2004

Godless

By Pete Hautman

Current & Digital Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Reading Level: Ages 12 & Up

YARN writes:

Dear Pete Hautman,

When we asked to interview you in 2010, it was because we knew you were a YA luminary. And we are fans. But as is the case with all things writing, it was in the process of crafting questions for you, and writing our introduction, that we really began to formulate why we were such fans, and what makes you such an important figure in the YA community.

Here we’d like to expand a bit on what we wrote then, and thank you for what you’ve given us as readers, and YA as a category of literature.

When we said you were Fearless, we meant that your novels tackle reality not with gloves but with bare, calloused hands.

When we said your writing was Simple, we referred to the fact that while your page counts are not daunting, your messages are immeasurable.

When we said you were Eloquent, we meant that each of your carefully chosen words is a reminder that being alive is the greatest gift we have, no matter how many obstacles we encounter.

When we said your works are Lasting, we meant that when we think about recommending young adult literature to new readers, your novels are the first on our lists.

Like so many of your novels, National Book Award-winning Godless does not warn or teach or preach. It simply presents—and it presents religious material perfectly ripe for moralizing. With incredible restraint, it resists all the simple answers. When Jason Bock decides to found a religion based on the town’s water tower, his actions emerge from his own dreams and questions about life, not from any undue reaction to other religions. His non-religious religion ironically helps readers better understand and interrogate the world’s actual religions, because you provide such a safe ground on which to do it.

We particularly like something you say on your own website about writing Godless and your own views on religion: “I do not worship; neither do I scoff.”

That sentiment can be applied to all of your work, it seems. You do not privilege any idea or point of view, and neither do you scoff at them. In so doing, in so presenting your material, you have lured legions of young readers to your books, and inspired a new generation of YA writers as well.

Teen readers don’t need a guiding hand, escorting them throughout the terrain of their developing mind; they just need a big, marked map with important landmarks and a compass and trust. You trust your readers no matter their age or experiences. You treat your readers as equals.

Your plots are never convoluted: a girl steals cars; a girl has diabetes; a football player lives in the future. But these characters’ actions are limitless. The cars she pilfers become her Moby Dicks; her diabetes might belie vampire inclinations; his football playing is a rebellion against the sterilization of society. Nothing in your books is as simple as A to B. It is more like A to W, back to J, with a hint of Z for good measure and always, always O. O gets you places.

Many and disparate writers have cited you as a mentor and your novels as inspirations, including Barry Liege and Swati Avasthi. We anticipate the list to continue for a long time.

Thank you, Pete Hautman. For Godless. For giving us characters like Jason Bock who yearn for something to believe in, and in turn make us believe in the potential within YA fiction. 

Sincerely,

YARN

Special thanks to YARN YA Consultant and Reader Lourdes Keochgerien for her interview introduction and first heartfelt letter to Mr. Hautman.
YARN is an award-winning literary journal that publishes outstanding original short fiction, poetry, and essays for Young Adult readers, written by the writers you know and love, as well as fresh new voices...including teens. yareview.net YARN was a recipient of a National Book Foundation Innovations in Reading Prize in 2011.

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YPL Finalists That Year:

  • Deb Caletti for Honey, Baby, Sweetheart
  • Laban Carrick Hill for Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance
  •  Shelia P. Moses for The Legend of Buddy Bush
  • Julie Anne Peters for Luna

YPL Winner That Year: Pete Hautman for Godless

Judges That Year: James Haskins, Marie G. Lee, Phoebe Stone, Neil Waldman

The Year in Literature: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson won the Printz Award.

More Information: Pete Hautman says the amount of time it takes him to complete a novel varies greatly. “Sweetblood took twenty-five years to write, while Invisible was written in about six weeks. I often get stuck when I'm writing. Rather than brood about it, I'll set a book aside for weeks, months, or years and work on something else.”

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