Adult or YA? You Decide
First I want to say I’m thrilled to be guest posting on Bibliosaurus Text, as I think Audrey writes great reviews. And I’m a little jealous of her job as a rare book librarian.
When I wrote my novel The Earthquake Machine, I didn’t think about whether the book would be marketed as a Young Adult novel or as an adult coming-of-age novel; I didn’t self-censor the material so that it would be considered “appropriate” for a younger audience.
I was living in a basement room at the Desert Rose Horse Ranch outside of Durango, Colorado and working construction outside all day in the cold. I would wake up at the magic hour before dawn to draft the novel. And when I sat down at the keyboard I thought about nothing more than how to write a wild, fantastical story one word at a time.
What I created was a novel that in many ways pushes the boundaries between fiction marketed as YA and fiction pitched to an adult audience. The reactions to the novel have been strong—and I think it’s because the book portrays a young protagonist trying to come-of-age (both emotionally, sexually, and spiritually) while experiencing remarkable (and sometimes very adult) situations.
One reviewer to whom I sent the book wrote me that she was “appalled that this book might be picked up and read by thirteen–fifteen year olds.”
But a review in the Huffington Post said, “Lowry…has created a story that belongs on bookshelves next to other fine literature…The Earthquake Machine moves Lowry into an elite group of young female writers who know that the feminist movement is about more than equal pay for equal work and that a girl has a right to be a grrrlllll, if she chooses.”
So is the The Earthquake Machine for adults or is it YA? I’d have to say that’s up to the reader to decide.
The book every girl should read,
and every girl’s parents hope she’ll never read.
The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.
Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.
Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes women and girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.