Hi guys, it’s been a while since I did one of these blog posts! The lovely people at Penguin reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be a part of the blog tour for this book and obviously I said yes. I was so excited to read this book and I’m even more excited to share an interview with the author, Manjeet Mann, as well as a review of the book.
1.How did your experience growing up in the Black Country affect your novel?
I was bought up on a council estate. It felt like a town of ‘have’s’ and ‘have nots.’ So that was certainly something I wanted to explore in the novel. It felt important. Amber is not only restricted by her family situation but also her economic disadvantage plays a huge role.
2. Why did you feel like this story is best suited to being told in verse?
I find writing in verse quite liberating. It was easier to deal with big emotional subjects by getting straight to the heart of the issue and saying more with very little. I also like playing with structure, and I like how verse novels can bring words to life on a page with the use of white space and by playing with key phrases. It forces you to want to speak the words out loud, which I think appeals to the actress in me.
3. You have a background in empowering women in sport. Why did you decide to focus the novel on running?
Running has always been a big part of my life. It encourages positive mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. That’s the main reason I made Amber a runner. I knew her character needed an outlet for her sadness and anger (which is usually sadness in disguise). I really believe that all sports, not just running, have the capacity to empower and impact change, and I wanted to explore that impact through Amber’s character.
4. What is your favourite book told in verse?
Jason Reynold’s ‘Long way down.’ It’s so engaging, beautifully written and utterly heart-breaking. He also puts a voice to real life issues facing teens with clarity and truthfulness. It may not be everyone’s experience of life but it’s a slice of life everyone should be aware of. Which is what I wanted to do with Run, Rebel.
5. It is extremely important that we have more YA stories focused on people of colour. What is the first book you read that you remember being truly represented in?
Anita and Me by Meera Syal. Not only was Anita brown and working class but she was also from the Black Country! I mean! Meera Syal was a big deal for me growing up. She was the only brown person I saw on TV (before goodness gracious me) and the only brown person I knew of who was writing books. I’ve basically modelled my career on her!
6. What is one piece of advice you would give to all aspiring authors?
If you have an idea, start it, be consistent and focus. Turn up and write. It doesn’t have to be every day – you might not have that luxury – but do you have thirty minutes once a week? Writing is just about turning up when you promised yourself you would and focusing. Don’t worry about being perfect. Just get your story down on paper.
For some reason, I never gravitate towards books told in verse and I have no idea why. Every book I have read told in verse I have loved even though I’m not a huge poetry fan. However, I adored this book. It was so fast paced but it really packed a punch.
As someone from an Asian background, I could see parts of my experience in this story. Whilst Amber definitely had a lot more struggles than me, the root of what was causing her problems was something I could relate to. It was that whole Asian mentality of ‘what will people think’ which makes parents sometimes go a bit crazy. Therefore, whilst I’m hoping not many people experience what Amber had to go through, a lot of people will be able to relate to the issues that come with the asian society, family expectations and not being able to do what you want to do.
Amber herself was such a great character to follow. She was incredibly flawed and complex, as evidenced by the fact that she herself was a bully, but I think the whole point of the novel was that she was learning more about why she did things the way she did. Another big lesson of the book is that your problems do not give you an excuse to treat others terribly, no matter what your life is like which I appreciated. This book seemed very realistic as the ending wasn’t very clean. It didn’t end all neatly with a bow tied around it because that’s not how life works.
My favourite part of this book was by far the Mum. I loved how uplifting her story is because it is something I can see and something that I want for a lot of the women in my community. It made my heart swell reading about her journey, alongside Amber’s and Ruby’s.
Overall, I adored this book. It was absolutely fantastic and I’m so happy that it exists.