Books are a window onto the world and a platform for discovery. That was the message when the authors of some of the UK’s bestselling young adult fiction, Sarah Crossan, Holly Bourne, Lisa Williamson and Clare Furniss gathered for a thought-provoking discussion. Sagal Mohammed listened in.
Chaired by Katherine Woodfine, the panel spoke about the crucial teenage years; tapping into topics such as feminism, gender identity and abuse. “These books are a good platform for children to discover things they are not necessarily exposed to,” said Sarah, whose latest novel One is a heart-breaking story of conjoined twins. “I find young people a lot braver [than adults], so I like writing about them.”
Lisa told the audience – mostly young teenage girls and their mothers – about the inspiration behind her debut The Art of Being Normal, a powerful tale about transgender teenagers struggling with identity. “I used to be between office jobs, and one of those was working for the gender identity development service. I realised that I had this amazing source material at my fingertips, because I had all these young people’s stories that were really moving.”
The panel agreed on the importance of a feminism subtext, “But you don’t have to talk explicitly about feminism for a book to be feminist,” explained Holly.
Thirteen year-old, Jessica described the event as “very interesting and inspiring”, while her mother said it was her favourite event of the day.