YA A to Z: Jenny Torres Sanchez
Here’s a fun fact for you: The first author to ever work with me for anything here at Teen Librarian Toolbox, when it was just me and I had zero to no idea what I was doing, was then debut author Jenny Torres Sanchez. I met her at ALA as she was promoting her debut novel The Downside of Being Charlie.
I fell instantly in love with Charlie because here was a book about a very authentic teenager, the geeky, insecure and uncomfortable in his own skin teens that I knew and had been working with for years. And Charlie was an artist, using photography as a means to help him figure out the world much the way that another great YA character I love does: Glory O’Brien. Except Charlie did it first, but these are great complimentary novels to highlight using art and looking at life through the lens of a camera.
But as much as I loved Charlie, I was blown away by Sanchez’s second book: Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. Frenchie Garcia is obsessed with death, and very, very depressed. She is getting ready to graduate high school but suddenly her after school plans are changing, in part because her male best friend is thinking about going in some different directions. One of the main reasons for Frenchie’s current struggles involves her high school crush. You see, when she finally spends one night hanging out with him, she wakes up the next morning to learn that after they parted ways he took his own life. Now she is struggling with questions: Did he do something that night that might have indicated what was going to happen? Did she miss something? Could she have helped? So one night she embarks on a journey with a new friend where they revisit all of the stops she made that night to see if she can find the answers she needs to move forward. I really love this book and think it is an under-rated gem. It taps into those deep emotions of fear and guilt and uncertainty and really allows us to journey with Frenchie as she tries to find a way to move out of the molasses of depression that is holding her hostage.
“My name is just Jenny, not Jennifer, or Victoria, or Elizabeth, or Lizzie, which is what I tried to make friends and my sister call me when I was younger because Jenny didn’t sound fancy enough. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with better names because I thought Jenny was too plain. I was quite the aristocrat, you see. I even tried to convince my fourth grade teacher that my name was Gennifer (like the creative spelling?), which caused a lot of confusion on that year’s state assessment test. Anyway, I like Jenny now and find it suits me just fine.” As you can see from reading a part of her bio, Jenny has a fantastic sense of humor.
I follow Jenny on Twitter and she claims to be a long lost twin sister of Dallas author Julie Murphy. Jenny is artistic, which probably helps explain why both of her main characters in her first two novels have been so artistic. But I say bring on the arts, we need more arts! Jenny was a high school teacher but is now writing and raising her kids, the youngest of whom is around 1 years old. For those of you who are actively looking for ways to support more diversity in your YA collection, Jenny Torres Sanchez is a Latina author that you can confidently add to your collections because her books have an authentic teen voice that captures the rich emotional lives of teens.
I can tell you that Jenny loves A. S. King and even wrote a post about Please Ignore Me, Vera Dietz as part of the Why YA series. Her post about King prompted me to read the book and I am now obsessed with A. S. King. So if you ever get sick of my A. S. King obsession, just remember that Jenny Torres Sanchez is the one who started it all. Jenny may be the only person who understands that every time I get to have a moment in conversation with A. S. King I kind of tear up; we have a mutual admiration society going. She was one of the first authors I interviewed and you can read that interview here. I haven’t actually gotten any better at interviewing authors, but I’ll never forget how kind she was working with me in those early blog days.
I am looking forward to reading more great YA novels in the future by Jenny Torres Sanchez. If for some reason you don’t yet have Jenny on your radar, do be sure and go pick up both The Downside of Being Charlie and Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. And yes, the Dickinson is Emily Dickson (her ghost makes an appearance of course). And in case I didn’t make myself clear, I really, really, really adore Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.
Join the conversation! Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.
#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z
Filed under: YA A to Z
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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