Shelf Life: Amy Giles Uses Novels to Give Teens a Voice

Award-winning Huntington author, Amy Giles writes to validate, connect, and give voice to teen experiences. 

Giles began her writer life first as an avid reader. Obsessed with Curious George and his many adventures, she often found herself roaming the stacks of her school library. “That was probably around the time I decided I wanted to be an author,” Giles said. “I remember looking up at the shelves, thinking to myself: ‘Someday, I’ll have a book up there too!’” With two young adult (YA) novels under her belt, Giles on the way to filling a shelf of her own.

Though Giles is known as a YA author, she said she didn’t read much of the genre as a teen herself. Once she outgrew Curious George, she opted for novels by Stephen King, and occasionally dipped into her mother’s historical romance supply. Still, Giles is quick to point out that YA, as a genre, is a relatively recent one. “We didn’t have the same selection that we have now,” she explained. Since the genre’s explosion, there are significantly more choices and topics covered for teens. And Giles gets to be part of that. 

Giles’ journey to writing YA of her own began not with a book, but a movie. She took her tween daughters to see The Hunger Games, without reading the series first. “Halfway through the movie, I had to take my then ten-year-old out of the theater to go play in the arcade; the movie was too violent for her,” Giles said. “I decided then to read the books with them so I wouldn’t make that mistake again.” In doing so, Giles found connection to the book’s voice and an authenticity she hadn’t anticipated. “These aren’t after school specials,” she said of the series. “There’s no talking down to teens.” 

Giles valued this authenticity, and in creating her own stories she didn’t shy away from the tough stuff either. In her first novel, Now Is Everything, Giles’ main character aims to navigate a life shaped by domestic abuse. Giles’ second novel, That Night, follows two teens as they process trauma in the aftermath of a shooting. While the subject matters of these novels were no easy undertaking, Giles believes they were entirely worthwhile. “My books address real issues today’s teens are facing,” Giles said. She added that books can provide a mirror to some and a window to others. As a mirror, Giles said, “My hope is that if readers see themselves in my books, they will seek help—from a teacher, a counselor, a friend, or any adult they trust.” At the end of each novel, she provides a list of resources where readers can get help, if needed. As a window for readers not facing the same challenges directly, Giles hopes her books raise awareness and incite empathy. 

Giles credits her background in copywriting in helping her get straight to the heart of things. “Someone once described my writing as, ‘meat and potatoes prose,’” she said. “Clear, concise, compelling; few flourishes, all story.” In addition, Giles is sure to research and speak with experts to help her balance fact among fiction. “ When in doubt, I reach out to the experts to get my facts straight,” she said. “Pharmacologists, doctors, boxers, therapists… I even met with a flight instructor to ask him how to crash a plane. I have no idea how I didn’t end up on a no fly list after that one!” 

Within her diligence and artistry, Giles also makes it a priority to end her books on a hopeful note.“Teens are resilient, but they can’t be expected to handle all problems on their own,” the author said.

Giles is grateful her stories are out in the world. “As an aspiring writer, your greatest hope is to some day be published. Everything after that is a genuine surprise and delight,” she said. “It never occurred to me that I’d have a following in other countries. I get an enormous thrill seeing foreign editions of Now Is Everything tagged on Instagram.” 

Instagram users aren’t the only ones noting Giles’ talent abroad. Now Is Everything recently received the Buxten Bulle award—a prestigious recognition for youth literature in Germany. Past winners include YA legends Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), Stephanie Meyer (Twilight), and Markus Zusak (The Book Thief). “I’m still having a hard time figuring out how I fit in with these giants!” Giles said.

Hard at work on a new novel, Giles continues to expand her body of work. As her books fill shelves, she is likely to pass the literary baton to other hopefuls who will look at YA shelves and think, “Someday, I’ll have a book up there, too!”

More about Giles, her books, and events can be found on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 Upcoming Events:

  • December 9, Long Island Writers Guild: Join writers at Book Revue for a monthly writing workshop. This two-hour workshop is free and open to all. The workshop begins at 7 PM; all levels and genres welcome.
  • December 15, Amateur Writers of Long Island: Join writers of all genres and abilities in the back room of Panera in Huntington Village from 1-6 PM to give and receive feedback.
  • December 10, All Writers of Elwood: Join poetry and fiction writers at the Elwood Public Library to listen and share your work. Workshop begins at 7 PM, no registration necessary. Contact Tammy Green for more information.

HuntingtonNow.com supports literacy efforts. If you have book-related information you’d like to share, email Molly Prep.

Shelf Life: Writing to Connect Future Generations to the Past

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