Fifteen and Change: Young adult novel in verse tackles fair wages

Cassandra Kyser, photos by Andrea Paulseth

AUTHOR VS. VERSES. Emily Anderson’s new YA novel is written as a series of small poems.
AUTHOR VS. VERSES. Emily Anderson’s new YA novel is written as a series of small poems.

Writing under the pen name Max Howard, Emily Anderson of Eau Claire released a novel in verse, Fifteen and Change, on Oct. 1. Published by West 44 Books, the novel is part of a “hi-lo” book series: high interest subject matter, written at a lower reading level. The books are diverse and relevant, aimed at capturing the attention of teenagers who may not be reading at their grade level.

“This project meant a lot to me, personally, because I’ve worked as an educator and I know how many intelligent, hard-working kids there are who, maybe because their brains work differently or maybe because English isn’t their first language, struggle with reading and don’t often get to enjoy the pleasures of literature.” – Emily Anderson

“This project meant a lot to me, personally, because I’ve worked as an educator and I know how many intelligent, hard-working kids there are who, maybe because their brains work differently or maybe because English isn’t their first language, struggle with reading and don’t often get to enjoy the pleasures of literature,” said Anderson, who holds a doctorate in English from the University of Buffalo and is also a member of the Eau Claire City Council.

With Fifteen and Change, Anderson took the opportunity to write about a topic which she feels passionate about: fair wages. The book is about young Zeke, who takes a job at a pizzeria to help out his single mom and meets labor activists fighting for living wages.

“I chose fair wages because it’s an issue of critical importance for so many,” Anderson said. “One of the reasons that wages have declined is because the power of unions has declined, so I see the Fight For Fifteen movement as absolutely critical to revitalizing our economy and making it work for people, not corporations.”

While some authors may have felt stifled by the series format, which required 192 approximately 50-word vignette-like poems, Anderson found that the parameters actually enhanced her creativity.

“On laundry day, when all my go-to outfits are dirty, I often come up with the best, most creative outfits because I have to work a little harder to put something together,” she said. Anderson likened the smaller, bite-sized poems to a tweet, a format young people would be familiar with.

This is the second book Anderson has written as Max Howard. In September The Book Formerly Known as Barf was released on Kindle. 

Fifteen and Change is currently available at the Local Store and in paperback and hardcover on Amazon.

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