Carolyn Mackler (1973-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1973, in New York, NY; Education: Vassar College, graduated, 1995.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Candlewick Press, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140.
Love and Other Four-Letter Words was an American Library Association Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and an International Reading Association Young Adults Choice.
Love and Other Four-Letter Words, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2000.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Vegan Virgin Valentine, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Also author of e-book The Class of 2000. Contributor to the anthologies 250 Ways to Make America Better, 1999, and Body Outlaws. Contributor of short stories and articles to American Girl, Girl's Life, Glamour, Teen People, Jump, Self, Los Angeles Times, Seventeen, and Shape. Contributing editor, Ms.
Carolyn Mackler writes young-adult novels about ordinary girls who feel awkward about themselves and are trying to find a place in their world. In addition to writing popular novels with eye-catching, quirky titles that include Love and Other Four-Letter Words, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, and Vegan Virgin Valentine, she has also published short stories and articles in a variety of magazines, including Seventeen, Girl's Life, and American Girl.
Mackler grew up in western New York state in a house of storytellers. Her mother read to her constantly, while her father told stories about his life. When she was four or five years old, Mackler used a tape recorder to record herself reciting her own stories, and later, in high school, she moved to writing in daily journals, mostly about the boys she had crushes on. While a student at Vassar College, she began to formally write stories and poems, and after graduating in 1995, she started writing the manuscript that became her first novel, Love and Other Four-Letter Words.
Love and Other Four-Letter Words is a coming-of-age story about sixteen-year-old Sammie Davis, whose parents are going through a trial separation. Her college-professor father decides to go to California, while her mother, overwhelmed by the situation, has become withdrawn and refuses to get out of bed, leaving Sammie to deal with making the best of things in their newly down-sized home in a small New York City apartment. Meanwhile, Sammie's self-absorbed best friend Kitty has become sexually active and too involved with a new boyfriend to have much time for Sammie. Sammie herself struggles with her self-image, concerned over her heavy-set figure and her inexperience with boys. Vicki Reutter, reviewing the novel for School Library Journal, wrote that, "despite the stressful situation, there is a lighthearted element to the novel that keeps the mood balanced." "Many teens will read this for the facts about sex and growing up as well as the story," Hazel Rochman added in Booklist, calling Love and Other Four-Letter Words a "funny first novel."
In The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things Mackler again features a character with a self-image problem. Virginia Shreves belongs to the "perfect family." Her older sister Anaïs is in Africa with the Peace Corps; her brother Byron is a rugby star attending college; and her mother is a psychologist. Meanwhile, overweight Virginia is being pressured by her mother to go on a diet, and with best friend Shanna out of state for the school term, Virginia feels lonely and alone. Besides, the big question looms as to whether boyfriend Froggy really cares about her. When Byron is accused of date rape and kicked out of school, Virginia begins to realize that maybe her "perfect family" is not so perfect after all. Michele Winship, reviewing the novel in Kliatt, called The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things "funny, touching, and very real," while a critic for Kirkus Reviews wrote that "Virginia's emotions progress from despondence to anger, joy, and strong independence, all portrayed with clarity." A critic for Publishers Weekly maintained that "the heroine's transformation into someone who finds her own style and speaks her own mind is believable—and worthy of applause."
A type-A teen is the focus of Vegan Virgin Valentine, which finds high school senior Mara Valentine vying with an ex-boyfriend for the valedictorian spot while trying to counteract the disappointment her parents feel over the foibles of an older sister, now in her mid-thirties. When her sister's daughter, Mara's slightly younger niece, V, comes to live with the family, Mara's life—and assumptions—are thrown into a tailspin: V smokes pot, cuts class, wears skimpy clothes, and breaks all the rules Mara lives her life by. With V's help, when a new romance blooms with a less-than-"perfect" young man, Mara is able to reassess her situation and be open to new possibilities, in a "fast, often humorous" book that touches on "the universal theme of growing up and figuring out what's important," according to School Library Journal reviewer Karyn N. Silverman. While V also makes a turn-around and finds herself through acting, her character serves more as a "catalyst" for Mara, noted Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper. Citing Mara's decision to let go of feeling responsible for her parents' feelings and the teen's willingness to be less strident in her opinions, Cooper added that Mackler's protagonist undergoes a "transformation… [that is] entirely credible and, for readers, … thoroughly enjoyable."
As Mackler explained in an interview posted on her Web site: "I'm a professional snoop. As I ride in the subway or walk in Central Park, I eavesdrop on any teenager who comes within earshot." "None of the events in my novels have happened to me," she added. "But at the same time, when I'm writing a story, I often draw on my feelings (about my parents' divorce or my first relationship or a challenging friendship) and that helps me create more realistic characters."
Biographical and Critical Sources
American Libraries, December, 2001, Beverly Goldberg, "Principal Bans Love," p. 25.
Booklist, August, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Love and Other Four-Letter Words, p. 2131; June 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Vegan Virgin Valentine, p. 256
Bookseller, November 9, 2001, review of Love and Other Four-Letter Words, p. 36.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, November, 2002, review of Love and Other Four-Letter Words, p. 216.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, p. 861.
Kliatt, July, 2003, Michele Winship, review of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, p. 14.
Observer (London, England), February 17, 2002, review of Love and Other Four-Letter Words.
Publishers Weekly, September 25, 2000, review of Love and Other Four-Letter Words, p. 118; July 21, 2003, review of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, p. 197.
School Library Journal, December, 1999, Becky Ferrall, review of 250 Ways to Make America Better, p. 166; September, 2000, Vicki Reutter, review of Love and Other Four-Letter Words, p. 233; August, 2004, Karyn N. Silverman, review of Vegan Virgin Valentine, p. 228.
Carolyn Mackler Web site, http://www.carolynmackler.com/ (January 23, 2005).*
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