Jenn Reese, Author of ABOVE WORLD, talks THE WESTING GAME

10 Apr

Today on the blog Jenn Reese, author of ABOVE WORLD, which which came out in February, stops by to write about THE WESTING GAME. Here’s a little more info about her amazing debut, ABOVE WORLD: 

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people. 

But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.

Ohmigod it’s like warrior version of the Little Mermaid! Love it. And now, Jenn: 

This is Jenn's childhood copy of THE WESTING GAME. How cute is that?

Before I started reading adult fantasy and science fiction novels — a pastime that occupied most of my teen years — I was in a special Newbery program. Instead of attending class, I got to go to the library and read as many Newbery winners and honor books as I wanted. (Which, it turns out, was all of them.) I think Karana from Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins is an amazing heroine — caring, resilient, smart, and the ultimate survivor. She’d be an easy pick, and is definitely one of the toughest heroines I’ve ever enjoyed adventuring with. But there’s another girl who will always be my favorite inspiration: Turtle Wexler from Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game.

Turtle, an unrepentant tomboy, is the second daughter of Grace Windsor Wexler and a perpetual disappointment to her mother. Unlike Angela, Grace’s favorite daughter, Turtle is rude, unkempt, and almost repulsively independent. If someone pulls her pigtail, she kicks them in the shin. Turtle rides her bike everywhere, can go toe-to-toe in an argument with boys much older than herself, and is brave despite her insecurities and fears. When we first hear the tale of how two boys died and went insane after venturing into the haunted Westing house, Turtle is no sooner done shivering when she offers to go into the house herself… for the right price. She may not have to hunt for food or fight wild dogs like O’Dell’s Karana, but she has to survive a mother who clearly disdains her and a family in which she feels she has no place. And truly, that is no small task.

Much like Turtle, Aluna in my novel Above World feels lost and forgotten in her family. She’s the youngest of five, and her brothers and sister are all successful and wildly popular members of the underwater Kampii community. Even her father is a law-abiding Elder, respected and admired by everyone. Aluna is alone, struggling to stay true to herself in a world that seems to be pushing her to become something she’s not. Kampii women can’t be hunters — not when the community needs more babies — yet Aluna longs to wield a spear and hunt in the wide ocean. And just as Turtle volunteers to enter Westing’s haunted house by herself, Aluna goes where no one else in her community is brave enough to venture — out of the water to the Above World. She doesn’t do it on a dare, but to find some way to save her people.

Aluna and Turtle don’t look much alike — Aluna keeps her hair short so it doesn’t get in her way, whereas Turtle wields her infamous braid like a weapon. But the influence is there. They are both outsiders, the forgotten, the so-called disappointments, and they both far exceed other people’s expectations of them by staying true to themselves.

Learn more about Jenn and ABOVE WORLD here!

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One Response to “Jenn Reese, Author of ABOVE WORLD, talks THE WESTING GAME”

  1. Anne Nesbet April 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanks for this interview, Jenn and Ellie. I have to say I love the idea of Aluna, Karana, and Turtle going on a quest together. Those three could surely save ANY world! I remember reading and rereading THE ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS when I was little: that a girl could find a way to survive on her own was an amazingly powerful thought for my wimpy kid self. And Aluna is another great heroine–my kids and I are loving ABOVE WORLD!

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