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Author April Henry on Writing for Teens and 'The Girl I Used to Be'

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Most of us live our lives based on some assumptions. We think we know where we came from, and we believe that says something about who we are. But what happens when you find your life is based on a lie? What do you do, and who do you become?

That’s the central issue facing the main character in April Henry’s latest book,The Girl I Used to Be. The Young Adult mystery novel, is a journey of self-exploration and it’s based on a real-life murder mystery.

Henry is a New York Times best-selling author, who has written more than a dozen young adult mystery novels. She ended up writing this genre by accident, but she's continued to write for young adults because she loves the way she can impact a teen's life. 

"The fact that I can hear from readers who say, 'I read one of your books, and I never was a reader before and I've decided I like books and I've started to read a lot,'" says Henry. "To know that you can change someone's life, because I think if you become a reader it does change your life. That makes a huge difference for me." 

Henry visits schools around the country to speak with students about the importance of reading, writing and research. And while some might find an auditorium full of teens somewhat intimidating, Henry says as a speaker, she truly appreciates the honesty of that kind of audience. 

"If you are speaking to adults, adults who like you and adults who dislike you look exactly the same. They look very polite, they clap politely," she says. "If teens are not interested in what you're saying, you know exactly when they lost interest."

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.