By Melissa Luttmann
Looking through publishers’ catalogues, I found that tons of historical fiction titles are going to be published in September, but one new release got me especially excited. This fall, Scholastic is bringing back its Dear America series (originally published from 1996 to 2004). They’ll be adding new titles as well as reissuing some previously published ones.
I still have a near-complete set of the original series on my bookshelf, and I must admit that I occasionally reread my favorites for the sheer pleasure of it. But I’ve also learned a thing or two about writing historical fiction from them, because, being written in diary format, these books are great examples of the elusive quality known as voice.
The vast majority of Dear America authors do a great job of making their main characters sound like real, relatable girls, and the fact that they manage do this while blending period-authentic vocabulary and style with modern readability never ceases to amaze me. That, in my opinion, is a skill well worth mastering, especially in historical fiction written in the first person.
I’ll definitely be getting my hands on the series’ first new title when it releases this September. First I’ll read it for my own enjoyment, and then I’ll go back and study it to see how the author develops the main character’s voice. It just so happens that this book is set during the same time period as one of my works in progress—World War II—so I’m interested to see how the author handles the language of the time.
Are you a fan of the Dear America books?
Any other middle grade or YA books that you feel are particularly outstanding examples of voice?