When Rachele Alpine isn’t teaching English to her Perry High School students, she’s learning from them. Listening to the experiences they share in the classroom helps Alpine have a genuine, fresh perspective to write books that speak to them. “I know what they’re worrying about, what they like, how they talk,” she says. It informed her two new books: A Void the Size of the World, released in July, is a dramatic young adult novel about a girl who deals with a missing sibling, while Best. Night. Ever., out Aug. 15, is a fun collaboration with seven perspectives on a school dance. Alpine chats about writing for a younger audience and her new releases.
Q: Why are you passionate about middle grade and young adult fiction?
A: I read [young adult fiction] before and while I was in high school. I continued to read it when I was outside of high school. Because my YA books deal with tougher subjects, I wrote the first one [Canary, which focuses on sexual assault] and felt drained. I fell into middle grade more because I was looking for something that was funny and lighthearted. Now I write in both genres. I go back and forth because I need that little break in between.
Q: How does being surrounded by your students affect your writing?
A: I’m in a unique situation teaching English, because we do a lot of writing and discussing. I really do see deep into the things that are important to them. When I’m writing, I use the same philosophy I use when I’m teaching English. When we read books, one of the big things I want them to do is see a part of themselves in the story. In A Void the Size of the World, I look at the ideas of guilt and fear, and even love. Maybe the reader can’t connect to kissing their sibling’s boyfriend, but there’s these other more universal feelings.
Q: What was it like collaborating on Best. Night. Ever. with six other authors?
A: This process is like magic. We shared this Google document and I would put my chapter in, and then the next day I’d wake up and there would be 50 more pages in the book. We spent a lot of time talking about our dances, and we actually shared pictures. We all shared how we remembered what our first dance was and who we had it with.
Q: What can adults take away from these genres?
A: The idea with young adult novels is that we were all teenagers and we’ve all lived through becoming an adult. Teens are smart and mature and most young adult authors aren’t writing down as if they’re writing to children. They’re writing to adults — just young adults.