A sunny Sunday afternoon, at HOME was the setting for our latest Manchester Children’s Book Festival Trailblazer.
As part of the Wonder Women series, Manchester Metropolitan University academic Ginette Carpenter was interviewing YA authors Eve Ainsworth and Holly Bourne about the complex and often conflicting world of female friendships and all types of love.
Once the audience was seated and enjoying coffee and home-made HOME biscuits, Ginette set the scene and invited each of the authors to read an extract from their latest novels.
Holly’s reading from How Hard Can Love Be? plunged the largely female audience into the world of young adult, entertaining banter between three 17-year old members of ‘Spinster Club’. Amber, the protagonist was due to go off to American Summer camp to spend the summer with her mother, who she hasn’t seen for two years.
Eve’s reading was a scene from the middle of her book Crush, a change of mood, exploring a conversation between a girl and her new boyfriend that revealed a complicated home life and an undercurrent of a relationship that was clearly not going to help.
Two very different readings, both giving insight into the churning emotions familiar to anyone who has ever been a teenager.
The discussion that followed covered a host of themes and issues relevant to young women growing up in a modern world. Both writers use their own, very interesting and different backgrounds to inform their writing – using their own experiences and observations to inform their novels, as Holly says, to encourage readers to become aware, without preaching.
The discussion allowed the audience to get an insight into the authors’ work but was a broad and interesting debate that covered the concerns, responsibilities and restrictions of authors publishing work for young adults and explored how fiction can be used to provide a platform for exploration of issues like toxic relationships, mental health, sexual identity, self-harm, bullying etc.
There were laughs, too, the panel discussion involving the audience and striking the perfect balance for a Sunday afternoon in the sunshine. Strong female friendships inform the writing of both authors but the questions made both reflect on how they approached this, both agreeing that much of what they put into their novels as writers was done unconsciously.
Being Mother’s Day, the inevitable question about the relationships between mothers and daughters was raised. Again, both authors – Holly as a daughter and Eve as both daughter and mother, reflected on how this most complex of relationships changes as both parent and child grow up – young adult fiction being a good platform to explore this.
The panel also made comparison between the experience of today’s teenagers and older generations of teenagers, who went direct from Enid Blyton to adult fiction. They agreed that, thanks to writers like Louise Rennison and other ground-breaking authors of Young Adult fiction, young people now had a fictional world that reflects their experience and allows them to explore emotions and issues in a way not available to older generations of teens.
The event came too quickly to an end but there will be other opportunities to take part in similar Young Adult author panels in the future. A young adult panel discussion will take place as part of our Generation Manchester #Takeover event at Central Library on Saturday July 2nd but check out www.mcbf.org.uk/whats-on/events to keep an eye out for other trailblazers featuring YA authors.