Last night I went to a Laurie Halse Anderson book signing at Powell’s. She was there promoting her latest book, FORGE. FORGE is a sequel to CHAINS and is about runaway slaves fighting for their own version of freedom at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. I really enjoyed reading CHAINS, and am looking forward to reading FORGE.
As much as I like historical fiction, Laurie Halse Anderson’s contemporary YA has always resonated more strongly with me. I think most of the 100+ audience members were there for the same reason. By the time we got to the Q&A section, all the questions were about her contemporary works.
About a dozen of the audience members were guys from the same high school English class. They are currently reading TWISTED in class and there teacher (who was also there) offered to give extra credit to any student who came to meet the author. The guys had lots of good questions, and it was clear that TWISTED was a story that had touched them deeply and meant more to them than just a grade in English. I haven’t read TWISTED yet, but after seeing those boys reaction, it is now at the top of my To Read list.
There were also a lot of questions/comments about SPEAK. SPEAK is Anderson’s most famous book, and deals with the emotional distress of a 13 year old girl as she finds the courage to speak up after being a victim of date rape. I have read SPEAK and know it is an important and powerful book.
Laurie Halse Anderson took her time, talking with each person who wanted a book signed. So I spent about 45 minutes in line next to a young woman named Carly. Carly was super excited to meet Anderson, and she spent most of her time jumping up and down. She had three well read books in hand. Her copy of SPEAK was especially tattered, and she told me that she keeps it in her backpack at all times.
Carly and I talked a bit about what other authors we enjoy reading, and how we are both looking forward to reading Anderson’s newest book. When Carly finally made it to the front of the line, I overheard her conversation with Anderson. She told Anderson that she was a sexual assault victim when she was 15 and that SPEAK was the book that gave her the courage to seek help. Carly wanted to thank Anderson for showing her how to move forward.
When it was my turn to meet Laurie Halse Anderson, I admitted that I was a pre-published YA author. And that witnessing Anderson’s interaction with Carly is the reason I write. I then told Anderson that I want to be her when I grow up. She smiled, told me life in the slush pile doesn’t last forever, and that she wants to be her when she grows up too.