Esteemed Brooklyn Heights author explores memory, identity in latest novel
Seventeen-year-old Ember Leferrier is not your average teenager. The narrator in Adele Griffin’s latest Young Adult novel “Loud Awake and Lost” (Knopf), Ember has spent the last eight months in a hospital bed after a car accident nearly killed her. When we meet her, she is leaving the hospital, feeling “crudely refashioned, like a Frankenstein monster,” and heading home with her parents to Brooklyn Heights.
While her friends and family make every effort to help her heal and readjust to the stable life she once knew, Ember has trouble reconstructing her sense of self. Her memory of the weeks leading up to the accident has vanished, leaving her haunted. She develops a sneaking suspicion that the life she led just before the accident was different from the world she remembers, and while she yearns to reclaim the identity her friends and family are familiarizing, Ember can’t shake the feeling that there’s a part of herself she’s repressing.
Ember’s intimate encounters with Kai, an artist who hints that there’s a world Ember can’t seem to recall, further complicate the mystery — and eventually Ember questions her desire to uncover her thorny past.
Brooklyn Eagle recently checked in with Griffin, who shares with us why she loves living in Brooklyn Heights. She reveals her favorite Brooklyn bookstore and offers a preview of what she’s working on now.
What inspired this story and Ember’s character?
We moved to Brooklyn Heights seven years ago, and we are around a lot of area schools. I think just seeing the high school kids—who seem so sophisticated and cool compared to my own teen years—was the biggest inspiration. I imagined a girl taking the subway in her Doc Martens, getting her to-go coffee, off to dance clubs and restaurants and museums. Ember is a girl I see every day.
Why did you decide to set the book in Brooklyn?
This is my first Brooklyn book! I love living here. I love all the community—the Brooklyn Women’s Exchange and the stoop sales and the Historical Society on Pierrepont; I love these local spots like Iris and Mocha Hookah and Jack the Horse. And it’s so easy to get around from Borough Hall. It’s a great energy.
What prompted you to move to Brooklyn Heights?
We were ready. We had lived in Chelsea and the West Village and the Upper East Side and TriBeCa. It was time for a different New York.
Do you mostly work from home or do you do your writing elsewhere?
Both. I have an office, but it’s also great to write in a café, or with other writers.
What’s your favorite bookstore in Brooklyn?
The Community Bookstore tops my list. I enjoy their events, and Stephanie (Valdez, the owner) is so passionate about books, and the kids’/YA selection is great, and it’s always a wonderful place to walk into.
You’ve published numerous Young Adult and middle grade books; have you ever considered writing fiction geared toward adult readers?
Actually, I am going younger! Probably because I have little kids now. I have “The Oodlethunks” publishing next year with Scholastic and “Agnes & Clarabelle” coming out with Bloomsbury Press. All for younger readers.
What are you working on now?
“The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone” is out this fall. It’s a hybrid book, a novel in memoir-mystery form, told in pictures and interviews, of the life of the artist Addison Stone.
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Adele Griffin is a two-time National Book Award Finalist and highly acclaimed author of numerous books for Young Adult and middle grade readers. Her works include “Sons of Liberty” and “Where I Want to Be,” as well as the popular “Witch Twins” and “Vampire Island” series. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.
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