Posts Tagged ‘Realistic YA fiction’

My debut novel has a name!*

This is my YA novel about Lulu, a girl who will do anything to leave the mountains of southwestern Virginia. In a desperate attempt to leave behind a future of working in a junkyard, she convinces her friends to make and sell moonshine whiskey in order to pay for her college education. It’s about crossing lines and working hard and faith and destiny and falling in love for the first time. 

After many attempts and discussions and mind-swirling brainstorms regarding the title, we’ve settled on…


It’s hard to talk about the title and what it means when my story hasn’t joined the world yet – and won’t until March 2015 – but I will say that I am really happy that it:

  1. comes from a line in the story
  2. has to do with Lulu’s feelings about her best friend
  3. has other meanings too
  4. is how I feel about it on a very personal level! I’ve worked really hard to make this my best work. 

And… If naming children was as hard as this was, my kiddos would be Things 1, 2, and 3. 

Sarah Tomp


*YA novel being published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, previously known as THE SHINE BETWEEN US – among other titles.

Read Full Post »

I was lucky enough to review THE INFINITE MOMENT OF US by Lauren Myracle for Bookbrowse – to be posted soon.

So, I’m not going to review it here as well. For an excellent thoughtful review, see this one on Stacked.

What’s my point? Well, it’s Banned Books week! Myracle is not stranger to the banning of books – over and over again she has been challenged for being honest and true in her portrayal of teenagers.

It will be interesting to see if THE INFINITE MOMENT OF US joins the conversation. It’s a love story, through and through. Taking place in the summer after high school, this is a healthy heterosexual relationship between two intelligent and thoughtful eighteen year old teens, Wren and Charlie. The story takes us through the spark of attraction, the thrill of infatuation, on to true intimacy. They become intimate on an emotional level. Because this story is told in alternating points of view, we know both Wren and Charlie are equally in love and devoted to the other. Ultimately, once they are both sure they are truly ready, and fully prepared in every way possible, they have sex.

Myracle doesn’t leave out the details. She is honest and direct, and portrays sexual intimacy as a natural progression of falling in love. Which, in my opinion, is what it should be in an ideal world.

If this book gets challenged or banned, it will be because of a fear of love.

Reading about sex does not mean a teen is ready for sex. It certainly doesn’t mean they are going to run out and try it for themselves. Well, they might – but it won’t be because of a book. That’s because of hormones. If a teen is reading to explore, to find out more about love – and sex – they should read this book. It provides a pretty ideal blueprint for how a healthy relationship might go. It doesn’t delve into religious or moral implications – that’s for each teen to wrestle and decide. I so wish I’d read this book as a teen.

The thing is, this book might only be banned in the quiet sort of way – where it doesn’t get picked up by certain libraries or schools, simply because it’s clear there are details that might make some adults uncomfortable. This is a great article on that kind of censorship. Some books are never challenged because they’re never bought, despite literary accolades. Others are bought, and then hidden. Or checked out by those who disapprove, and then are “lost.”

It’s the readers who lose out. They miss a book that might help them make sense of the world. A story that makes them feel connected, not so alone in their feelings. That makes them seek out love and truth.

Sarah Tomp


Read Full Post »

Oh the joy of extra reading time!

As to be expected, I read quite a few books this summer; from picture books to those for adults. As usual, realistic YA fiction remains my sweet spot.

Here are the 5 YA books that stood out for me – in the order I read them. All HIGHLY recommended!



A gorgeous package for an amazing and poignant book.

I love books that remind us that we never know exactly what someone else is thinking. Although Dinah and Skint are long-time best friends, they can’t possibly know everything the other is going through.

They are each struggling to make sense of things that don’t make sense, while trying to make the world a better place even though they don’t know how best to do that. They care, deeply and passionately.

Me too.


WildAwake_c (2) WILD AWAKE by Hilary T. Smith

Such a compelling voice!

Kiri, 17 year old aspiring rocker and classical pianist is left at home to take care of the house and prepare for her upcoming piano performance.

She is a fascinating unreliable narrator. She starts the story seemingly capable and in control, but as the story goes on, she becomes more and more wired and manic. She’s learning secrets that her family has kept from her, falling in love, and not sleeping. At all.

The writing is evocative and layered; keeps you on your toes and awake. I seriously felt a little wired and jazzed up the further I read.



This book took me into an unfamiliar world of privilege and wealth and remarkable musical talent.

And yet, Lucy is so real, so very teen, she felt familiar too. She is discovering her place in the world. Which for Lucy, means her place in a family that is disappointed in her choices, her place in relationship to boys and men, and her place among friends and peers.

Although the plot could be called quiet, there is a remarkable amount of tension and uncertainty throughout. Quite compelling and rich with thought-provoking  ideas about creativity, relationships, and defining one’s personal identity.






This is a tough one, for sure. But oh so well written.

Leonard Peacock is one heart-breaking character. He is lost and searching. Odd and endearing. Angry and tragic.

Having worked in schools, I recognize Leonard. Sadly, there are kids who really are hurting this badly. Who are at the end of their rope and begging for help.

I just hope those kids have those people like Walt and Herr Silverman to turn to.




images (1)THE SPECTACULAR NOW by Tim Tharp

I’m like all the girls in this book. I quickly fell in love with Sutter Keely. Even though I know he’s mess. He’s just such a charming lovable mess.

Like Kiri in WILD AWAKE, he’s unreliable, but doesn’t mean to be.

A fantastic example of writing that leaves the reader some room to own the story, and to figure things out on her own.





It’s great to be back!

Sarah Tomp


Read Full Post »

I thought today’s post – which was going to be yesterday’s post – was going to be my thoughts on Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. In short: Like so many other people, I loved it. But really, if you need convincing, you should just read John Green’s review for the New York Times. I agree with him. One thing I’ll add is Eleanor and Park helped me realize why I can’t stand the 80’s music I hear on the radio – my oldest boy-child thinks I’m a traitor to my generation. But it’s because it’s not the ’80s music I was listening to.

Today I’m thinking about realistic fiction. It’s absolutely my genre of choice, and always has been. There have been fantasy/magical/paranormal books that have captured my heart, but, in the way that the masses love non-fiction that reads like fiction, I prefer fantasy that feels real. (To the point of looking up the possibility of carnivorous horses after reading Scorpio Races.)

Why do I love realistic fiction?

  • The best books help me get to know people better. By getting inside the head of one specific character, I feel like I learn to better understand people in general. I gain new insight as to why someone might make a certain choice. 
  • Conversely, I often feel better understood. I see that someone else feels and thinks like I do. I’m not alone in the universe.
  • In my opinion, I think authors of realistic fiction have to work harder to be compelling and memorable. The writing has to shine – the story can’t rely on a cool premise alone.
  • Realistic fiction is more likely to be a stand-alone story. At this point in my life, I am realizing I will never be able to read every book that I’d like to. Trilogies and series are such a commitment. And, quite honestly, even when I’ve loved a first book in a trilogy, there have been very few second books that are good enough to make me want to read the third.

Keeping it real.

Sarah Wones Tomp


Read Full Post »