Writers Talking Writers 2011: Emily Suess

A guest post by Emily Suess.

I’m 31, and I Still Read Teen Lit

I’m one of those people who always cringes when asked questions like “What’s your favorite music group?” or “Who’s your favorite author?” The thing is, I like music and reading so much that it’s difficult to pick a favorite. Usually, in situations like these, I resort to picking my favorite thing right now.

When I was a child, I probably would have told you my favorite author was L. M. Montgomery. Yeah, that’s right. I admit to staying up late at night reading Anne of Green Gables when I was supposed to be sleeping. I pretty much felt like Anne was me—only Canadian, an orphan, and freckled.

On this Day in December 2011, I’d have to say my favorite book is Shine by Lauren Myracle. If Myracle’s name rings a bell, it’s either A) because you’re cool and you understand that no one is too old to read young adult fiction or B) you read the buzz about the National Book Award snafu a couple months back. Myracle was nominated, then she wasn’t. They told her she’d stay on the list, then the National Book Foundation asked her to withdraw her book rather than own up to their mistake.

And that’s when the whole internet pretty much exploded.

So, of course, I immediately ordered Shine for my Kindle. I finished it in a few hours spread out over a couple of days,  but what I really wanted to do was finish it all in the same night.

Sometimes, though, being an adult is hard. I hate it when I have to prioritize sleep and punch a time clock when books really should be the only things that matter in this world.

So why does a 31-year-old writer call Shine her current favorite book?

It’s easy to read. Books written for young adults are notoriously easy reads. When I pore over these novels, I’m not tripping over fancy words or the author’s ego. The dialogue is normal, not overworked or pretentious.

It’s raw social commentary. With such easy reading, you might presume that a book like Shine might be all fluff. (To be fair, some YA works are all fluff. I’d have a hard time defending the literary merits of Twilight for example. Uh, yeah. I read them too, but that’s a discussion for another time. Back to Shine.) However, the book is a study in bigotry and intolerance. It puts a magnifying glass over the typical American small town. And it dares to take a look at what life  might be like for a gay teen.

It’s got great secondary characters. The main characters are written well in Myracle’s book, I don’t mean to snub them. But my favorite character is Robert. He’s a quirky little kid, a little younger than Cat and her friends.  He’s both completely loveable and perpetually annoying at the same time. And his nervous and hyperactive nature is a result of his mother having knocked back a few too many when she was pregnant with him. A tagalong kid with who thinks high schoolers have superpowers? Cliché. A tagalong kid with who thinks high schoolers have superpowers and exhibits the exhibits of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? Interesting!

So there you have it. My favorite book (right now) is a book written for tweens and teens. Do you read novels people would think are outside your prescribed or normal genres, or am I alone here?


Emily Suess is a freelance writer and the author of the blog Suess’s Pieces. She lives in Indianapolis and is not related to the author of Green Eggs and Ham.

2 thoughts on “Writers Talking Writers 2011: Emily Suess

  1. Great post, Emily! I’ve read about Shine, as well as the National Book Award snafu. I like your review, and analysis. I haven’t read much recent YA yet, but I probably should, since so much of it sounds thought-provoking (like Shine).

    I like to read several genres, although my “go-to genre” is usually Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is what people assume I always read. But not true! Two of my all-time favorite books are Jude the Obscure and Wuthering Heights, and I enjoy hard-boiled noir by Chandler and Hammett.

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