her mom without being too heavy. I also wanted the reader to read Lucy’s actions, feelings and thoughts through the lens of her unconscious grief, yet this had to be done so subtly.
And I also thought, does the world really need another dead mother book? In the end I decided yes.
But unlike other dead mom books, where the event as more of a plot device, in my book Lucy’s memories (both conscious and unconscious) of the death and how her family dealt with it, form the main plot. I want the reader to see how a traumatic event that happens in a child’s life will forever color the way she sees the world. AND also to see what happens when memories of that event are distorted, when the truth is hidden somewhere deep inside.
I also knew that I had to tie Lucy’s experience to my other characters’ experiences as well as the reader’s experience. And so by introducing other plots lines – the annoying, mean boy from school who shows up at their summer community, the humorous, flawed neighbors, Dad’s new girlfriend, the camp Lucy runs, the older girls she looks up to, her incredible bond with her wonderful dog Superior — I was able to create a story where Lucy, and the reader, realize that we all tell stories, in some way, to ourselves to protect ourselves from things that hurt and are painful.
This is a story about transition, of a girl not only moving to a different stage of “knowing,” but also moving from elementary up to middle school. It’s about realizing that kids who bully are often bullied themselves. It’s about special summer places and the joy of exploring a beach on a lazy afternoon, finding pleasure in sighting an eagle, digging for clams, counting stars in a cloudless night sky and smelling the fire during a clambake.
It’s funny, sometimes sad, but a mostly a hopeful book about friendship, facing our fears and learning to let go yet still hang onto the things we love.
To me, this story is also about being who you are and discovering who you will become is a place that is home but not home. Our family spent a lot of summers on the Cape and you made friends because you are neighbors or in the same tennis or sailing class or maybe even that your moms sit near each other on the beach.
Pragmatic Mom also posted on A Million Miles from Boston here.
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