Welcome to Teen Talk Tuesday on Sensibility and Sense!

I’m so excited to introduce my readers to a new feature on Sensibility and Sense! I’m calling it Teen Talk Tuesday, and it’s all about tweens and teens telling writers, editors and agents whey they really think of the books being written with them in mind! So if you’re a person in the publishing industry and wonder what’s working and if you are hitting the mark for your audience, stop in and check out Teen Talk Tuesday! I think you’ll be glad you did!

Our first book is The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green (Speak Paperback Reprint Edition, April 2014)

And here’s a little big about our first reviewer:

Name: Julia

Age: 17

Year in School: Senior

Hobbies and Interests: Playing the violin and piano, drawing and painting, reading and writing.

Take it away Julia!


What About The Fault in Our Stars? 

By Julia

The Fault in Our Stars is a fantastic story of young love, trials, and cancer. The book features two dynamic characters, Hazel and Gus, who both struggle with the effects of their disease, or as they put it, “the side effects of dying”. To be honest, I’m not one to fall for the average Young Adult romance, full of sappy words and one-dimensional characters, but something about this book appealed to me. The novel is fast paced and each character has their own set of anxieties, causing a sense of urgency because the audience knows one of the characters could die at any time. John Green is able to convey this urgency through quick, easy-to-read sentences and a lot of philosophical passages discussing death and dying. The problems these teens face are realistic, not some made up magic sorcerer or vampire, which makes for a refreshing, heart-wrenching read.

However, when I finished reading the novel, I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about it. I know I loved the characters and the story was riveting, but something kept me from saying “I love it!!” One thing about this novel which really put me off was the language of the characters. Some of the words they used, especially curse words, seemed out of place. I could obviously tell it was an adult trying to sound like a teenager. I don’t know what it is about young adult novels, but a lot of them seem to be written by ‘actual adults’ causing them to sound stuffy and very unrealistic to actual ‘young’ adults. This book is no exception. The main character Hazel has been homeschooled for years and has had limited contact with kids her age; the only real conversations she has had is with her parents. So, it is very unrealistic that she would use words like ‘piss’ or ‘douche’ in her line of thinking.  Another issue is the character Gus. He uses an extreme amount of metaphorical and philosophical language, making his character very unbelievable. I think one of my friends said it best, “It was so strange because nobody talks like that!”

Overall, it was a very enjoyable read and I must admit, I did cry a little at the end of the book. I’d encourage anyone to read it because the story is fantastic and I really liked it, but I won’t go as far as to say I loved it.


Sensibility: Remembering what it’s like to be a teen reader can help you find the right voice for YA and Middle Grade Novels.

Sense: Take time to listen to what teens are saying and how they say it to make sure your voice is authentic for today’s teen reader.

What are some of your teen’s favorite books?


Summer Road Trip: Finding Your Way as a Writer

It’s officially Summer at our house! Exams are over, grades are up, backpacks hang limp on their hooks, and lunch totes are enjoying a much-deserved hiatus on the laundry-room shelf. Ah Summer! That time when exhaling just comes easier, and hour after hour of blissful nothingness stretches out before me like my freshly-painted toes. But if your family is like most, summer also means…ROAD TRIP! Planning your route, making notes of things to see along the way, hiring a pet sitter and stopping the mail help add to the excitement of finally getting in the car and heading off to new territories or familiar oases.

Hichem Touihri - road trip tunisia
Hichem Touihri – road trip tunisia

But for writers, planning and plotting out the writing journey can sometimes feel more like tip-toeing through a minefield than feeling the thrill of the wind in your hair. There are so many things editors, agents and the markets ask of us that seem to change the trip at every turn. How you answer some all-important questions as a writer can set you up for success or for getting lost with your first turn out of the driveway. These five questions are a good place to begin:

  1. What am I passionate about? What you are passionate about in everyday life will come out in some way in what you write. Knowing what those things are can help you develop your own unique writer voice.
  2. What kinds of stories thrilled me as a child? If you were just as happy reading the latest Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew Mysteries as you were riding your bike, chances are you know more about mystery writing than you think. Writing the kind of books that sparked your interest in reading in the first place might be the place to begin your writing journey.
  3. Who are your writing heroes and what do they say about you? Some of my writing heroes include: Madeleine L’Engle, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Miss Read, Jan Karon, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton and Cynthia Voigt. These writers all shared stories about strong young women overcoming insurmountable odds. It is no coincidence that my main characters are strong young women that make a difference in their worlds.
  4. What kinds of books bring you joy? I love books that make me laugh, cry and feel deeply. These emotions bring me joy because they remind me that life is precious, sweet, mysterious, difficult and wonderful all at the same time. I want my books to bring others joy.
  5. What do you want to say as a writer? Your voice is important in this world. Believing that what you have to say through your writing can change or enrich another’s life is reason enough to keep on doing it.

Just like leaving home without your glasses can make your road trip more difficult, not knowing the answers to these basic questions can make you feel lost as a writer. The answers may evolve from year to year, but asking them often helps keep you on track in your writing journey.

Sensibility- Knowing what you bring to your writing and what you want others to take away from it can make your writing road trip all the sweeter.

Sense- Asking honest questions as you develop as a writer can help keep you focused and accountable for the work you do.

What questions do you ask yourself about writing when you are feeling discouraged or lost?


Coming Soon to Sensibility and Sense…

Teen Talk Tuesday!

Where real teens share real opinions about the books they’re reading and why. You’ve heard from editors, agents, critique groups and writing partners. Now hear from the ones what matter most…the audience. Teens taking on the latest in middle grade and YA fiction and letting you know what they really think! Come by next week for our first Teen Talk Tuesday and read what teens are saying about The Fault in Our Stars by John Green!