Talking about “The Deep End of the Ocean”

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A few years ago, I was woken at about 3am by the bedside phone ringing. You can imagine what went through my head – something had happened to the children, an accident perhaps. I leapt out of bed, completely disorientated to find that it was from Jacquelyn Mitchard in the USA, who, in her excitement had forgotten there was such a thing as time zones. I didn’t mind. She was ringing because she had read my manuscript of The Only Blue Door and was thinking of publishing it as a young adult book. I didn’t get back to sleep that night, thinking that at last I had made a breakthrough. But in the end no such luck. Although she loved the story, her colleagues felt it was too adult for young people – they were a publisher dedicated to Young Adult books – and although I made some adjustments to the novel, it still did not meet their criteria for Young Adult fiction, a category that has only recently existed. I remember when I was a young adult (or even younger, 14 or 15, hardly an adult of any description) I read Alexander Dumas, Ray Bradbury, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and many other authors that nowadays would never be classified as Young Adult. How has this happened? If anything today’s teenagers are more aware, more street savvy than I ever was. Yet we are trying to curtail the scope of their reading. There was nothing in my novel The Only Blue Door that was sexually explicit or violent, so why was it not suitable for young, intelligent people to read? I never understood it.
Anyway, just recently I read one of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s first novels The Deep End of the Ocean and I was very impressed. She is a magnificent writer and has you glued from the first page until the last with this heartbreaking story of a family that is torn apart when their young son is kidnapped. I won’t reveal the plot because it would spoil the surprise that you will surely feel when the book takes an unexpected turn about half-way through, but I will say that it is well worth reading. And I now feel pleased that a writer of such quality would take the trouble to telephone me, even if it was in the middle of the night.

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Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.

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