Heather Henson. S&S/Dlouhy, $18.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4424-5105-6
As romantic as it is gritty, Henson (The Whole Sky) explores familial obligation and new beginnings in this explosive thriller recalling William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set amid a Kentucky opioid crisis. Sixteen-year-old Miri and her father, Poe, live isolated in the backwoods of predominantly white Kentucky. Poe and Miri used to bond over motorcycles, but now Poe’s meth dealing causes a rift between them. Miri’s only companion is Poe’s glorified errand boy Clay, 19, whom he took in when Clay’s mother was incarcerated for cooking meth, but Clay and Miri’s tenuous friendship becomes strained when she rejects his romantic advances. Desperate to get away, Miri plans to head west the moment she turns 18, but that’s before she falls for newcomer Fen, 17, from Detroit. As their feelings intensify and Fen’s DEA father starts snooping around Poe’s meth outfit, Miri must decide if her need to protect her family outweighs her need for a fresh start. The alternating perspectives of Miri, Clay, and Fen create a multilayered experience, highlighting their respective lives in impoverished Kentucky and each character’s individual longing for escape and security. This love story packs a powerful punch, boasting suspense and edge-of-the-seat action. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
Another terrific (starred!) review for Wrecked just came in from School Library Journal!
⭐HENSON, Heather. Wrecked. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy. Mar. 2022. 272p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442451056.
Gr 9 Up –“Good father” does not usually fit the stereotype of a meth dealer, but Poe Duchin is both. He’s a gardener, a chef, and a motorcycle mechanic as well—all skills he’s passed on to his self-sufficient daughter Miri, who both loves and doubts him. She sees his potential for violence. Dogs growl at anyone who ventures down the long driveway to their home in remotest Kentucky, and although Poe taught Miri how to shoot and respect guns, he always keeps a Smith & Wesson 45 tucked under his shirt. The drugs are a secret, he thinks, but she knows—and resolves to leave in a year, when she’s 18. Fen Kingston, a smart new kid from Detroit, falls hard for Miri after their first motorcycle ride together. Their crush interrupts the fantasies of Clay, the 20-year-old son of a drug-addicted mother whom Poe rescued from a miserable childhood. He’s in love with Miri, but works for Poe, unfortunately discovering Miri and Fen together while patrolling the property. Miri in turn hides quite a bit from Fen, but Clay’s downward spiral is what, potentially, could kill them all. This book is a sharply observed page-turner and a departure for Henson, whose previous YA novels concerned the famous thoroughbred horses of her beloved Kentucky, rather than the hidden recesses of its opioid crisis. Main characters are white.
VERDICT A suspenseful story of love and violence set in the backwoods of Kentucky’s methamphetamine trade. — Georgia Christgau
From Plaid Elephant Books proprietor Kate Snyder:
There are many fantastic things about owning an independent bookstore, but this might be the top of the list:
We get to celebrate and help launch a brand new novel by one of Danville’s own.
Please join me on Wednesday, March 23rd- from 5pm to 7pm as we host Heather Henson for the “Wrecked” book release party.
“Looking for Alaska meets Breaking Bad in this piercing novel about three teens, caught in the middle of the opioid crisis in rural Kentucky, whose world literally blows up around them.”
It’s an engrossing young adult read on a timely (if heart-breaking) subject. You can pre-order your book on the Plaid Elephant Books website or pick up a copy at the launch event. Heather will be available to sign copies of her new book – and her other titles!
Plaid Elephant Books
116 N 3rd St
Save the Date for Another (Very) Cool Event
The Boyle County Public Library will be hosting a community event on Thursday, April 21st at 6pm. Here’s the info:
“Join us for a unique evening of words and sound to celebrate the publication of Danville author Heather Henson’s latest young adult novel, Wrecked. We’ll hear the author read an excerpt along with an original soundscape created by artist Elizabeth Haigh. Heather and Elizabeth will then talk briefly about their writing and sound design processes and answer questions. Copies of Wrecked will be available for purchase courtesy of Plaid Elephant Books. Participants will then have the opportunity to create a soundscape of their own. Snacks will be provided and all ages encouraged!”
Soundscapes play a fascinating role in the novel. It was one of my favorite “little touches” that made the characters so vivid and compelling.
Mark your calendars!
Book Launch Party for Wrecked!!!!
at Danville’s very own independent children’s bookstore!
Plaid Elephant Books
116 N 3rd St
Danville KY, 40422
March 23, 5-7 pm!!!!
Read all about Kate Snyder and how Plaid Elephant Books came to be, and came to Danville!
By Fiona Morgan, the Advocate-Messenger, March 1, 2022
Local author Heather Henson is releasing a young adult novel called “Wrecked” with Simon and Schuster publishing company on March 22.
Henson, who is managing director at Pioneer Playhouse, has written mainly children’s books for 20 years. “Wrecked” is only her second young adult novel, the first being in the beginning of her career.
“Wrecked” is a more mature story than others she’s written. It’s a romantic thriller about three teens in rural Kentucky who deal with difficult times, first love and drug use.
The book alternates between three main characters’ first person narration. Teenager Miri, who grew up in the knobs of Kentucky, struggles with her father, who cooks crystal methamphetamine. Her childhood friend Clay has been on his own since his mother went to prison for cooking meth.
Miri starts a relationship with newcomer Fen, who moved to Kentucky from Detroit. Fen likes to record ambient sound and create soundscapes as an art form. Henson said “Wrecked” is a gritty, real story about family secrets and mystery, troubled relationships, and meth addiction.
“What I love about ‘Wrecked’ is that it has a strong female character; she rides a motorcycle, she knows how to fix a motorcycle, and is really good with her hands,” she said.
Henson said the story is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest.” In the play, a father and his daughter became shipwrecked on an island and stayed there for 12 years. The father, who was betrayed by his brother, eventually uses dangerous magical powers to get revenge on the people who sent them to the island.
“Wrecked” parallels the relationship between the father who has dangerous magic and the daughter who struggles with what to do in her situation. The themes are loss, revenge, and love.
“The storm that wrecks them is a huge theme of the book, so that’s why this is called ‘Wrecked,’” Henson explained. “It’s kind of a riff on ‘The Tempest’ and the wreck that happens in the first part of the play.”
“The Tempest” has always been one of Henson’s favorite Shakespeare plays, and she had been wanting to retell the story’s basic essence for a long time.
One of her children’s books, “That Book Woman,” tells about pack horse librarians in Kentucky who would go into mountains and bring books to kids. She wanted to focus on Kentucky’s unique rural locations.
“I became very interested in finding little bits of Kentucky history that hadn’t really been talked about in children’s books,” Henson said.
Another book, “Here’s How I See It, Here’s How It Is,” was inspired by Henson’s own life growing up in Pioneer Playhouse. The story is about a girl growing up in a summer stock theater who wants to be an actress. In the book, that theater is putting on “The Tempest,” and the story focuses on that play.
Still wanting to do more with “The Tempest,” Henson toyed with the idea of setting her novel in a post-apocalyptic world. But instead of being stranded somewhere with no actual escape, Henson set her story in an isolated part of Kentucky with a feeling of no escape.
Henson has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in creative writing. She worked at Harper and Row publishing company, now called HarperCollins, as an editor of children’s books.
She never had a desire to write children’s books until working with children’s authors. After realizing she couldn’t work full time and devote herself to writing at the same time, Henson quit to become a freelance writer.
Her recent books include “The Whole Sky,” “Dream of Night,” “Lift Your Light a Little Higher,” “Grumpy Grandpa,” among others.
“Wrecked” will be sold everywhere books are sold, both in bookstores and online at sites like Amazon. Henson said she wants to especially support independent bookstores.
She will have a launch party at Plaid Elephant, an independent children’s bookstore in Danville, on March 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. People can pre-order the book on Plaid Elephant’s website at plaidelephantbooks.com/heather-henson.
Henson, who just left the board of the Boyle County Library after 10 years, is also planning events for the library surrounding the book. She is working to coordinate a workshop where people can learn how to create soundscapes, which the character Fen does in her book.
Henson said that Director of Arts Education at the Danville Schools Jane Dewey is teaching a class at Centre College where they are using her book. Students in the class are learning to teach literature to high school students. Those students will be teaching about “Wrecked” to students at Danville High School.
Those events will take place in mid-April.
Heather Henson, reads from her picture book, That Book Woman, illustrated by David Small, published by Atheneum/Simon and Schuster. The story was inspired by the work of the Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky. It has been published in many languages around the world. Permission to video book reading granted by publisher.
The Whole Sky was one of three finalists for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award. Heather, along with fellow nominees Felix Francis and Sasscer White, attended the awards presentation on Thursday, April 19, in the historic stallion barn at Castleton Lyons Farm in Kentucky’s Horse Country.
For the first time in the $10,000 award’s 12-year history, every honored book was a work of fiction. Since its inception, only two novels had won—Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule in 2010, which also took home the prestigious National Book Award, and Andy Plattner’s Offerings from a Rust Belt Jockey in 2014.
The Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award is named for the man who launched it in 2006. Dr. Ryan was a globally known businessman, sportsman, and philanthropist who loved horse racing and fine literature. He passed away in late 2007, and his namesake award has since been continued by son Shane.
The Whole Sky was the first young-adult book ever nominated for the Ryan Prize. Felix Francis’ Pulse and Sasscer Hill’s Flamingo Road, two mysteries, were the other finalists.
Flamingo Road, a spine-tingling tale of crime, gangs, and suspicious racetrack happenings, took home the Prize.
Heather reported the results on her Facebook page April 20:
“The Whole Sky did not take the big prize last night at the Dr Tony Ryan Book Award ceremony, but as one of three finalists, I definitely felt I was already in the winner’s circle. Can’t say enough about the other two writers and the judges and all involved with this terrific award, especially the Ryan Family and Castleton Lyons farm!”
From a nice write-up by the Advocate-Messenger‘s Bobbie Curd:
Local author Heather Henson has made it to the semi-finalist list for a 2017 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award. Her book, “The Whole Sky” is the only young adult book on the list of those being considered.
As a matter of fact, it’s the only YA book ever considered for the award.
“It’s very exciting,” Henson says.
The award is organized through Castleton Lyons, a horse racing stable and breeding business in Lexington known best as Castleton Farm. All the books considered for the award are equine-related topics.
“So much of Kentucky is about horses, and the people who work with and care for horses,” Henson says. “I set out to capture a bit of that world in ‘The Whole Sky,’ and I hope I succeeded.”
Henson’s book details the story of a 12-year-old girl who can talk to horses, and she helps find the cause of mysterious foal deaths happening throughout the thoroughbred industry. Henson wrote the book after researching the 2001 thoroughbred crisis, called Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, that hit Kentucky.
More than 500 thoroughbred foals died in one foaling season in 2001, in and around Lexington.
“It struck me as I researched the book, how fragile both horses and humans can be, and yet how resilient,” she says.
As far as she knows, there was no one person like the main character she developed for her book who ultimately helped connect the dots to solve the MRLS mystery.
“There was no one girl who talked to horses. But I’m a writer, so I like to imagine there was — or is.” She had already done research before attempting to write “Dream of Night, her first book, which was written in the “voice” of a horse. That gave her the idea for “The Whole Sky.” At that time, she had a neighbor who rescued horses, and she found the sight of them galloping in the fields near her home as a “breathtaking sight and visually inspiring.”
Henson’s grandfather, the late Robert Hutchison, was a horse trainer in Mercer County. The farm where he trained is where Henson and her family live today.
“I always heard stories of how he was a true horseman — it definitely influenced me as a writer.”
In the release from Castleton Lyons, it said for the first time in the award’s 12-year history, every honoree is a work of fiction, and that since its inception, only two novels have ever won.
The award was named for Ryan, a “globally-known businessman, sportsman, and philanthropist who loved horse racing and fine literature.” Although Ryan died in 2007, the award has been continued by his son, Shane.
Henson had not heard of the award before last year. Someone mentioned it to Henson’s publisher after they read “The Whole Sky,” that it should be entered into the race since the award specifically celebrates the horse and horse racing industry.
“My publisher submitted it, and we just found out it’s a semi-finalist. I’m truly honored, because it’s the first book for younger readers to be included,” Henson says, and adds — not to mention, there are “some pretty big heavy hitters on the list.”
Bobbie Curd of the Danville Advocate-Messenger, Heather Henson’s hometown newspaper, has written a terrific in-depth profile and discussion of The Whole Sky.
Heather Henson can cite various inspirations for her new book for middle school readers, “The Whole Sky.” Her second book involving horses, it’s not a true story — but was inspired by true events.
Back in 2001, more than 500 thoroughbred foals died on farms in Kentucky from Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS), with the cause of it a mystery for a long time.
“As far as I know, there was no one person (like Sky Doran, the main character in the book) who ultimately helped connect the dots and solve the MRLS mystery; there was no one girl who talked to horses,” Henson says. “But I’m a writer, so I like to imagine that there was — or is.”
One of the reasons Henson began writing about horses — her first book about them was published in 2010, “Dream of Night,” also for middle school readers — is actually because her editor suggested it.
“I’d just moved home to Kentucky after living in New York City and Brooklyn for 17 years, and I was talking to my editor at Atheneum/Simon and Schuster about book ideas and also describing living on a farm and seeing horses every day —so different from my city life. She suggested that I think about writing a novel that was literary but would also appeal to young horse lovers. She felt that since I had moved back to the middle of horse country I would be able to tap into that world, and she was right.”
Read the entire article on the AmNews website….