Category Archives: author interview

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I was your girlI agree with Meredith Russo when she says that Amanda’s story was simplified (since Amanda was overtly feminine, liked only boys, and decided to use both hormones and surgery to help her body to match her gender identity).  I also agree with Russo’s *reason* for simplifying Amanda’s story — to remove some of the barriers that might keep readers from understanding and empathizing with the struggles of a young trans girl.  Despite the fact that the story was more simplified than it could have been, nonetheless, I think it still has the potential to really open some people’s eyes to the more hidden struggles of trans youth.  How most trans youth grow up hating their bodies because they don’t match what their brains are telling them.  How they have to worry whether their friends and family will support or abandon them when they try to live as their authentic selves.  And, especially, how they have to worry about whether this sensitive information will be leaked to people who would make them a target of hatred and violence.  My heart was broken when Amanda’s dad tried to explain how hard it was for him to think about what could happen if the wrong people learned the truth.  But this book was not all heartache and pain.  There was also a good amount of love, both friendly and romantic.  Yeah.  This book had #AllTheFeels!

After the end of the audiobook, there is a note from the author that she reads herself.  Meredith Russo provides a plea for suicidal people to seek help.  She even provides hotline information for transgender- and GLBTQ-sensitive hotlines.  Since this story might be triggering to people who have felt suicidal, especially if they are a member of the GLBTQ community, I think this was a very important addition.  I also appreciated how Russo goes on to talk about how every person is entitled to his/her/their own choices in how to reflect (or not) their gender identity.  Every trans person is a valid trans person, whether they choose to have surgery or not.  To take hormones, or not.  Whether they are gay, straight, bisexual, or asexual.  There is no one “right” way to be trans, just as there is no one “right” way to be human at all.  Every person needs to be true to his/her/their identity and should feel safe enough to live life as his/her/their authentic self.  I hope that young trans people will find and read this book to know they are not alone… and I hope that young people who are not trans will find and read this book to better understand the struggles of the trans community and so they can become allies.

Happy Reading!

The Misfits by James Howe

misfitsI listened to this audiobook a few months ago, but I decided to wait and review it during LGBT Pride Month.  It’s not because the entire story was about one particular LGBT character or centered around a specific LGBT problem, though, because it wasn’t.  The story actually revolved around a group of self-proclaimed misfits and their attempt to stop bullying in their school.  Joe, nevertheless, was identified as being gay and other characters recalled that Joe used to wear dresses sometimes.  I really appreciated the way Joe’s sexual identification and history of cross-dressing were treated as more of a side note to explain why some people bullied him and but that his story didn’t overshadow or make light of the other forms of bullying at their school.  This was a story in which a variety of students were bullied for a variety of reasons, all of which were wrong.

Everything started back when Addie refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance; she was adamant about the fact that there wasn’t “liberty and justice for all” and, on principle, refused to say the pledge anymore.  Even though her teacher didn’t quite seem to understand where she was coming from, her friends, the misfits, thought she was on to something.  They were tired of being made fun of and mistreated, and they were fairly certain that nothing would improve unless they did something about it — so they decided to go about affecting that change by creating a third party in the student council elections.  The book did get a little didactic at times, but I think many tween and teen readers will appreciate Addie’s brand of idealism and the fact that working together actually made a difference in their school.  Fortunately, many schools are making an effort to teach character education and to promote an environment free from hatred and bullying… but it’s still out there.  Sadly, I’m all too certain there will always be kids who can relate to this story.

Happy Reading!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

between shades of grayToday’s I Read YA Week post is supposed to be “If Movies Were YA,” so I am posting about a book that I think should be turned into a movie.  Between Shades of Gray is a story that I think should be required reading for all high school students when they study world history, though I think a movie might do a better job of increasing awareness overall.  As I listened to this audiobook, I kept thinking, “This needs to be the next Schindler’s List.  Why is it that everyone talks about the horrors of the Holocaust and nobody ever talks about the Soviet Holodomor?”  I mean, I didn’t even know the term Holodomor (which roughly translates to “death by hunger”) until this book inspired me to do a little research.

I remember briefly covering Stalin and being taught about his “purges”… but I think we pretty much glossed over it on the way to an in-depth study of the Holocaust.  I mean, I definitely didn’t recall that the total death count was right up there with the Holocaust.  It is estimated that somewhere between 3 and 60 million people died during the Holodomor, with many estimates putting the death toll at around 7 million people.  SEVEN MILLION!  People talk about the Holocaust all the time.  They lament the fact that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews and another 5 million people [including Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, disabled people, and Gypsies] under Hitler’s rule.  There are numerous Holocaust museums and memorials in addition to a Holocaust Remembrance Day.  But, no one really talks much about what Stalin did.  My Facebook feed doesn’t “blow up” once a year to remind me of what Stalin did.  And that is a crying shame.  Some people may debate the death toll and ask, “Was it genocide?”  But, regardless of the exact number and the terminology you use, there is no debating the fact that millions of people died under Stalin’s regime.

I appreciate the author interview at the end of the audiobook, in which Ruta Sepetys explained her personal connection to the story, and I love that the official website for the book includes resources like a book discussion guide and a video of Ruta Sepetys discussing the novel.  I’m glad that this book has started to shed some more light on the Holodomor , and I can only pray that this light shines brightly, and widely, from here on.

Happy Reading!

Perry Moore — The Contest!

I know that my readers don’t always read every book I post about, but there is a little extra incentive to do some reading this time around…  Perry Moore is offering a free, autographed copy of Hero to the person who writes to him with the BEST QUESTION or BEST SUGGESTION!  The rules of this contest are simple, but here they are:

  1. read Hero by Perry Moore
  2. review it on
  3. e-mail Perry [] with your question/suggestion and a link to your review
  4. post the link to your review as a comment on this blog post so everyone else can see it too!

Best of luck, and Happy Reading!

Perry Moore — The Interview

When Perry Moore first wrote a comment on my review of HERO, I thought it was super cool.  When he wrote another comment about his willingness to be interviewed, it almost seemed too good to be true!  Perry came through, nevertheless, and the interview is provided below.  Thanks to all the members of my Teen Advisory Group @ the East Greenbush Community Library.  You guys came up with some great questions… the best/most popular of which are answered below.  My TAG rocks!

1.) How did you originally come up with the idea for HERO? Did something or someone spark your imagination?

An avid reader, an also avid comic book reader, I was horrified by the deaths of two high profile gay heroes in the Marvel Universe. Please look up “Northstar,” who was murdered by a possessed Wolverine (one of Marvel’s stars), and “Freedom Ring,” such a debacle I can’t even repeat it. You really have to look him up to believe it. I had what turned into a fierce email exchange with the writer, the hugely popular Robert Kirkman, who admitted it was the biggest mistake of his life and blamed his editor. Now, I just met with Dan Buckley, the head honcho at Marvel, and he told me a secret about an unbelievably homophobic storyline in a comic book that made me believe Dan and the other editors are heroes, too.
I was so incensed by the lack of a real HERO who is gay but is not defined by his being gay–anywhere in the world, whether in reality or in the realm of fictional heroes, that I set out to write that which I wanted to read most.
The response has been historic and unbelievable.
You don’t do this for the money, trust me, especially with the business changing, you’re lucky to dedicate yourself to the profession of writing and still live above the poverty line.
But to connect with the readers–there is simply nothing better.
Best thing that ever happened as a result of writing HERO was this website I set up for people to write me.
Please keep writing to me: I will respond! (Sometimes it takes a little while, but I will respond. And I’ve received close to five THOUSAND lettters.
Which is funny because before I began shopping around a book about the world’s first gay hero who is the star of his own adventures and not a token, not comic relief, and not a victim, EVERYONE told me the world wasn’t ready for it.
That’s the uppity-ness of the publishing and entertainment industries being in LA and NY. They think they know everything. They couldn’t have been more wrong about the public appetite for what HERO provides. And it was so rewarding to find that out first hand through the letters and the website.

2.) Are you friends with any other YA authors, or do you belong to a writer’s group? How did you find the support you needed to write and publish your first book?

I WISH there were a writing group of us. Yes, some writers have been so gracious, both in the world of books and comic books. I can give you some names: Gail Simone, Allan Heinberg (Young Avengers), I’ve just started corresponding with Brent Hartinger. And you do book tours for free, so you get to know a lot of the writers. I really liked the guy who wrote Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but I think he’s too big now to be bothered by me. Tamora Pearce was a wonderful mentor. And Mercedes Lacky and Larry Dixon have been an every present source of support. Working with Stan Lee on HERO is a whole story unto itself–he is truly a wonder of the worlds.
I wish there were a structure or a guild to keep us together and keep us connected and to protect us too (i.e. insurance is nice, and we get none.) Since I work as a producer (for Narnia and other projects) in the entertainment field, I’ve seen firsthand how powerful the guilds are that protect the directors (DGA) screenwriters (WGA) and actors (SAG). The insurance alone they provide for their members and their families are stunningly great. We authors dream of things like that. One day, maybe, one day…
Authors unite! We have so much to say. And fellowship is everything! Means the world to me.

3.) When you wrote HERO, you gave your cast of characters a wide variety of super powers. If you could give yourself any one super power, what would it be?

Oh that one’s easy. The ability to break boundaries in Hollywood and get HERO onscreen, a positive portrayal of the world’s first gay teen male hero who is the star of his own adventures, and who debunks so many media stereotypes about gay people in general.
But you asked my favorite question: I usually ask OTHERS that one. Especially young people. Man, nothing gets the imaginations flying like that question. (Speaking of which, a lot say “flying.”)
To me, it’s so much more about the character than the superpower. Take Thom Creed, in HERO, for instance. Very few people would choose first a “healer” on their team. Doesn’t seem like a major powerhouse. But it’s what you DO with the powers that makes all the difference. Typhoid Larry and his powers make some snicker at first. But they drastically underestimate him. He’s actually highly effective!

4.) If you could go back in time and give any piece of advice to your teenage self, what would you tell him?

I’d tell him, “Read this,” and hand young-me a copy of HERO. Oh and I’d say, ditch those plans about killing yourself because you’re gay. Yes, it will make your life harder, and you’ll feel very lonely because of it at times (especially when making a movie when out gay folks are few and far between), but it’s a part of who you are, and you will realize that once you fully embrace who you are, you can only begin to improve yourself.
And, hell, I’m willing to admit I’m vain. Who isn’t? I’d hope my younger self thought the older me turned out hot!

If you need to know more about Perry before the second part of the interview comes out, feel free to check out his interview with YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association) — — and his website —  Happy Reading!