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We Are Young

We Are Young

In CAT CLARKE's new novel WE ARE YOUNG, Evan tries to uncover the reasons behind a car crash that claimed the lives of three teenagers and left her new stepbrother fighting for his life... CAT CLARKE tells us more!

The novel deals with some big issues, especially mental health, and she explores depression and suicide, but this is done with a sure hand and a great plot so the book has real appeal.

Evan's new stepbrother, Lewis, is involved in a car accident in which the other teenage occupants are killed; Lewis is blamed, accused of taking drugs. Evan feels that all is not as it seems though and, together with her estranged father - a journalist - sets to find out the truth behind the crash.

We asked author CAT CLARKE to tell us more about WE ARE YOUNG.

Q: This novel has, like some of your earlier books, a mystery at its heart. Why do you like to include this element in your books?

A: It's partially for me, partially for the reader. I always like to start a story with a 'what if' situation. In this case, it was 'What if there was a car crash involving several people, none of which knew each other?' It’s fascinating for me to unravel the mystery as I write, and it's hopefully just as interesting for the reader. Some of my very favourite stories are mysteries, so I suppose it makes sense that my stories usually include an element of that.

Q: The story follows Evan Page, a teenager who has been through a family break-up and is defensive but still very engaging. How did her character develop?

A: I really love Evan. She was so much fun to write. I wanted to write about those teenagers who are real pillars of strength in their families. I wanted to explore what it's like for someone so young to always have to be the reliable, responsible one, and what might happen when they've finally had enough. What happens when they do something reckless?

Q: You often explore families in difficulties, as in We Are Young. What draws you to this subject?

A: I honestly have no idea. I suppose I don't find perfect, happy families all that interesting! I think young people should have the opportunity to read about all different kinds of families, but I'll leave it up to other authors to write about the happy ones! Having said that, I think there are moments of real happiness for Evan and her family in this book. It's not all black and white.

Q: There are sensitive issues in the book including unprotected sex, domestic abuse, alcoholism and drug taking. Do you feel that YA literature has caught up with what young people watch on television and films?

A: YA literature should reflect the lives of teenagers. It's as simple as that. For quite a few years now, there have been YA novels dealing with sensitive issues, but there's always been a tendency for them to be ignored and/or sidelined... unless they're about boys, of course. There's also this idea that books have to be good for you, like eating your vegetables. No one seems to think that about TV or movies. There's room for all kinds of stories in YA literature - the happy, the sad, the in between.

Q: Do you feel as an author that it's also important to explore some of the challenges - like exploitation and bullying - that young people might face?

A: Absolutely. It's vital to address the challenges teenagers face today. Reading a book about something difficult you're going through can make you feel less alone.

Q: The novel touches on how teenagers are described and even exploited by the media. Is this something that you feel happens? How do you respond to it positively as an author?

A: Definitely. How many times do we see a teenage actress (it's always an actress, isn't it?) being described as "all grown up" on social media? And all those articles about teenagers being obsessed with their phones or drinking too much or being lazy. It annoys the hell out of me, because the teenagers I meet constantly amaze me. As an author, the only way I can respond is by writing teenagers as *I* see them.

Q: If you could, like the characters in We Are Young, launch a campaign to change one thing for today's teenagers, what would it be?

A: That's a tough question, because the world is a mess right now. I guess I'd start with mental health. Every teenager should have access to help when they need it.

Q: Who do you feel are the most impressive role models for today's young people?

A: So many! But I'll start with Malala Yousafzai, Emma Gonzalez, Tavi Gevinson and Jazz Jennings. The list is growing every day, and I'm sure there are hundreds, even thousands, of young people who are making a difference. We don't always hear about them, but they're out there, fighting the good fight.

Q: You have mentioned that this was a difficult novel to write, why was that?

A: Contrary to popular belief, I genuinely don’t enjoy killing characters! Any big emotional scenes are tough to write, and this book has a lot of them.

Q: Where do you write and what are you working on now?

A: I usually write at home, wrapped up in in my special writing sleeping bag... I live in Scotland and it's COLD. I'm surrounded by my pets, who are usually doing their best to distract me. I'm working on several projects at the moment, all of which are TOP SECRET, but I think I'm allowed to say that one of them involves a mountain. Bit of a departure for me!

Q: How do you engage with your readers and how important (or not?) is it to do so? Are there any big events / festivals coming up that you'll be at that we could mention?

A: I think that readers should have a place to discuss books where they don't have authors lurking in the background, so I usually only engage with readers on social media if they want to chat to me. If not, I'll leave them to it.

My wonderful French publisher invite me to the two big book festivals in Paris, and it's always so lovely to meet readers there. France has a fantastic literary culture, so the atmosphere is really special. I wish we had events like that over here. I always enjoy attending the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I hope to be there again this year. I'll also be appearing at Hay Festival at the end of May alongside the amazing Juno Dawson, so I'm really excited about that!


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