Lynne Missen, Penguin’s newly appointed Publishing Director for Young Readers, with Penguin Publisher Nicole Winstanley, has acquired Turtle Island, a novel for young adults by 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden. Razorbill, an internationally acclaimed imprint and home to Jay Asher, Kathy Reichs, Richelle Mead and 50 Cent, among others, will launch in Canada in early 2012 under Missen’s direction. The novel is inspired by Boyden’s short story of the same name published in The Globe and Mail in July 2011.
Like his international bestsellers Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce, Turtle Island features characters who struggle in the cultural divide between Canada’s aboriginal people and the white world. From a young teen’s point of view, it deals with gangs, drugs and violence, subjects all too familiar in Canada’s urban communities.
Boyden calls his young protagonist in Turtle Island “a trickster.” He’s caught between the rough world of the Indian Posse and his dawning affection for his little brother’s pet turtle, named Island.
“I realized I wasn’t finished with the story….” Boyden says. “These days, just as much as adults, our youth have enormously weighty decisions to make. Fortunately what sometimes saves us under pressure – young or old – is our humour, sense of adventure, and plain old heart.”
“For years, I’ve desired to write a book that speaks to my nephews and nieces, and to the beautiful First Nations youth in our country. Really, I hope to write something that speaks to all young adults who know a good story and recognize what it means to fight upstream. I’m truly thrilled to become an author with Razorbill.”
Lynne Missen, who took over responsibility for the publishing strategy and editorial direction of Penguin Canada’s Young Readers publishing in January, likens the book’s potential to that of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. “Any teenager can find him or herself in a dark and dangerous place. Some live there on a daily basis. We like to think of young teens as still innocent, yet so many must be savvy negotiators, navigating their way through some really treacherous territory.”
These are the sort of moral dilemmas that fuel Missen’s passion for the Razorbill imprint. She describes Razorbill books as books “that push the envelope,” books that teens (and, she adds, more than a few adults) actually want to read.
“Obviously Turtle Island is a very exciting acquisition,” Missen says, “contributing to the international reputation established by Razorbill in the US and other places around the world.”
In addition to Boyden, Missen has signed Mariko Tamaki’s debut novel and two novels by Emily Pohl-Weary to the imprint, and new novels by award-winning Canadian writers Hiromi Goto, Carrie Mac, and Charles de Lint will be published early in 2012. Razorbill.ca, a virtual community, will launch in tandem with the Canadian imprint and provide a forum for readers, writers and reviewers to share their stories.
Publisher Nicole Winstanley comments: “We are thrilled to bring Joseph’s voice to the Razorbill list. He is that rare author who relates passionately to the emotional landscape of his characters, bringing them to breathtaking life on the page. Razorbill, as an imprint, is about authentic voices for teens, about telling stories that really matter, stories that change our perception and that is what makes Joseph such a perfect fit.”
The deal was brokered by Eric Simonoff at the William Morris Agency.
Established in the US and now home to over 100 critically acclaimed bestselling YA writers, Razorbill Books is an imprint dedicated to publishing provocative new voices for teens, with crossover to the adult market. Razorbill.ca, an online virtual community, will launch in January 2012, bringing together a wide range of readers, writers and reviewers of YA fiction. For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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