Today I have the good fortune of hosting a blog tour stop for S.R. Johannes, author of the YA novel Untraceable, and now the MG novel, On the Bright Side.
On the Bright Side, is a new “tween” paranormal story with a humorous twist. The story follows Gabby, a disgruntled tween angel who has just been assigned to protect her school nemesis and ex-best friend. To make things worse, that ex-bff is is dating Gabby’s longtime crush. Instead of protecting Angela, Gabby pulls a few harmless pranks on her. Totally harmless, really, just a little spinach in the teeth, toilet paper stuck to her shoes, maybe a trip in the hallway in front of a crowd, nothing too horrific, right?
Soon, Gabby gets out of control with her pranks and is put on probation by her SKYAgent, who has anger management issues of his own. Determined to right her wrongs, Gabby steals an ancient artifact that allows her to return to Earth for just one day. Without knowing, she kicks off a series of events and learns what can happen when you hate someone to death.Sounds awesome, right? But I wanted to dig a little deeper into the mind that created On the Bright Side, so I asked S.R. some questions and got some pretty great answers.
Your new novel, On the Bright Side, is written for the middle grade crowd, or tweens. Why was writing for this group important to you?
This book set out to be YA. But then when I realized a lot of dark angel books were coming out, I switched it to tween. I really wanted to do a funny book about death and I thought a tween book would be more appropriate than YA.
The National Children's Book and Literary Alliance lists numerous reasons that books are good for kids -- among them are these things:
Books let kids try on the world before they have to go out into it.
Books help us to understand ourselves, to find out who we are.
Books help kids to chart their own moral and ethical course.
Books create questions.
How does OTBS achieve any of these goals? Was that your intention when writing it or were you just trying to tell a good story?
Wow you are really smart huh :) Um I guess all of those.
OTBS allows Gabby to go out into a different world alone and she has to take care of herself. Without her parents around. She’s expected to take care of herself.
Seeing someone’s full life gives her a perspective of other people she never has. This view changes her as a person.
In protecting Angela, Gabby must learn control, forgiveness, and understanding. She goes from pranking her to saving her life, learning that you are happier as a person if you are good to others.
And lastly, I think many questions are raised in this book about life and death, about what life really is, and about what we take for granted. But it is also dives into perceptions and how they can rule our lives, even though we don’t know the whole story.
How does OTBS differ from a young adult novel, written for full-fledged teens?
Well in OTBS, Gabby is in 8th grade. There is no love – just crushes on boys. Not much kissing (bummer right? :). I think the plot is still very layered but I do think it’s not as complicated or as dark as true YA view would be. I think it walks the line between Mg and YA by allowing Gabby to have selfish internal motives yet still getting her to see her role in the larger world as a whole.
Do you think it's important to have books specifically for tweens, to help bridge the gap between chapter books and YA? Why or why not?
I do. There are not many 13 or 14-year-old characters. I think there is a big difference between 10 and 14. So middle grade doesn’t work for tweens. They are in a tough spot. They are too old for MG books but their parents don’t want them reading YA yet. I think we will see a tween market develop more over time.
I certainly hope so! Anyway, thank you, S.R., for joining us today. And for all of you, please check out some of the early praise for On the Bright Side, watch the awesome book trailer, and then head over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to grab your own copy for only $.99!
"S.R. Johannes delivers a cute paranormal thrill ride for middle graders! Even in death there is a BRIGHT SIDE!" - Addison Moore, author of the bestselling Celestra series and soon to be TV show
Clever and charming, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE is the story of a reluctant guardian angel, her still-breathing crush, and the frenemy she’s assigned to protect. A great read! -Suzanne Young, author of A Need So Beautiful, A Want So Wicket (6/12), and The Program (2013)
"With a smart, snappy heroine and a heart-warming crush, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE is a page-turning new take on guardian angels that left me begging for a sequel!" - Gretchen McNeil, author of Possess and Ten (9/12) (Balzar + Bray)