Please allow me to fangirl for a second. I about died back in November when Laurie Halse Anderson announced her book tour for her latest release, The Impossible Knife of Memory. Her first two stops will be in Washington State! I was fortunate to receive the e-ARC from Edelweiss several months ago and will start it any day now.
Anderson was in WA a couple of years ago and I missed the tour, but it’s something I’ve never totally gotten over in terms of my book world experiences. That sounds like hyperbole. But, Speak is one of my all-time favorite books, adult or young adult. Anderson’s books are painstakingly researched and therefore are authentic and raw. She handles delicate topics with care and even humor in some cases, calling her books Resiliency Literature (as opposed to Young Adult Literature). In my experience, her books are unisex and about topics that others are afraid to tackle or that others just aren’t able to write about with such honesty and finesse.
As part of my teacher preparation program at WSU, I took a course called Young Adult Literature, and we got to read books that would be popular for young adults–our future students. I wasn’t reading much outside of my school requirements and the books for this course were all books that were accessible and engaging for me, even as someone flirting with the outlying years of being a “young adult,” myself. My favorite book that we read in the course was Speak. The voice of the main character, Melinda, was realistic for a teen. It was the first book where I’d seen capitalization used for monikers that Melinda used, and lists (this is a me thing, and I loved seeing an author use it). I didn’t realize there were books being written like that, for this age group, that weren’t about girls struggling with wearing make-up and getting a boyfriend. The message is clear and important, yet the reader isn’t hit over the head with that message. My good friend (and now department leader!), Sarah, and I would talk about how important Speak is for young people to read–males and females–and hoped it could become part of our future curriculums, where ever we might end up.
Anderson’s books create readers. When Sarah and I did get to incorporate Speak into our Literature Circles unit in 2008/2009, boys and girls listed it as a top choice to read. After completing the book, students wanted to read other books by Anderson. It was a teacher’s dream, because students were excited about books and reading, and were talking about what they’d learned.
I can’t say enough about why I admire Anderson as a writer. I look forward to diving into The Impossible Knife of Memory and listening to her speak on Tuesday, January 7th at South Kitsap HS in Port Orchard, WA. Thanks to Eagle Harbor Book Company for making that visit happen, and for communicating with me about the change in location!