"C. Lee McKenzie’s characters seem real, like the kids you might meet in you own town. They make mistakes. They laugh. They fight. They love. And I so wanted the guilty party to get what he deserved. Does he? You’ll find out when you read NOT GUILTY. I recommend NOT GUILTY for your private library and also for high school and public libraries. Happy Reading!" Beverly, Goodreads
Published: October 25th, 2019
A blood-smeared knife. One young man’s word against another. A lifetime dream crushed.
The evidence points to Devon Carlyle. He was there when it happened. Everyone knows he had it in for Renzo Costa. And Costa says Devon was the one. In the judge’s rap of a gavel, Devon’s found guilty of assault. The star of the Oceanside High’s basketball team loses his shot at the one thing he’s worked so hard for—the championship game where college scouts could see how good he is.
Now he makes his great shots in Juvenile Hall with kids far different from those that have always been in his life.
Angry? Hell, yes.
He’s bent on finding who did the crime. He’s bent on making them pay because he’s Not Guilty.
But can he prove it?
For those who aren’t familiar with the author, here’s a bit of background on her.
the secret ingredient of a good YA story
You’ve asked an interesting question—what is the secret ingredient of a good YA story, the must haves and the must not haves?
I”m not sure I’m qualified to answer this, but here goes.
As in any story, you have to have good writing. You have to engage your readers, hold their attention, and give them a satisfactory conclusion. In that respect, YA is no different from any other category of fiction.
However, because you’re appealing to a younger audience, you need a youthful protagonist. Mine are usually seventeen. They must be struggling with issues that young readers (or older ones who like to reminisce) identify with, and the voice must be that of a teen, not the author.
In my very humble opinion, the more universal the theme, the better the story—YA or otherwise. That’s why I like to dive into themes like death, bigotry, illiteracy, self-abuse, and— with Not Guilty—justice and friendship. No matter how old the reader is they can relate to these very human experiences.
So what doesn’t belong in a YA? This will definitely be my opinion, so you’re welcome to skip this part and go to a real expert for the answer if you like.
Actually, this goes back to what I said about what should be included in a YA book. I don’t like to read a YA where the author’s voice is evident. I’m an older woman, definitely not a teen and definitely not a teen boy, so I’m very guarded about letting my voice intrude into the story. I think I’ve succeeded based on the reviews I’ve received, but I’m always nervous.
My only credentials for writing from a teen boy’s POV is that I raised some. At one time I was the only female in our home. Even the dog and the cat were male. Talk about outnumbered! But I think it stood me in good stead because I really experienced the maleness around me, and I was very close the kids when they grew from young boys into men. There were some rough times, humorous ones, and poignant ones. All of those experiences I shared are an important part of who I am, and I know they contribute to the stories I write today.
So there you have it. One YA author’s take on this question. Feel free to disagree or offer up other opinions. I’d love to hear them.
About the author:
C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. She has published five young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative, and Sudden Secrets. Not Guilty is her most recent one.
Sometimes she likes to jump into the world of the fantastic and when she does, she writes for the middle-grade reader. Some Very Messy Medieval Magick is the third book in the time-travel adventures of Pete and Weasel, with Alligators Overhead and The Great Time Lock Disaster being the first two. Sign of the Green Dragon, a stand-alone, takes the reader into ancient Chinese dragon myths and a quest for treasure.
When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot of questions about things she still doesn’t understand.
For more information on Lee and her writing, connect with her:
With Halloween celebrated this week, Lee’s giving away five digital copies of NOT GUILTY and a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate. This tour-wide giveaway will end at midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 5th.
The author’s other young adult books include: Sliding on the Edge, Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative, Sudden Secrets