Catherine Ryan Hyde: Guest Post and Giveaway

I’m incredibly excited to have Catherine Ryan Hyde here for a guest post today as part of a blog tour in honor of her newest release, Jumpstart the World. (Check out her other stops here.)  She is the author of 14 published novels, with several more forthcoming, as well as numerous short stories.

You can find detailed information about her work on her website, where she also includes links to free short stories, slideshows of her readers, and a wonderful blog. She is also active on Twitter and Facebook. While Catherine has written numerous books that encourage activism and tolerance, I’ve been doubly impressed to see her practice what she preaches in the last several months as an advocate of the Speak Loudly campaign.

Please check back here later for reviews of Jumpstart the World and Pay it Forward. I was so in love with those books that I’ve recently gotten all of her other books, so there will be many other reviews of her work in the future. Catherine has also generously donated a copy of Jumpstart the World for a giveaway. Rules for entry are included in the bottom of this post.

You have written a number of adult and YA books. On your website, you mention that many of these books have crossover appeal, while others feel distinctly more adult or young adult. How would you define “young adult” or “adult” literature? What distinguishes these types of stories and how you tell them? Is there anything you would include in an adult novel or short story that would feel “off-limits” for a YA story, or vice versa?

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book for children or young adults that couldn’t be enjoyed by grownups as well.  When I was a kid, I loved Dr. Seuss and the original A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh.  And…guess what?  I still do.

Good literature for young people almost always crosses over to adults.  And if an adult book doesn’t cross over to YA, it’s more because the characters or themes don’t interest younger readers, and less because of issues of “unsuitability.”  Fortunately we’ve outgrown that silly phase of thinking we could wrap kids in a cotton candy bubble until they were 18, and not burden them with any tough news.  It never worked anyway.  The information age blew it to pieces.  Just as well.

When I was 14, my favorite book and movie was Midnight Cowboy. And the movie was rated X (though today it would probably be R).  So I use that memory as my gauge to the sophistication of teen readers.  Their reading level and intelligence is no different from that of an adult.  The only real difference is that they don’t like to be bored.  I don’t, either, which makes me a good match.

Of my five young adult novels (six or seven if you count the “adult cross-overs” Pay It Forward and Chasing Windmills), the one I thought was most cleanly YA was The Year of my Miraculous Reappearance.  Probably because my protagonist is only 13.  But that’s the one that caused a reviewer to say, “I can’t imagine anyone feeling too grown-up for this story.”  So what do I know?  Apparently not much.

When I presented Becoming Chloe to Knopf, I thought maybe nobody would be brave enough to take it on as YA.  I mean…a story that starts with a gang rape in a Manhattan alley and goes on to chronicle a gay teen hustling to make ends meet?  But they never batted an eyelash.  And no edits were suggested.

So, no.  There’s nothing off-limits.  Not anymore.  Even if sex, violence, drug use, etc. is sensationalized or gratuitous, it’s still not off-limits in YA.  It may be criticized, but it can be published.  Which is as it should be.  Some teen is out there living it.  And the first amendment is nothing to play around with.

That said, I don’t go for gratuitous.  If I need to tell the truth, I just do.  I try to end on a note of hope, but not a false note of hope.  Just the sense that whatever our lives throw at us can be weathered, even transcended.

But…to answer your question…what distinguishes these types of stories to me, as I write them?  Honest answer.  I have no idea.  I’m usually wrong.  I thought Becoming Chloe was adult, but it was published as YA.  I thought Pay It Forward was adult, and it was published as adult, but it crossed over to YA.  I thought Chasing Windmills was YA, but it was published as adult, then promptly crossed back over to YA.

So I try not to force the story into a box.  Especially not as I’m telling it.  I just listen to what my characters have to say.  There’s plenty of time after the draft is done to find its audience.  And its audience is probably full of older people with arrested development—like me—and younger people with intelligence and sophisticated tastes—like you.

Contest Information

Catherine Ryan Hyde recently posted a list of 5 Ways to Jumpstart the World. If you would like to win a copy of Jumpstart the World, please read her list and leave a comment with at least one of the following:

  • Suggest another way to jumpstart the world
  • Tell me about one thing you did that was on the list
  • Link to somewhere that you shared the list for others to read (blog post, tweet, facebook, etc.)

All good deeds will ultimately be rewarded, but one will be rewarded here as a winner of Jumpstart the World. This contest will end on November 5th at 12:01 AM EST and the winner will be selected by This giveaway is US only. You must be 13 or older (or have a parent’s permission) to enter this contest. The winner will be notified by email and on this website. They must contact me with their address within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Please note that there should only be one entry per person and anyone who submits multiple entries to this contest will be disqualified.


6 Responses to "Catherine Ryan Hyde: Guest Post and Giveaway"

  • What an awesome post! I think people have a hard time grappling with the YA vs. Adult literature issue. I think the crossover appeal is really important and I agree that the information age really made it hard for younger audiences not to be aware of these gritty areas of life.

    I’m SO reading this book!! I had never heard of it but after reading this post I’m intrigued.

    1 Jamie said this (October 26, 2010 at 2:02 PM)

  • I also meant to add that, for me, I tend to not look at the label of YA or adult too much. I read what sounds interesting to me and if it happens to be YA or Adult..I don’t mind. I think there is badly written fiction in YA and adult. I hate when people think YA is all dumbed down. It’s not!

    2 Jamie said this (October 26, 2010 at 2:03 PM)

  • I read YA and Adult, too, Jamie. Lately I’ve been leaning more toward YA because it tends to be faster, but there are a few authors of adult books that I follow, and others that I’ll try out if they look interesting enough or get enough hype.

    3 Melanie said this (October 26, 2010 at 5:47 PM)

  • Teach your children to be kind even when there is nothing in it for them.

    4 breia brickey said this (October 27, 2010 at 11:57 AM)

  • I think YA is slightly more suitable for teenagers, but being a teenager myself, I sometimes read adult literature too. I think there’s nothing wrong reading it if there’s no sex, violence or cursing in it.

    5 Aik said this (October 30, 2010 at 11:48 PM)

  • I think YA is suitable for anyone that wants to read it, (Which I mean teens and above, those in the middle grade category, etc.) I read Adult too sometimes, but more YA because it just suits me better.
    One thing I’d like to add your Jumpstarting the World? Hm…
    Living your life to the fullest, living the way you want to live your life ignoring other’s ignorant opinions about you, pretty much just living I suppose.

    6 Gabrielle said this (November 6, 2010 at 4:43 PM)