Doug Wilhelm author logo

rev ight group

Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

Did you have to write about THAT?

Like The Revealers, True Shoes is a realistic novel for young adults — and that means it deals with some stuff that can be a bit uncomfortably ... realistic. Especially for parents. I’m a parent and I know; we want to protect our kids in a complicated, often scary world. As a writer, when an adult asks, “Why did you have to put that in your book?”, here is my response.

Young adolescents are confronting a lot of complex realities, and they’re often very honest about them, as we parents also discover. I don’t think our kids need us to pretend the world isn’t challenging; they need us to make it safe for them to work through the issues that arise. Fantasy novels do this, often very well, in their great struggles between good and evil, kindness and cruelty, honesty and falsehood. Realistic novels can do it, too. That’s really what a reader needs and expects from a story — that it takes on tough challenges and works them through.

It’s the word safe that is key. A novel is one safe way for adolescents to explore tough issues; but the story has to be honest, or it has no value. True Shoes, for example, opens up various types of violence: the impacts of war on families and kids, the harshness of hatred and falsehood, the cruel uses of communications technology. These are all realities our kids will have to cope with — often, that they are coping with — in their lives. When a story takes a reader through its characters’ struggles with real issues, that reader has safely gained a bit more experience. And with experience comes the ability to make better choices.

But the moment adolescents sniff out preachiness or lecturing — as, again, we parents well know — they tune out. As they should! This is the time in life when people are learning and exploring how to make their own decisions. Realistic stories can help — but only if they’re honest, if they don’t preach and don’t sugarcoat. I think you have to take your story into places that may lead some adults to ask, “Why did you go there?”

Well ... I thought about it. And this is why.
Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

Is the book business dying — or diversifying?
A teacher and a student review True Shoes
Free Joomla templates by Ltheme