Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Patricia G. Penny's NOT JUST PROMS & PARTIES series has received recognition for its appeal to teen readers. Focusing on contemporary themes that go beyond "proms & parties", the books are the perfect package for any teen girl looking for a quick but realistic and intelligent read. What compelled Penny to write stories that resonate with young adults? Keep reading after a synopsis of Penny's latest novel, Emily's Rebellion, to find out!

Emily has a mind of her own, a flair for defying her mother, and can’t resist getting a tattoo or dating Jeremy, a guy with a bad reputation – especially because she is forbidden to do both. When her grandmother asks her to house-sit, Emily jumps at the chance to throw a party, and makes sure to invite her new boyfriend's buddies. By the end of the night, her grandmother's jewelry is missing, and all fingers point to Jeremy.

Determined to clear his name, Emily starts digging to uncover the thief's identity, and in the process learns that her brooding boyfriend has more than his share of problems. Add to this the fact that Emily's parents are in the middle of a difficult separation, and that her brother has a gambling problem, and Emily realizes she needs to stop causing trouble and start helping the people around her.

You have written five books now as part of the ‘Not Just Proms and Parties’ series. What is the significance of this series title for you?

The title reflects the incongruity of being a teen. Teens have valid reason for sometimes feeling as though they are on an emotional roller coaster. First love, first peer pressure, first time away from home – all intense, character building experiences that must be juggled with the demands of school, part-time jobs, and extra-curricular activities. Luckily life as a teen does involve proms and parties but despite the friendships and wonderful times, it also requires some tough decision-making.
The heroines of your previous books in the series have all been different and their problems have been unique – yet they are similar in their struggle to find happiness. How are Emily’s experiences in Emily’s Rebellion different from and similar to your other heroines?

In all of the books there is a common thread of the main character trying to deal with relationships – Chelsea (Chelsea’s Ride) through manipulation, Rica (Rica’s Summer) through trying too hard to fit in, and Belinda (Belinda’s Obsession) through an obsessiveness that interferes with her already challenging love life. Karin (Karins’ Dilemma) is somewhat different in that she is trying to ignore her instincts and maintain a civil relationship with her mother’s new boyfriend, a selfless but ultimately dangerous thing to do.

In Emily’s Rebellion, Emily is facing changes and challenges in all of her relationships. Her parents have split up and now her mother is a pain, her BFF starts dating her older brother Frankie, her brother is becoming someone she hardly knows, and her new boyfriend seems to have more problems than she wants to admit . Her grandmother is her best ally, but Emily puts even that relationship on the line when she betrays her trust. Poor Emily has a lot to deal with!

Emily is much more rebellious than your other heroines. Why did you choose to write about rebellion and what do you think is the significance of rebellion in the lives of teenagers?

Rebellion is a means of stretching, even breaking the limits, and isn’t that a big part of becoming an independent adult? A healthy questioning of authority can be the means to change and progress – after all, we would still believe the world is flat if someone hadn’t said “Oh yeah?” and sailed away to prove otherwise.

The rebellious teen sets out to prove something but may end up learning more than he bargained for. I want the reader to see that rules cannot be broken without a certain level of risk. That said, I don’t know of any teen who hasn’t broken a rule or two on their way to saying “This is me.” It’s how they deal with the aftermath of those experiences that helps them develop character. Emily is an example of that. She’s feisty, daring and, even though she may not always show it, fiercely loyal to her family. I think most girls will relate to her and to the relationship with her mother.

Your stories provide readers a rare glance at the difficulties that teenage girls face – you have covered such topics as spousal abuse for example. What inspired you to write stories about teenagers and especially such difficult subject matter?

Although I didn’t work directly with clients, I did work at the Children’s Aid Society for some years and was aware of the issues that brought children and families into contact with us. I also volunteered as a Big Sister at one time, and have taught young people in college on a part-time basis. Coupled with my own teen experiences and those of friends and their children, I have a wealth of material from which to draw. Just listening to teens at the mall or on the street has given me ideas to incorporate into my books. The subject matter isn’t difficult – it’s simply life.

As far as inspiration, I am constantly inspired by the energy, animation and angst that teens impart in everything they do. Who better to write for and about? I love them!
The 'Not Just Proms & Parties' series is an important resource for teenage girls struggling to understand themselves and their lives. Were there books in high school that helped you do the same?

I think we often read and absorb messages without necessarily recognizing why we connect with a particular character. I always escaped into a book, literally blocking out everything around me. Though lacking in self-confidence as a teen, I most admired strong, independent characters in the books I read – Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jo in Little Women – and this perhaps helped to shape the person I am today.

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