To celebrate the publication of the hilarious book, Have A Little Faith, I am pleased to welcome the author, Candy Harper, onto the blog to discuss the YA books that shaped her youth.
Looking at my teen book collection, a lot of what I enjoyed seems to fall into three main categories: ballet stories, romance and dystopian. Clearly, as a teen I was hoping to find a boyfriend to perform in Swan Lake with me before we died horribly in a nuclear winter.
What’s interesting about the ballet stories are the differences between British and American series. The English Sadler’s Wells series is all about the grind of being a dancer, the sacrifices that must be made, the horror of injury, and the importance of discipline and dedication. Whereas, the American Satin Slippers series is all about who looks hottest in a leotard. Veronica in Sadler’s Wells insists that she is wedded to her art, but the good-looking blondes in Satin Slippers still have plenty of energy for what my Auntie Joyce calls ‘shenanigans’, even after a hard days pirouetting.
I liked my romance American. To teen-me there was nothing more glamorous than a girl clipping back her bangs with a barrette and then heading off down the sidewalk to a date at the mall. I borrowed Ten Boy Summer from my big sister. First published in 1984, it was already a bit dated when I was reading it in the mid-90s. For a hot date, Jenny wears a high-necked floral dress ending mid-calf. I’m going to suggest that my daughter wears something similar when she starts dating. My romance reading led me to believe that any swoony business would happen on a beach with a tanned boy called Chip or Brad, so it was a bit of a shock when I had my first kiss with Pasty Dave round the back of Woolworths.
Why do teens love dystopias so much? I think teenagers are really good at asking What If? And they’re not afraid to consider the worst possibilities. Adults are less into speculating; they’re always busy and focused on getting things done. When teen-me asked my dad if he thought the world might end tomorrow, he said, ‘I hope not, I’ve booked the car in for a service.’ One of my favourite dystopian books was Brother in the Land, which is about the aftermath of a nuclear bombing and also features a romance (if only Robert Swindells had included a ballet exam, I’d have been in heaven). I particularly loved the fact that it has an unhappy ending. Or at least it did until 2000 when Robert Swindells wrote a new final chapter. Which is a shame because I think it’s really important for young adults to read some stories with unhappy endings. That’s why when I was a teacher I used to occasionally snap shut whatever book we were reading and say, ‘And then they all DIED.’
I’m sure that the books I read as a teen helped to mould be as an author. At the very least they’ve made me grateful that my publisher has never suggested a cover featuring a cartoon pair of ballet shoes. I haven’t yet finished my love-against-the-odds story set in an American ballet school of death, but I promise you I’m working on it.
Have A Little Faith is published by Simon and Schuster and available to buy now. To read my review, please click here.
To find out more about Candy Harper: