This session’s published piece, “Covered Up Our Names,” by Jackie Lea Sommers, appeared in Volume 18, the Winter 2013/2014 edition of Hunger Mountain, and was the story for which Sommers won the Katherine Paterson Prize from Young Adult and Children’s Writing. Sommers’s first novel, Truest, also YA, was published by HarperCollins in September 2015.
One of the best parts of the AWP Conference last month was visiting the book fair and hauling in a sweet stash of literary journals. I was drawn to this one because Hunger Mountain is VCFA’s journal–and Vermont College of Fine Arts has one of the best YA programs in the country. Also, let’s be honest: horses and hearts.
A few discussion Q’s:
1. Aside from the ages of the protagonist and supporting characters, what makes this a YA story? What makes it a literary YA story?
2. Did you find this story (or parts of it) predictable? Which parts, why, and how does being able to guess what’s going to happen enhance or detract from your experience?
3. Sommers uses an Emily Dickinson poem to tie in major themes, and the title comes from the poem. Discuss the poem’s/title’s significance.
4. YA often deals with heavy subjects, from eating disorders to rape to (as in this story) cancer. What makes this one different/special/work?
5. What techniques does Sommers use to balance the story’s heavy themes/subject matter?