YA Novels that Challenge Assumptions

YA thrillers that challenge assumptions and Truthers

By Editor Amy Fitzgerald

In November of 2015, I checked in with my then-boss, Alix Reid, about her backlog of manuscript submissions. (As a newbie trade editor, I was still dreaming of the day when I, too, would have more manuscripts in my inbox than I could hope to review in a timely manner.) Alix asked me to look at a few submissions that had come her way. “There’s this psychological YA thriller about 9/11 called Truthers . . .” she offered.

I said, “Uhhhhhh . . . huhhhhh.”

“Good title, at least,” she said.

I agreed to take a look, expecting a cringeworthy exploitation fest. I mean, a YA thriller about 9/11, one of the most defining and traumatic events in recent US history? A story specifically about the conspiracy theories surrounding this event? Come. On.

But that’s the thing about working at a small publishing house: you give agented submissions the benefit of a read-through. So I started reading.

Two days later I emailed Alix: So far, at 30 pages in, I’m totally hooked. We’ll see if it goes off the rails . . . full report by Monday.

Note the lingering skepticism. A lot can go wrong after the first thirty pages, and I was keenly aware that this wasn’t a subject we could afford to get wrong.

On Monday I wrote: Finished this Friday evening and thought about it over the weekend to be sure my impressions held. In short, I really like it. It’s a very strong work of suspense, and it’s amazingly responsible and self-aware in handling its subject matter. Here’s my summary-cum-elevator pitch . . .

Truthers YA thriller by Geoffrey GirardI then hit her with three monster paragraphs, apparently assuming that the metaphorical elevator was located in the Washington Monument. But I knew it was important to make a case for a book like this—one that could easily be written off as inappropriate or insensitive.

The crux: I found it believable and thought-provoking without being preachy or going for the cheap thrill. (Check out Geoffrey Girard’s author note to learn more about how he approached this difficult topic.)

On top of that, the story was fast-paced, suspenseful, and relatable. It’s all well and good to have a deep question like “What is truth?” at the heart of your novel, but if it doesn’t hook readers—if it doesn’t connect with its audience on a flesh-and-blood level—then I don’t want to publish it.

After I made my pitch to Alix, I bit my nails for a few days while she read the manuscript. To my relief, she loved it too. By January of 2016 we’d acquired it, and I’m eternally grateful to Alix for trusting me to edit it.

Now, nearly two years after Alix first mentioned it to me, Truthers is out in the world, doing what I hope all Carolrhoda books do on some level: challenging assumptions. I’m certainly glad I allowed it to challenge mine.

Truthers is available through lernerbooks.com, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, IndieBound, and all major distributors.

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