One of my greatest pleasures living in London, is being invited to attend BBC recordings of interviews with famous authors. BBC World Book Club is the most listened to radio book club in the world. And Harriet Gilbert does a marvellous job of the interviewing. As members of the audience, we are allowed to ask questions alongside questions which have been emailed and tweeted in from around the globe. It’s always exciting, especially because the author is there in person and we are allowed to participate in a recording that will soon be broadcast around the world.
Yesterday the recording was an interview with John Grisham on his book ‘A Time to Kill’. The recording took place in the US Embassy but unfortunately Grisham was unable to actually make it to London and was skyped live into the auditorium where the recording took place. We were all disappointed that he wasn’t there in person but he was so charming and well spoken he was soon forgiven for not showing up. 🙂 If you want to hear the interview it will air on April 6.
BBC World Book Club
‘A Time to Kill’ was Grisham’s first novel and is his most dramatic and compelling. It actually didn’t become popular until his next book ‘The Firm’ made it big. The book is about a young black girl who is raped by two white men. The father decides to take matters into his own hands because he suspects that in the deep south the white men will never be fairly tried or punished. In an act of fatherly outrage and retribution, he shoots the men himself and then hopes that lawyer Jake Brigance will be able to defend him in court. Brigance takes on the case, but not without considerable struggle and threats from the KKK.
In the interview, Grisham, a lawyer who practiced himself for 10 years, said the story sprung from a case he himself witnessed where a black girl was raped and the white men got off with very light sentences. He also once saw a young rape victim questioned on the stand in court and seeing her struggle touched him deeply. He admitted that the book is so powerful and graphic, he might not have been able to write it today, after having a daughter of his own. He says he even had trouble watching the movie when it came out.
Grisham also spilled the beans about writing a sequel to this novel which will be coming out in the fall. It won’t be a direct continuation but it does also take place in Ford County, again features the lawyer Jake Brigance, and takes place 3 years after ‘A Time to Kill’. He said the topic of the new book was “a rich and meaty legal dispute” which doesn’t really tell us much since that describes many of his books! Other interesting facts I learned are that he never has had writer’s block. He always has more ideas for stories than he can actually write. And he carefully outlines his books before he writes them, knowing exactly what’s going to happen. He says he wants his readers always to be “turning pages”, and in this, I think it is safe to say, he has succeeded!
This is the second instalment in the story of Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, YA novels written by John Grisham in his adventurous legal thriller style. You can see my earlier post on the first in the series. (Just click on Young Adult in the Genre Categories sidebar on the right).
Theo’s good friend April goes missing under mysterious circumstances. She is believed to be in danger and Theo wastes no time using his legal knowledge, investigative skills, and family connections to solve the case. Though this series is rated for 9 – 14 year olds, Grisham provides an intelligent read which I enjoyed thoroughly. Grisham’s gift for adventure and humour are as evident in this read, as in any of his adult legal thrillers. His writing is clean and straightforward. And there is a third in the series which has just come out.’ Theodore Boone: The Accused’.
Taking a Walk on the YA Side
Why is it that so many adults these days are reading and enjoying YA novels? Series like ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Harry Potter’, and books like ‘The Book Thief’ and ‘The Thief Lord’ are examples of YA books that are written in an approachable style, are fast paced, and have intriguing story lines. I don’t believe it is a “dumbing down” of reading choices for adults, since the successful cross over ones are usually good literature, with the exception of things like the Twilight series. The best cross over books address tough subjects without talking down to kids.
The young adult genre is a strange one and I don’t think all YA books fall into the ‘crossover to adults’ category. Some YA authors write juvenile type books for teens, which are flat and cliché and far too uninteresting. Others go to the opposite extreme of including as much bad language and high risk behaviour as possible, since they think this is what teens want to read. So it is important to keep an eye on the genre and know what your teens are reading. Perhaps that is how it happened…parents were checking what their children were reading and got hooked! Or perhaps they are enjoying the nostalgia of reading ‘coming-of-age’ stories! David Leviathan, editor at Scholastic says, “Issues of identity and belonging and finding your way in the world are new when you’re a teen, but they never actually go away.”
It is exciting that the best of YA can stand up to anything for adults. Perhaps authors who write for children are more conscious of how they craft a novel to engage the reader quickly and capture the imagination well. I compare it to a high school principal who likes to hire elementary school teachers, because not only do they know their subject, they also know how to teach.
Whenever John Grisham steps outside of his usual legal drama genre, I pay attention. He has done this before with a Christmas story, a biography, and a few on professional sports. This is his first young adult novel.
Teens generally don’t like reading a book where the main character is younger than they are. So with Theodore Boone being 13, this would be targeting the 9-12 year olds. Theodore Boone is an amateur lawyer kid. He knows alot about the law and likes to help people out. He is appreciated and respected for what he knows and the connections he has. But because of this, he gets caught up in the middle of a murder trial. If I knew a 9-12 year old who needed to study up on the courts and the law, I would recommend this book – the learning would be effortless, just wrapped up in the story which was not great (not enough action), but was fresh and not cliche.
Grisham leaves the ending wide open and it screams sequel. In fact I’ve seen a title already – Theodore Boone 2, The Abduction. I’ll be reading it when it comes out in June to see what happens!