Edna’s mother has cancer and the only good thing about that is people are willing to let her get away with pretty much anything. If she fails a test, is late, or misses tennis practice, everyone understands. What they wouldn’t understand is her illicit romance with her art teacher, the one thing that makes her feel happy lately. Not that she’s going to tell anyone – especially not her therapist who wants to convince her to visit her mother in the hospital. But she just can’t and no one is going to make her...
I was blown away by this book, pure and simple. Debut Author Lisa Levchuk manages to capture perfectly the feeling of being a teen that has a mother with cancer (and I should know). Edna’s voice is so raw and honest while still managing to be witty and endearing. You want to give her a hug at the same time you want to shake her and make her come to her senses.
The narrative tension is two-fold: Will she overcome her fear and visit her mother and will she and her teacher get caught? The novel is rich, deep, and ripe for discussion – from the characters relationships with one another (not just Edna’s relationship with her teacher but also with her distant father), to the pressures of small town life and the importance of music and art.
I found it absolutely beautiful. And I was lucky enough to get an interview with the author herself. So read on (no spoilers)...
This is your first book. Can you tell us a bit about the origin of the idea for the novel and your road to publication?
Everything Beautiful in the World began as a short story. I started writing it when I was in graduate school. At the time, my thesis advisor suggested that it might really be a novel. I had that idea in the back of my mind for quite some time before I sat down and wrote the book. It took many years and many false starts before I felt it was finished. The road to publication was quicker than the road to finishing the book.
Why did you set the novel in the early 1980’s instead of today?
Today’s world seems much more complicated to me, especially in terms of communication. I felt the story needed to take place in a time before cell phones and Facebook. I’m not sure I could see Edna using technology the way kids do today.
Music is discussed by the characters quite a bit in the novel. What was on your playlist while you wrote?
I have quite a bit of music on my playlist, but the albums that most inspired me to write were Cat Stevens’ Mona Bone Jackson , Outlandos D’Amour by The Police and Greetings from Asbury Park by Springsteen.
As a Young Adult novelist, do you read a lot of other YA novels? Which are your favorites?
I teach high school English and spend a great deal of time rereading classics. My favorite books about young adults are Jane Eyre and The Catcher in the Rye. I’m not sure if it’s a young adult book, but I recently read I book I liked very much by a writer named David Mitchell. It was about a teenage boy and it was titled Black Swan Green.
Ooh! I even reviewed that one on my blog. So tell us, do you have any other literary projects in the works?
Yes. I’m working on another book.
Great! Looking forward. Thanks for stopping by!
Everything Beautiful in the World is out in hardcover now. What are you waiting for? Go get it!