New York Times bestselling author April Henry has written eight mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults. Her first young adult novel, Shock Point, was an ALA Quick Pick, a Top 10 Books for Teens nominee, a New York Library’s Books for the Teen Age book, named to the Texas Tayshas list, and a finalist for Philadelphia’s Young Readers Choice Award.
The critics say April is a “talent to watch” (Toronto Globe and Mail), “spoiling us” (Washington Times) and a “rising mystery writer” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). Her novels have been called “splendid” (Denver Post), “witty and fun” (Dallas Morning News), “fast paced and harrowing” (BookPage), “galloping-fast” (The Oregonian) and “off-beat and vital” (Publisher’s Weekly). They have been short-listed for the Agatha Award, the Anthony Award, and the Oregon Book Award, and chosen twice for Booksense by the independent booksellers of America.
Noted author Roald Dahl helped April Henry take her first step as a writer. When April was eleven, she sent the famous children’s author a short story about a frog who loved peanut butter. The day he received it, Dahl had lunch with the editor of an international children’s magazine and read her the story. She contacted April and asked to publish it.
April’s two thrillers for young adults, Shock Point and Torched, touch on topical themes, and in her presentations April talks about the facts underlying the stories. Shock Point is about boot camps, and Torched is about radical environmental activists. Her newest novel, Girl, Stolen, about a blind girl who is kidnapped, was published in the fall of 2010.
A simple trip to the pharmacy turns Cheyenne Wilder’s life around. She is not feeling well and begs her stepmom to let her sleep in the back seat. It is warm and cozy, except for the fact the car is unlocked and the keys are in the ignition. Along comes Griffin, a small-time teen criminal. He steals the car, unaware that he has a passenger. Once Griffin discovers Cheyenne, he delivers her to the clutches of his greedy father and low-life associates. This crime thriller has several suspenseful twists. One is that Cheyenne is blind. How can she escape or identify her captors? She is being held in a remote wooded area and no longer has her cane or guide dog–she must utilize her sightless survivor skills. Another twist begins with Griffin’s dad, Roy. At first Roy is upset the accidentally kidnapped girl was brought home. From this simple chop-shop crime story, the plot evolves into a kidnapping scheme. With a $5 million price tag on Cheyenne’s head, the reader wonders if she will survive this harrowing ordeal. Who will come to her rescue? This novel is a worthy public and school library purchase featuring a brave visually-disabled female and a kindly, courteous male hero. It is not only a page-turning suspense, but this roller coaster read also reminds the teen reader that every action causes a reaction. Moreover, the author proves that brain power and kindness can triumph over brawn and brutality. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2010, Henry Holt, 224p., $16.95. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Madelene Rathbun (VOYA, August 2010 (Vol. 33, No. 3)).
Many teens have conflicts with their stepparents, but Cassie’s problems with her mother’s new husband, Rick, take a decidedly violent twist when she is thrown into the back of a van. Although Rick has convinced Cassie’s mother that the 15-year-old needs a stint at a Mexican boot camp for at-risk youth to straighten her out, Cassie knows why he wants her out of the picture. Rick, a psychiatrist, has been treating his patients with an experimental drug called Socom. Several of his teen patients have suffered delusions that led to their deaths while taking the medicine, but Rick would rather hide that information. After all, he stands to make a fortune once the drug hits the market, as long as no one makes that connection. And no one will, once Cassie’s away. Peaceful Cove is, for all intents and purposes, a sort of pseudo-prison for problem kids. Because it is entirely unregulated, the staff makes its own harsh rules. For the most part, the kids just try to survive. But Cassie knows she has to do more than survive. After all, if she does not get out and spread the word about Socom, more teens might die. April Henry’s suspenseful novel is fraught with tension from page one. 2006, GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green (Children’s Literature).
Killing and Stealing for Fun and Profit:
April begins by sharing with the students that when she was in high school, becoming an author seemed about as probable as learning to fly by flapping her arms. She encourages them to dream big. Then, using dramatic real-life examples, she shows how authors often “steal” from true events, and then couple that with a “what if?” to create compelling stories. She gives examples of exciting stories that could be set at their school. She talks about her books and gives students a peek into her current project.
She also talks about the importance of research, and shares her experiences, such as harnessing a guide dog while blindfolded and taking part in the FBI Citizens Academy. She emphasizes the importance of rewriting and talks about the editing process. Next, she leads a question and answer session that gives students ample time to satisfy their curiosity about writing and the life of an author. Depending on the size, time available, and age of the group, she can finish with a brief creative writing exercise.
April can speak to large or small groups about “Writing Mysteries and Thrillers,” “Panties in a Twist: What Really Happens When You Write, Work Full-time, and Parent,” or “What I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Published.” With sufficient notice, she can also tailor a talk to your group.
To learn more about April Henry and her publications please visit www.aprilhenrymysteries.com.