I consider Laurie Halse Anderson to be a Queen of Problem Novels. Now, what is a Problem Novel, you ask? Good question. I doubt I have a good answer. They’re vaguely defined, I think, but I have my own idea of them. To me, a problem novel is one in which the main character confronts a rather big and serious internal or social problem. A Problem Novel doesn’t merely present these problems as background material, but, rather, climbs right into the mud and wrestles with them. These books strive to be honest and reach the target audience on their level.
Now, pretty much all middle grade and young adult novels revolve around a problem. That’s the first rule of writing. For the most part, these are not Problem Novel problems:
No date for the prom
Convincing the ‘rents to adopt a pet
Spying on neighbors
These, on the other hand, are:
Mental health issues
My tolerance of Problem Novels is rather low, I’m afraid. I’m not especially sympathetic to teen angst and drama; I find it annoying. And then there’s my doubt about how many people actually live similar real dramas. My own middle grade and teen years were pretty much serious-problem-free. Even if I wanted to write such stories, I’d be unqualified.
Laurie Halse Anderson, however, is the Queen of these kinds of stories, and best of all, she writes them in such a way that even I can appreciate them; i.e., language and technique not over the top, even if I think the Problems are. I think she nails the part about reaching her audience on their level. In other words, even if the Problems aren’t real to me personally, the writing is.
So I read and listen to her books, and I can not only tolerate the drama, I can enjoy it. I suspect teens looooooove her and her books.
If you want a review of the book itself, rather than my experience of it, click on the title at the top of the post. It will take you to teenreads.com. Laurie’s Web site has book blurbs and summaries.