Gail Giles Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born September 24, in Galveston, TX; Education: Attended Stephen F. Austin State University. Hobbies and other interests: Watercolor painting, reading, computer solitaire, playing guitar.
Agent—Scott Treimel, 434 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10003.
Writer. Taught high school in Angleton, TX.
Best Books for Young Adults selection and Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers selection, American Library Association (ALA), both 2003, both for Shattering Glass; ALA Teens Top Ten selection, 2003, for Dead Girls Don't Write Letters.
Breath of the Dragon, illustrated by June Otani, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Shattering Glass, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.
Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.
Playing in Traffic, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2004.
Shattering Glass was adapted as an audiobook, Listening Library, 2003.
"Simon Glass was easy to hate. I never knew exactly why, there was too much to pick from. I guess, really, we each hated him for a different reason, but we didn't realize it until the day we killed him." Thus begins Gail Giles' 2002 novel Shattering Glass, "a cautionary tale about high-school popularity and conformity," according to Brian Wilson in Booklist. Giles is also the author of other well-received novels for middle-graders and young adults, including Breath of the Dragon, Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, and Playing in Traffic.
Breath of the Dragon appeared in 1997. In the work, a young Thai girl named Malila is left in the care of her grandmother after Malila's father is killed by police and her mother immigrates to the United States. Grandmother teaches the girl about the traditions of her country, which Malila translates into beautiful drawings. A teacher recognizes Malila's artistic talents, and she eventually makes plans to reunite with her mother. "The story is simply written," remarked Susan DeRonne in Booklist, "and the beauty of the Thai culture emerges on every page." In School Library Journal Susan Hepler wrote that "This gentle story portrays the prior experiences and emotions of many immigrants—hardship, vivid memories, and hope."
Giles' young adult novel Shattering Glass describes the efforts of a powerful clique, headed by charismatic Rob Haynes, to flaunt its power by elevating the status of class geek Simon Glass. The plan works but has unexpected consequences: a newly confident Simon challenges Rob's authority and even discovers a terrible secret about Rob's past. Simon's actions only serve to anger Rob and his cronies, including Thaddeus R.
"Young" Steward, the book's narrator. The clique enacts its revenge on Simon in a "shockingly violent climax," according to Kliatt reviewer Paula Rohrlick.
On the Gail Giles Home Page, the author stated that two famous works influenced her novel, William Golding's Lord of the Flies and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. "Lord of the Flies, one of my alltime favorites, made me think about the ability of power to corrupt. I even named my nerd character Simon as an homage to the book," Giles explained. Giles patterned "Young" Steward after the character of Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. "I liked the narrator, Nick, how he was enamored of the main character, so that his voice was not quite reliable. Now, Nick, in Fitzgerald's novel, is also the moral center of the book and I needed Young not quite that honorable." Giles also addressed her decision to reveal Simon's death so early in her work: "Why did I choose to give away the ending? The ending is violent and the book is not about the violence but what caused it. How things spin out of control. About little wrongs leading to big ones. If I gave the violence away at the beginning, I felt like I defused the shock—and shock wasn't the reason for this book to exist."
Critics found much to praise in Shattering Glass. Writing in Kliatt, Sarah Applegate called it "an intriguing and at times painfully real story" of high school life. Vicki Reutter in School Library Journal stated that the "plot is fast-paced and compelling and there is power in the brewing violence and shocking end." Ilene Cooper, reviewing the work in Booklist, noted some holes in the plot but added that "the pacing is superb, and the story's twists are unexpected and disquieting." A critic in Kirkus Reviews remarked that "most intriguing are the quotes heading each chapter, revealing the perspectives of the characters five years later, and which raise questions of justice, mercy, and individual responsibility."
In Giles' thriller Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, strange events are set in motion after Sunny Reynolds receives a letter from her older sister, Jazz, who was presumed killed in a fire months earlier. Jazz then returns home and is immediately welcomed by Sunny's mother and father. Though Jazz seems to know much about the family's history, Sunny believes the woman is an impostor and works to discover her true identity. "This is a page-turner with sharp dialogue and psychologically intriguing viewpoints," remarked Ilene Cooper in Booklist, and a critic in Kirkus Reviews stated that "teen readers will love having their preconceptions continually turned topsy-turvy, and will endlessly debate the tale's maddeningly ambiguous conclusion." Some critics found the conclusion of Dead Girls Don't Write Letters unconvincing. A Publishers Weekly critic wrote that "the swift wrap-up … undercuts the carefully crafted nuances of complicated familial relationships," and Lynn Evarts, reviewing the work in School Library Journal, maintained that while "The plot is intriguing,
… the ending is just too unclear." In Kliatt, Claire Rosser wrote, "There are plot twists here, which the author manages to pull off if the reader isn't too questioning."
Giles' 2004 work Playing in Traffic concerns two students, shy Matt Lathrop and rebellious Skye Colby, and their odd, unlikely relationship. When Skye takes an interest in Matt, he is intrigued, despite the danger Skye represents. Giles wrote on her Web site: "Why do I write such dark and edgy stuff? I want the reader to come up and sneak a peak at violence and darkness, check out the edge of the abyss and decide it is a trip not to be taken. Read about the road that leads to oblivion, but take another."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 1, 1997, Susan DeRonne, review of Breath of the Dragon, p. 1334; March 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Shattering Glass, p. 1133; March 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, p. 1317; June 1, 2003, Brian Wilson, review of Shattering Glass (audiobook), p. 1812.
Bookseller, January 16, 2004, Claudia Mody, "Teenage Reads," pp. 37-42.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of Shattering Glass, p. 181; February 15, 2003, review of Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, p. 305.
Kliatt, July, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Shattering Glass, p. 10; May, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, p. 8; September, 2003, Sarah Applegate, review of Shattering Glass, pp. 1617.
Publishers Weekly, February 11, 2002, review of Shattering Glass, p. 188; January 13, 2003, review of Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, p. 61; October 13, 2003, review of Shattering Glass, p. 82.
St. Petersburg Times, March 15, 2004, Holly Atkins, "Interview with Gail Giles," p. 4E.
School Library Journal, June, 1997, Susan Hepler, review of Breath of the Dragon, p. 117; April, 2002, Vicki Reutter, review of Shattering Glass, pp. 148-149; May, 2003, Lynn Evarts, review of Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, p. 152; July, 2003, Jane P. Fenn, review of Shattering Glass (audiobook), p. 71.
Teacher Librarian, February, 2004, Ruth Cox, "Tough Guys," pp. 10-11.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2003, Bonnie Kunzel, "Shattered by Shattering Glass: A Teen Book Group Forsakes Fantasy for Realism," pp. 19-21.
Children's Literature Resources Web site, http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (March 5, 2004), interview with Giles.
Gail Giles Home Page, http://www.galegiles.com/ (March 5, 2004).*
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