Between The Lines is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which authors and other industry professionals provide further insight into the writing and publishing process, whether it be in the form of interviews, guest posts, etc. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy as we read between the lines.
I’ve long been searching for a means of featuring a greater deal of Canadian literature on Pop! Goes The Reader. So, when I was fortunate enough to receive a finished copy of Susin Nielsen’s We Are All Made Of Molecules for review from Random House Canada, it seemed like nothing short of kismet. It wasn’t until I was approached by Penguin Teen and asked to participate in the blog tour a few months later, however, that I was finally given that little extra push I needed to pick up the novel and begin reading it in earnest. And read (and adore it), I did! Susin Nielsen’s We Are All Made Of Molecules tells the story of thirteen-year-old Stewart and fourteen-year-old Ashley, two kids who could not be more diametrically opposed in terms of temperament and behaviour, who are thrust together after their parents begin dating and the two families move in together. Told from the alternating perspective of Stewart and Ashley, in witty, effervescent voices, Nielsen’s latest offers an insightful and sensitive exploration of blended families and is a novel I would not hesitate to recommend to readers who enjoy realistic fiction and contemporary stories. Today, Susin Nielsen has kindly agreed to stop by Pop! Goes The Reader in order to offer a little insight about what inspired this immensely moving, memorable tale.
About Susin Nielsen
Susin got her start feeding cast and crew on the popular television series, Degrassi Junior High. They hated her food, but they saw a spark in her writing. Nielsen went on to pen sixteen episodes of the hit TV show. Since then, Nielsen has written for over 20 Canadian TV series. Her first young adult novel, Word Nerd, was published in 2008 to critical acclaim. It won multiple Young Readers’ Choice Awards, as did her second novel, Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom. Her third novel, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, was published in August 2012. It went on to win the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award, the Canadian Library Association’s Children’s Book of the Year Award, and a number of Young Readers’ Choice Awards. Author Wally Lamb named it his top YA pick for 2012 in his “First Annual Wally Awards,” and recently Rolling Stone magazine put it at #27 in their list of “Top 40 Best YA Novels.” Her books have been translated into multiple languages. Susin’s new novel, We Are All Made of Molecules, will be published in Canada, the US and the UK in Spring of 2015. She lives in Vancouver with her family and two naughty cats.
Hi Jen – thanks so much for having me on your blog! As you know, We Are All Made Of Molecules is about a blended family, and told from the first-person perspective of two narrators, 13-year-old academically gifted Stewart and 14-year-old socially adept Ashley.
I think the idea was, in a strange way, a natural progression from my 2010 novel, Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom. In that book I dealt with the fallout of divorce, and parents who were moving on – Dad remarried, Mom dating, and my protagonist Violet (who also appears in We Are All Made of Molecules) trying to cope with and understand it all (and get her mom to date a better class of men!). That novel ended with Violet coming to terms with her mom’s new boyfriend, and having to accept her new situation.
This time I wanted to go one step further – as in, “What would happen if the dating led to cohabitating? What would that be like for the kids?”
If, like Ashley, I am being “one hundred percent totally honest,” the inspiration for both of these novels came from my own background. My parents divorced shortly after I was born; my dad remarried; I have half siblings; my mom dated a bit. Eventually she remarried, and her new husband has FOUR kids. They didn’t get together till I was out of the house, and I remember selfishly thinking, “Thank God!!” Because I would have been ten times worse than Ashley! It would have been awful! I know that’s a lot of exclamation points, but really, I have a lot of sympathy for Ashley – it really is a huge upheaval. (and for the record, I like my stepdad and stepsiblings – but as a teen it would have been hell). While no one in my immediate family came out of the closet, I do know of a number of couples who’ve had this experience.
So that’s where the nubbin of the idea came from. What would happen if two very very different kids were suddenly thrust together under one roof? I know Stewart is more immediately sympathetic (and he’s certainly the one I’d adopt if I had to pick); I think I was a bit like Stewart (though not as smart) until I was about 13, then I morphed into Ashley (though not as pretty or fashionable and I got better marks). I think I stayed like Ashley for a long time!
Title We Are All Made of Molecules
Author Susin Nielsen
Pages 256 Pages
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publisher Tundra Books
To Be Published May 12th, 2015
Find It On Goodreads
Thirteen-year-old Stewart Inkster is academically brilliant but “ungifted” socially.
Fourteen-year-old Ashley Anderson is the undisputed “It” girl of grade nine, but her marks stink.
Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. “The Brady Bunch” it isn’t. Stewart is trying to be 89.9% happy about it, but Ashley is 110% horrified. She already has to hide the truth behind her parents’ divorce; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.
They are complete opposites. And yet, no matter their differences, they share one thing in common: they – like the rest of us – are all made of molecules.