The simple story behind National Book Award-winner Pete Hautman’s new novel is a teenage girl just told him what she wanted to read.
He was with a group of teens, trying to divine their reading tastes.
“And there were all kinds of different answers: ‘I like to read girlie books,’ or ‘I like books about dragons,’ or about vampires or whatever,” Hautman says.
However he says he was stopped short by a young woman who made a simple statement.
“She said, ‘I’m 14 and my life is really boring and I just want to read about a girl like me who goes out and steals a car.’ And there was like a flash in my head,” Hautman says. “This is bringing the teen reading experience down to its most basic element. They want to know what it is like. They want to know know what everything is like, even things they never expect to do or hope never to do. They want to know what it is like to battle a dragon. And reading brings this to them. So I wanted to write a book that was about that.”
And that’s how “How to Steal a Car” came to be.
Of course Hautman’s tale about Kelleigh, a 15 year old Twin Cities girl is a lot more complicated than a single car boosting.
Hautman takes Kelleigh through a series of adventures over the course of a summer. She learns a lot about car theft, but she also learns a great deal about friends and friendship.
“Friendships that are made in childhood don’t need to be based on anything other than proximity,” says Hautman. “But as we grow older and a person develops more interests, the interests diverge and it tears friendships apart. And that’s part of what Kelleigh is experiencing. She’s entering a larger world, but she hasn’t found it yet.”
Now it’s “How to Steal A Car” which is entering a larger world. Hautman says most of the reviews he’s seen so far are from adults, as they are the people who get advance copies. Now he’s waiting to see what his teen readers will say.
He has a couple of readings coming up, which may attract different readerships. He’s be at the Red Balloon bookshop in St Paul on Friday September 18th, and then at “Once Upon a Crime” in Minneapolis on Saturday September 26th.
We’ll have him on the air at MPR early next week.