Miriam has lived in London all her life but she loves to travel and learn new languages. Miriam has been writing since she was a child. She loved reading so much that she wanted to write her own books. Miriam was a teacher for 25 years and is married with two children.
Controversial themes in Y.A. FictionI am a UK author who is publishing a cycle of three novels set on Hayling Island off the south coast of England. I have chosen a quiet backwater because my novels deal with themes such as asylum seekers, human rights, racism, drug dealing, mental health issues and family difficulties. My gentle setting brings the strong themes into sharp focus.
In the first novel in the cycle, Hidden, I bring the world stage to little Hayling Island when two teenagers pull a half dead, tortured, illegal immigrant from Iraq out of the sea and hide him to save him from being deported. Hidden has made quite an impact on teenage readers who tell me they had not really thought about asylum seekers before. One girl said she didn’t actually know we had immigrants in England! Writing controversial fiction for teens can be very rewarding. I have had some amazing discussions in schools. You can see some of the comments from teens on my website.
The second novel in my cycle, Illegal, comes out in March 2012. I have taken a minor character from the previous book - Lindy Bellows, the bad girl at school – and made her the major character in the second book. Otherwise this is a completely stand-alone novel.
Since Lindy’s baby sister died, her family have been caught in a downward spiral. Her brothers are in prison and her parents have turned to drink. Soon Lindy is out of her depth too, caught in the centre of an international drugs ring, with no way out. Then Lindy finds help from an unexpected ally: weird, mute Karl from school, and together they plan a daring and desperate escape. But when you’re in this deep, can you ever be free?
Illegal is the story of a teenage girl driven to take desperate measures when all other choices are taken away from her. It is a novel about growing up and gaining independence against the odds.
Illegal draws upon my 25 years as a special needs teacher, working with young people with emotional and behavioural problems, some of whom were mute for psychological reasons. Many had huge family problems to cope with.
Both Lindy and Karl have parents which neglect them but in different ways and because of this neglect both become vulnerable to dangerous situations. Karl’s parents are wealthy and Lindy’s parents are poor, so material circumstances are not the issue here. The problem is that both teenagers have parents who totally self absorbed.
In Lindy’s family, the children are left to bring up themselves. So the older boys resort to crime and the younger ones beg off the neighbours. Meanwhile the parents relax in front of the tv, drinking lager.
“You know kids, eh, Colleen?” her Dad would say, a lazy grin on his face, “they take care of themselves just like what we did. Me stepdad kicked me out when I was twelve, didn’t he Colleen? I’ve always looked out for meself.”
There are many Illegal aspects to this novel. Karl rides around on a motorbike and he’s only fifteen; the drug dealers carry guns and all the kids are skipping school because of their problems. But as an author I believe that a good story, well written, with strong convincing believable characters, can bring controversial themes to the reader (of any age) and offer the opportunity to consider the pros and cons. I enjoy reading novels about challenging subjects and this is why I write this kind of book.
The third book in the cycle, Stuffed, will be published in March 2013. It focuses on Jess, who appears in the first two books as a bully and a spoilt rich kid. When Dad loses his job Jess finds herself trapped in a web of lies which exile her from her family life. She starts to go out with Ryan who is very different from her usual boyfriends. But then something goes wrong in Ryan’s life and suddenly Jess and Ryan have a terrible secret which they are keeping from each other. Will their love survive against the odds?
My cycle of three novels is complete and so I have started a new novel. The theme? Well no sneak previews but it deals with issues even more controversial than the ones I have set on beautiful Hayling Island.
Well – what else can you expect?
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