Top Ten Honors for YA Authors Jo Knowles & Robin Wasserman


MANCHESTER, N.H., May 28, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- One of the measures of the growing artistic stature of Young Adult books has been the willingness of literary-minded MFA writing programs to include that genre beneath their umbrella. The low-residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University has been aggressive about it, actually, and it boasts on its faculty two authors whose recent novels have just been named to a pair of prestigious YA top-ten lists.

"See You at Harry's" by Jo Knowles was published by the Candlewick Press in 2012 and quickly won a Crystal Kite Member Choice Award from the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators. This month Susie Day of London's The Guardian included it among her list of "Top Ten LGBT Books for Pre-Teens."

"Twelve-year old Fern is a gloriously recognizable stroppy tween, fastidious about dirt, angry with her family's many small failings—until almost unbearable tragedy uproots the lot," wrote Day about Knowles's novel. "In the midst of it all is big brother Holden, gay and slowly coming out; no special snowflake, his problems (bullying; an older partner) are presented as simply thread of the complicated family tapestry. Strong echoes of Judy Blume in this US tearjerker."

Also this month, "The Waking Dark" by Robin Wasserman—published by Knopf last year—was named by Daniel Kraus to Booklist's roster of "Top Ten SF, Fantasy, and Horror for Youth" books. "Kicking off with one of the most terrifying scenes in YA history," wrote Kraus, "Wasserman's twisted look at the perils of mob mentality involves a wave of indescribably violence washing over a small town—and possibly our heroes, too."

Knowles and Wasserman are no strangers to top-ten and best-of lists. The latter is the author of fifteen books for children and young adults, including "Hacking Harvard," the Cold Awakening trilogy, and the Seven Deadly Sins series, all for Simon & Schuster/Pulse. Her 2012 novel "The Book of Blood and Shadow" was an Indie Next pick, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and an item on several best-of-the-year lists. Both that novel and "The Waking Dark" were named to the American Library Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Jo Knowles is the author of five novels whose accolades include a pair of Crystal Kite awards, a New York Times Notable Book Award, an Amazon Best Middle Grade Book of 2012, and a PEN New England Children's Book Discovery Award, to name a few. All five of her novels have made YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults lists, and "See You at Harry's" is also an ALA Notable Book.

These are two writers who have also helped pioneer the expansion of YA literature into subject matter and themes as challenging as those of adult material. Booklist, in its starred review, described "The Waking Dark" as "'Lord of the Flies' on steroids," and Robin Wasserman knows there is a good reason for the popularity of horror among today's teens.

"My junior high years were miserable, terrifying, I think that's the case for a lot of us," she said. "The brutality that we see in the novels of Stephen King, for example, corresponds to the brutality that to some degree we all endure growing up."

Her fantastic stories, in other words, have real-world roots. Jo Knowles is more literally a realist, but her novels no less bravely explore the darker landscapes of adolescence. The New York Times, in its 2012 review of "See You at Harry's," cheered Knowles for "tackling some of the more grueling hurdles [teenagers must face], including teen pregnancy and abuse."

At Southern New Hampshire now, there are thirteen MFA candidates who are working on YA fiction projects, and all are mentored at one time or another by both Wasserman and Knowles.

"Among our faculty, Diane Les Becquets has also written award-winning YA novels," said Richard Adams Carey, assistant director of Southern New Hampshire's MFA program. "About twenty percent of our enrollment is working in this area, which reflects both the strength of the market for this material, and also the stature and luster of the writers we have teaching it. YA narratives are maturing as an art form, and thanks to Robin and Jo, our students get to participate in that as it happens."

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CONTACT: Richard Adams Carey 603.284.7064 603.716.4278 (c) New Hampshire UniversityMFA and Creative Writing