New Kids On The Block 2018 with Katie Henry

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

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About Katie Henry

Katie Henry is a writer living and working in New York City. She received her BFA in dramatic writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is a published playwright, specializing in theater for young audiences. Her plays have been performed by high schools and community organizations in over thirty states. Heretics Anonymous is her first novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads


The first jokes I ever told were about myself.

I’m not counting knock-knock jokes or my favorite one liner I got out of a book: What do cats eat for breakfast? Mice Krispies! I mean the jokes you pull out of nowhere, the ones that come just from you, that spill out of your mouth before you can reconsider. I started telling jokes like that in seventh grade, the height of my own personal awkward phase. I had braces. I had glasses. I had a pathological need to tell my classmates they should start reading Doonesbury.

As you can probably imagine, they made fun of me. Relentlessly. I think a 13-year-old with a normal level of self-awareness would have bought herself a Von Dutch trucker hat, a pair of Uggs (it was 2003, okay?) and just tried to fit in. Instead, I started making fun of myself, spitting out the joke before they could. So when Evan R. told me I had a unibrow, I said yes, I did, and furthermore, that it looked like two sad caterpillars inching closer and closer to defend their territory. I ruined the punchline in a way that was less lighthearted, and more of a snarling kind of: “I can do anything better than you, and that includes making fun of me. You dick.”

When I was thirteen, I learned that comedy is a way to fight back.

Ten years later, I started writing Heretics Anonymous. It was July 2013: a simpler time, a gentler time, a time I didn’t worry about whether an overgrown toddler with a hair piece would start a nuclear war over Twitter. But books are a marathon, not a sprint, and by the time the book sold it was January 2017. It seemed like everything was going right in my life just as everything was going so horribly wrong in the outside world. And I started to worry — was this the wrong time for the book I’d just sold? With so much injustice and tragedy, and with so many heartbreaking, worthy books about systemic discrimination, and rape culture, and surviving trauma, did anyone really need a silly comedy about a ragtag bunch of misfit rebels?

I’ve seen a lot of articles since November 2016 about comedy as escapism. That when things are roughest, we need jokes and laughter to give us a break from what can feel like constant pain and anxiety. Comedy as a safe room, somewhere to curl up and know you’re safe. Or comedy as a portal, something to transport you somewhere far away. But when I punched up jokes in my first book or struggled to write new jokes in my second book, I didn’t feel like I’d escaped from the breaking news alerts. If I’d been transported anywhere, it was to the furious thirteen-year-old I was, hurling jokes like grenades. And it made me realize — I don’t see comedy as an escape. Not all the time, anyway, or even most of the time. It’s more like a saving grace. I think comedy saves us not because we forget what’s happening in the world, but because we remember. We remember that the universe can be unfair, and humans can be cruel, and we laugh anyway. Comedy saves us because we wrench back our happiness from a world that keeps jerking it away. Comedy helps us say, “You can’t take my joy. It’s mine to own, to hold tightly with both hands through the worst you can throw at me.”

When I was 26, and 27, and about-to-be 28, I learned that comedy was something bigger and more vital than any one joke I made, whether it was about something as small as me, or as big as religion. As far as I’m concerned, in times as dark and scary as these, comedy isn’t a retreat from the world. It’s a declaration of rebellion.

And I’ve always had a soft spot for rebels.

Title Heretics Anonymous
Author Katie Henry
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date August 7th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s — a strict Catholic school — sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic…she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far — putting the other Heretics at risk — he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.

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