I think the absolute most important thing about writing is to have a reason for writing, to have a goal. When it comes to novel writing, my goal from the very beginning has been to put books that may make a difference into the hands of troubled and marginalized teens. I always imagine myself writing the book that would have saved me when I was a teenager. I know that probably sounds naive and whimsical and fanciful, but there you have it. My goal as a novelist. Save people from themselves. Save teens from the dark ugly underbelly of the world. No biggie, right?
When I recently received notification from LIBRARY SERVICES FOR YOUTH IN CUSTODY that my novel BURN BABY BURN BABY had made their 2016 IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST I was beyond elated. It felt like someone was listening to my goal, to my reason for putting words down on paper. The burden I feel to write books that would have been a lifesaver in my own life is, at times, overwhelming. I’m always afraid that I’m not doing a good enough job…that I’m missing the mark on what it is I’m aspiring to do. Just having this book on this list is a game changer for me. It’s the affirmation I needed all along. I’m doing something right.
It’s incredibly difficult to write a young adult ISSUE book and stay away from coming off as too preachy and message oriented. There’s a degree of finesse in simply telling a good story when it involves the difficult social issues facing teens today. You don’t want to beat your readers over the head with advice and messages. You just want to entertain them. What this List recognition does for me is that it tells me I might have struck the proper balance. In this book, anyway. I’m extremely grateful to be included in such a remarkable list. That it comes from an organization that works specifically with troubled youth makes it all the more amazing to me. I’m somehow reaching my target audience.
My profound appreciation and gratitude goes out to the entire committee responsible for assembling the 2016 IN THE MARGINS Book Awards List:
The 2016 Committee members are:
- Sabrina Carnesi, School Librarian, Crittenden Middle School, VA
- Amy Cheney, District Library Manager, Oakland Unified School District, CA
- Dale Clark, Teacher-Librarian, Fraser Park Secondary, Burnaby Youth Custody Services, Burnaby, BC, Canada
- Joe Coyle, Project Coordinator, Mix IT Up!, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL
- Marvin DeBose Sr., Library Supervisor, Free Library of Philadelphia, PA
- Lisa Goldstein, Division Manager, Central Youth Wing, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
- Sian Marshall, Head of Teen Services, Oxford Public Library, Oxford Michigan
- Maggie Novario, Teen Librarian, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, WA
- Kerry Sutherland, Youth Services Librarian, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH
In the Margins is committed to promoting and highlighting diverse books and voices that have been in the margins. ITM strives to find the best books for teens living in poverty, on the streets, in custody – or a cycle of all three.
Here’s the synopsis of Burn Baby Burn Baby:
Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago.
Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby.
The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars.
If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions.
Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted.
Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.
Burn Baby is a book about bullying as much as it’s a book about a teen overcoming a traumatic event in his past and making amends with himself and his identity. It’s about the main character, Francis Fripp, finally seeing value in himself and breaking through to become more than the sum of his trauma and the resulting scars attributed to it.
You can order BURN BABY BURN BABY through any bookstore. You can also purchase it online through the following links:
You can read the full 2016 OFFICIAL IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST HERE.
You can read reviews for Burn Baby at GOODREADS