Shining the Light on POISON IVY by Amy Goldman Koss and a Book Giveaway

I’ve decided to start a new feature on my blog called SHINING THE LIGHT ON…, where authors shed insight into their books. It’s my hope you’ll find new books to read, authors to admire and much needed writing inspiration. I’d love your feedback, so please feel free to comment!

Since today is the first day of SHINING THE LIGHT ON…, I’ve decided to host a book giveaway based on the theme of today’s featured book and author. But you’ll have to wait a bit…

If you follow me on twitter or facebook, you’ve probably noticed my observations on elementary school cliques. As a mother, I find cliques bothersome, particularly since I hate how it affects my children. I’m selfish that way.

Cliques creep in early, at the tender age of 6 (at least in our public school). By the time children reach 10 or 11, they’ve got this clique thing down pat. Even though many cliques are harmless, formed mostly of kids with common interests, it’s still hard for an “outsider” to get a foot in the door. If a clique happens to be controlled by a mother or two, the chance of getting invited in is wiped out. And what if one of the cliques ends up a little power hungry, dabbling in a little bullying here are there? And what if the adults, who are supposed to protect the young, look the other way or don’t see the signs? It’s no wonder our kids have difficulty navigating the social scene, whether they’re in a clique or not, one of the bullied, a bully, or a bystander.

A couple years ago, I discovered the book POISON IVY by Amy Goldman Koss. Here’s a little bit about POISON IVY:

When three popular girls go on trial in Government class for their ruthless bullying of a girl named Ivy, it seems the misfit will finally get her revenge. Eight first-person narrators give different versions of the event: Ivy-this victim doesn’t want revenge, she just wants to be left alone; Ann-she’s the beautiful, but infamously cruel, leader of the bullies; Marco-he may be the only person involved who has any morals, but he’s also the target of Ann’s persuasive affections; Daria-Ivy’s painfully shy lawyer doesn’t stand a chance; Bryce-the goofy court reporter knows all the real dirt, even if he doesn’t care; Cameron-he sleeps through the proceedings but wake up just in time to make a difference; Wayne-a true devotee of the legal process, too bad he’s on the sidelines; and Faith-as the only witness for the prosecution, it all comes down to her. But where do her loyalties lie?

Amy was kind enough to share some insight into writing about the tween/teen relationships in POISON IVY. She’s an expert on her observations on the tween/teen relationships–check out her many books! Without further ado, please welcome Amy!


Amy Goldman Koss: Friendships can be dicey at any age. My ancient aunt Jenny detested her batty roommate in the rest home. Part of that was probably her paranoid dementia, but the rest…?

What percentage of college roommates end up enemies? And how about all those till-death-do-us-part marriages ending in bitter animosity? Workplace conflicts, court cases, family feuds… racial hatreds, Gang wars, and war/wars.

That’s one of the things we humans do best: fight.

And when we’re forced to be together, day after week after month, in stultifying boredom with zero freedom… like in prison, or, say middle school, the nightmarish possibilities for interpersonal torment are limitless.

There’s no escape, no scaling the slippery sides of the cauldron. Prisoners and students are left to seethe and bubble in a crowded stew of hormones, frustration, anger, powerlessness, and human nature. The only difference between the prisoners and the students is that, theoretically the prisoners, brought this fate upon themselves and are being punished.

I’ve been a lot of ages now, and seen all kinds of gore and misery but I do truly believe the hardest and weirdest time of life are those beastly years between fifth and tenth grade. So, those are the people I write to, for and about… people simmering in the stew. I want to help them pass the time as they simmer. I want to make them laugh. I want to remind them that they are not alone.

Some people object to my novel Poison Ivy because it doesn’t have a hopeful, redemptive, optimistic, ending. I even had to change publishers mid-contract because the first one wanted it to end happily. Actually, I would have like to twist the world in such a way that life was fair and justice prevailed, but I’m sure it would have read as a lie.

That story, with those characters had to play out the way it did. No other conclusion would have made sense.

It is not my job to lie to my readers. They get enough of that elsewhere in their lives. And I hope the humor in my books balances the grim parts, just like laughter gets us through the rough patches in real life.

Amy’s next book, THE NOT-SO-GREAT DEPRESSION, will be released in May 2010.

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Thank you, Amy, for your wise insight and for creating books that help teens.

If you know anyone who is being bullied, please check out BullyBust, a website dedicated to help students stand up to bullying. Also, here’s a link to an old post on books for Cliques, Friendships and Self-Esteem. I hope these resources will be helpful.

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On a brighter note, to celebrate the start of SHINING THE LIGHT ON… and to honor Amy for being my first guest, I’m giving away a special book gift pack that I hope will help someone. This book gift pack will include:

If you’d like to be considered for this book gift pack, leave a comment about a childhood experience with cliques or bullies. Deadline will be next Wednesday, March 31st. And I’m really sorry about this…since I’m paying for shipping myself, only U.S. entries will be considered. Thanks for your understanding. I’ll announce the winner on April 1st–no joke!

The floor is yours.

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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