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Introducing Wendy Howitt: YA Author of User Pays and Bulletproof

Wendy Howitt’s debut YA novel User Pays tells the story of 15-year-old Lucy, a smart, quiet girl newly returned to Sydney after a few years in WA. Lucy has a loving family, works hard at school and has a best friend named Brigitte, but is ready for a little more excitement in her life. When Natasha, the most popular girl in school, unexpectedly takes an interest in her, she gets it

A chance encounter with Natasha at a bus stop is the start of an unlikely friendship. As it develops Lucy begins to leave her sheltered childhood behind and discovers the darker side of the local teen scene, where eating disorders, binge drinking, recreational drug use and promiscuity are commonplace.

While all these things are confronting, the biggest challenge comes at a party that gets out of hand and changes the life of Lucy and her friends forever:

‘I guess you could say I grew up a lot the night of the party. I wish it had never happened. But it had and what was done was done and I had to face up to my part in it and deal with it.’

While Howitt is described as a YA novelist, one of the strengths of User Pays is that it’s as readable for adults as it is for its intended audience. Anyone who was once a teenager will be reminded of those years while reading this book.

‘Most of the issues facing my children and their friends are a version of what I went through. The concept of the popular group and the nerds is the same. Everyone still wants to belong, make good friends, fall in love,’ says Howitt.

Howitt’s apparently effortless writing style was honed during years of writing for national publications including Vogue Australia, Harper’s Bazaar, The Sydney Morning Herald and Cleo.

These days it’s fiction that calls her to her computer. Her other novel Bulletproof tells the story of 16-year-old Maddy, whose summer beach holiday at a caravan park becomes her worst nightmare.

Bulletproof Novel by Wendy Howitt

‘Matt made a sound like he was crying, but he was a long way away and I couldn’t really tell. I was scared. Was I going to die?’

Howitt’s books are easy reading, but cover dark topics including alienation, death, domestic violence, sexual assault and stranger danger. She says navigating these issues is an important part of life and growing up.

‘When you go from being a child to an adult, it’s a death in its own way; a loss of innocence. But it’s also a birth, like, you’ve been through this terribly painful trauma and now, suddenly, you’re transformed into – hopefully – a fully functioning human being.’

With two books under her belt, Howitt, who says family life is a constant source of inspiration, already has a third underway.

‘My son recently lost his driver’s licence for texting while driving. The story I’m working on now, Roadkill, is about what might have happened if he hadn’t been pulled up by police,’ she says.

User Pays and Bulletproof are available here from Booktopia

Wendy Howitt

For more information check out Wendy’s website www.wendyhowitt.com

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