Happy fall, Cozy Readers! This month, our box includes Claire Messud’s brilliant coming-of-age story called The Burning Girl. This complex narrative focuses on the friendship of two young girls, Julia and Cassie. Throughout childhood, the pair is inseparable, but as they grow older, the girls slowly drift apart, and Cassie forges a disastrous path of her own that might destroy her oldest friendship. Read more about the novel here.
Messud, a celebrated novelist and recipient of several honors and fellowships, recently spoke with NPR’s Scott Simon about her latest novel. Messud discussed the importance of friendship, touched on the complexity of these two characters, and talked about why she wrote The Burning Girl. A condensed version of Messud’s interview is below:
SIMON: You’re such a widely admired novelist. But may I ask, did a publisher or an agent say to you, look, this is too mature a story for the YA audience, but it’s hard to get adults to read about middle schoolers, so what demographic are you going for here anyway?
MESSUD: My answer to that would be, I’m going for all readers. When I was growing up, YA was not a category that existed. There were books about young people. There were books about older people. And there were children’s books that were written for children. But, otherwise, books were just for people. This is a book that is as much for a parent as a child, is as much for a teenager as a grandmother or a grandfather.
It’s a book about what it’s like to be alive and be human. For me, at least, and for the people – everyone around me that I know – these years are so formative and so central to who we become and how we interact with other people as adults in the world – that to see them as something only of interest to teenagers or adolescents themselves – I think that’s just missing so much of reality.
… … …
SIMON: Without giving the story away, I was still left thinking at the end. No matter what happens, Cassie and Julia will always be important to each other.
SIMON: Might be years before they recognize it again but they’ll always be important to each other.
MESSUD: Yes. I’m glad you felt that. And I think that relationships of that intensity, whatever they are and however they end – they define us and shape us and mark us. And those people remain important to us even if we never see them or speak to them again.
For a complete transcript of Messud’s NPR interview, as well as an audio link, click here.