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Adrienne Kisner details teen drama, ‘Mythic Pennsylvania,’ ‘Six Angry Girls’ tidbits in NWP Book Club talk

Author Adrienne Kisner joined a virtual gathering of the Northwest Passages Book Club to discuss her novel, “Six Angry Girls,” with Kristi Burns of the Spokesman-Review Thursday.

In “Six Angry Girls,” Kisner’s latest young adult novel, a group of high school friends forms a Mock Trial team. The girls have to fight for their place, occasionally resorting to “yarn-bombing,” but the love, camaraderie and acceptance that they find along the way make it all worth it.

Opening the discussion, Burns asked about the book’s dedication.

Kisner’s first book, “Dear Rachel Maddow,” was dedicated to three teachers from her college, her second, “The Confusion of Laurel Graham,” was dedicated to her mother, but the third, “Six Angry Girls,” she dedicated to Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“I felt like Elizabeth Warren was the person I wanted to send it to,” Kisner said. “This was before she was still in the running for the Democratic nomination – people accused her of being too angry, and I don’t see that as a bad thing.”

They spoke at length about Kisner’s experience living and working at colleges on the East Coast and her later graduate adventures with fellow writer J. Albert Mann. Kisner recommended Mann’s novel, “Fix.”

Kisner joked that she just decided not to leave college.

“Adulthood is overrated,” she said, the statement quickly becoming a common refrain throughout the conversation.

Following the same theme, Burns and Kisner discussed the popularity of the YA genre among adults. They both agreed that it has to do with a certain amount of escapism.

Burns next asked whether the world of “Six Angry Girls,” especially with regard to LGBTQ+ acceptance in high schools, has become more of a reality.

“Well, I write about a place I like to call ‘Mythic Pennsylvania,’” Kisner said. “I’d like to think that we’ve come a ways, but I don’t think it’s quite where it is in my book.”

An audience member asked what draws Kisner to writing in first person.

“It just makes it easier to be in someone’s head,” she said. “‘Six Angry Girls’ was my first dual POV … I had to create two heads. Millie … tries to take on the world and Raina is just sort of very dramatic. In her own mind, she knows that she’s being ridiculous, but she just can’t help it because that’s who she is.

“And even with a close third (person narrative) you can’t really get as close as you can in first.”

They spent some time discussing the hobbies that tend to form secondary plot points in Kisner’s books. including birdwatching and, most recently, knitting.

Throwing yourself into a hobby, even if you’re not any good at it, Kisner explained, is the best way to recover from teenage heartache.

“The way I approach it is to do things badly for the sake of having fun,” she said.

Another audience question asked how Kisner, as an adult, goes about writing for and about teenagers.

Kisner joked that she’s in no danger of losing the teen perspective.

“For good or for ill, I mean, in my mind, I’m still, like, 12 to 16,” she said. “I do have to make my own dental appointments and make dinner for other people, but mentally, I’m going, ‘Ooh, here’s a unicorn tape dispenser.’ “

“Six Angry Girls” is available at Wishing Tree Books and Auntie’s Bookstore.

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