Kathryn Ormsbee is the author of LUCKY FEW, a quirky contemporary from Simon & Schuster, and the highly anticipated TASH HEARTS TOLSTORY (June 6, 2017). Kathryn also writes Middle Grade fantasy novels as K.E. Ormsbee. She is the author of THE WATER AND THE WILD series and the upcoming standalone THE HOUSE IN POPLAR WOOD (Chronicle Books, 2018).
I loved children’s literature growing up—Roald Dahl and Louis Sachar were two of my favorites—but can I share a secret? I didn’t read that much YA when I was a teenager! I was an eensy bit ambitious and determined to read all the “Great Classics” before I graduated, so my bookshelf was filled with Dickens and Austen, Dostoevsky and Steinbeck.
Then one fateful day I discovered The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and my reading world was forever changed. That book blew my young mind. I hadn’t realized until then that there were books out there about actual problems and emotions that normal teens felt on an everyday basis. (Keep in mind, I grew up in the time of The O.C. and Gossip Girl; plenty of fun in their own way, but not reflective of my own life.) My experience with Perks sparked a desire to read more and more YA contemporary novels, and that’s just what I did. That late teenage exploration turned into an abiding love for YA.
Some of the most honest, well-written, laugh-out-loud/sob-out-loud fiction I have read is Young Adult. (And remember, I made a survey of those “Great Classics”!) So, as a book-lover, how could I deny myself the joys of such a rich body of literature?
What YA books are you reading now?
I recently finished The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcok, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, and I highly recommend ALL of them. There have been so many fantastic releases in the past year! I’ve just begun Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali, and I already love it to pieces.
Lately, I’ve been on the road for long stretches of time, so audiobooks have been my best friends. I also listen to books as I cook dinner, go on walks, and work out—basically every multitasking opportunity I get! But nothing beats snuggling up with a good old paper book either in the corner of my bed or in the armchair by my current apartment’s bay window. One of my favorite post-writing treats is disappearing into a story at the end of the day; if it’s storming outside, even better.
What draws you to a book?
I absolutely judge books by their covers. Whoops. But gorgeous or intriguing cover art jumps off the shelf at me. For example, have you seen Sarah Combs’ The Light Fantastic? I am so in love with that design (and the story inside).
Generally, though I pick up books that have been personally recommended to me. One of the great perks of writing YA is the amount of talented writing friends I’ve met along the way. So if it’s a book a friend has written or recommends, it automatically goes to the top of my list.
I highly value voice in novels, so I’m especially eager to read books described as “voice-y” and that are more character- than plot-driven.
Do you ever reread books?
Oh, absolutely! I don’t reread too often, simply because there are too many NEW books on my TBR list that I’m eager to get to. But I do have some perennial favorites (all of which are listed in the following question!) that I pick up again every year or two. Some stories never get old.
Which YA books has had the most impact on your writing?
As I mentioned earlier, The Perks of Being a Wallflower had a huge effect on my decision to write YA. Other YA books that have inspired me, or that I consult when I need to be reminded of what compelling storytelling looks like include I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, and the Raven Cycle books by Maggie Stiefvater.
Universal recommendations that are always at the tip of my tongue are Matilda by Roald Dahl, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
Lately, I’ve been recommending Angie Thomas’ brilliant The Hate U Give right and left. For friends interested in getting into YA contemporary, I recommend Perks and Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And for friends interested in YA fantasy, I recommend the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo.