Carole Geithner’s YA Novel Sounds Like Harry Potter, Minus All the Magic

Illustration for article titled Carole Geithner’s YA Novel Sounds Like emHarry Potter/em, Minus All the Magic

What was your favorite part of the Harry Potter saga? Was it the delightfully rich and textured universe of mythical creatures author J.K. Rowling created? Maybe, though, you don't go for the frivolous stuff, and your favorite moments came in the early books, when Harry was living under the stairs at his aunt and uncle's house, gaunt, unloved, and completely unwanted. If you're a sucker for that sort of soul-crushing realism, then Carole Geithner, ironically the wife of Gringotts Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has just the story for you, about eighth-grader Corinna Burdette who has to cope with her mother's recent death without the diverting help of a friendly owl and a goofy red-headed sidekick.

The New York Daily News writes about the publication of Geithner's debut YA novel If Only, which she hopes will illuminate the "private side of grief" that other YA books use as a starting point for fantastic adventures. "There are many books," says Geithner, "in which the starting premise is that the kid is abandoned or orphaned, but it usually serves as the prelude to an adventure or a fight with the bad guys." She explains that her story aims to show that the grief Corinna experiences is a very real challenge in itself and not merely the prelude to the sort of climactic wand battle that makes for blockbuster fiction. She adds,

There are not many that get into that private side of grief ... In my book, Corinna doesn't go on some big adventure that could be turned into a blockbuster, but she is going through something very real.


Geithner is drawing on her career as a social worker to explore some of the darker realities children on the cusp of adolescence may face, and choosing to make grief and loss the emotional focus of her book, rather than have it serve as the narrative device that prompts a character like Katniss Everdeen or Harry Potter to take the sorts of risks their adventures require of them.

Carole Geithner publishes ‘If Only," novel about a child's grief [NYDN]

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I want to take the entire contents of my high-school library's fiction section and dump it on this woman's doorstep. YA was a shitty genre, largely because it was packed full of clunky novels that dealt exclusively in "real teen problems" like sex, drug use, and very often, death. (Also a lot of dull historical fiction.) These books were trite, boring, preachy, and otherwise unrelatable in their clumsy attempts to portray "real teens." Harry Potter saved us from that crap by revitalizing the genre, proving the marketability of teen books to publishers, and encouraging newer, better authors to take a stab. Sherman Alexi isn't writing sci-fi books, neither is John Green or Laurie Halse Anderson. Standard fiction is not only alive and well in YA, it's not 90% god-awful anymore. Hopefully Ms. Geithner's book will be a solid piece exploring grief in a way that will be enlightening and helpful to it's teen audience, but I'm not holding my breath because it seems like she's pretty ignorant of the genre as it is and that doesn't bode well for writing a good book in it.