For this week’s Road Trip Wednesday,  YA Highway asks “what was the best book you read in April?”. I’ve been having a huge reading month (and a crap writing month but that’s often how it goes). With nearly a week left I have already read fifteen books. There were definitely some standouts and some that didn’t work as well for me.

Interestingly with several of the books I found myself asking the same questions – legal questions.  All the below books deal with a crime in one way or another. I don’t want to give any spoilers but some of them left me doubtful about the way the legal response to this crime played out. In several cases  I found myself doing Google research to check whether the legal reaction was plausible give the circumstances. In a couple of cases, I don’t think it was.

The book to which I gave the highest Goodreads rating,  SPEAK by, Laurie Halse Anderson (five stars!), though it concerned a serious crime, did not include legal ramifications. I suppose that’s because the story was not really about that. Whatever the  reason, this was a fantastic book that I devoured in about four hours. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read it. And I was particularly glad that a great read wasn’t marred by implausible legal outcomes.

This just goes to show how careful you need to be with your research. I know teen readers are probably not quite as skeptical as I am, but a writer should never assume that readers will buy their bullshit, just because it makes the story go where it needs to. When it comes to legal cases, the best thing to do is to consult a lawyer or police officer who works in the district in which your story is set. I know this sounds expensive, but I emailed a New York criminal lawyer, when I was writing a screenplay, and he was tickled to be consulted about criminal law in New York and did it for free.

The other books dealing with crimes were: NOTHING by Janne Teller, GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams, LEAVING PARADISE (Leaving Paradise, #1) by Simone Elkeles, WE WERE HERE, by Matt de la Peña,  CRAZY BEAUTIFUL  by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, and  FORBIDDEN,  by Tabitha Suzuma.


  1. I think in fiction we have the leeway to be plausible without being precisely factual. However, that doesn’t absolve us from doing our research and trying to be as close to reality as possible. The last thing you want is your reader to be pulled out of a story by some glaring error. Much better to have them nodding and saying, “I’ll allow that because this is such a good story!” 🙂 A case in point is my Book of the Month choice, where the author clearly did his research, but also fabricated things for the sake of the story. You would have to really know the subject to spot the fabrications… and even if you could, I doubt it would stop you reading the story.

  2. SPEAK is such an amazing book. You’re right that the story really isn’t about the legal ramifications–although I do hope that it might help people who are in Melinda’s situation to speak up not just to their friends or family but also to the police. If you need legal info for writing projects (set in NY, anyway) feel free to contact me and I’ll ask Mr. S–he’s graduating from law school next month and he LOVES giving legal advice to fictional characters. LOVES. :-p

    1. Ooo, that’s helpful. My DH is only good for computer advice, extending all the way into speculative science realms, and also cricket advice. He consulted on my book WICKET SEASON.

  3. Yes, I’m in awe, too. I’m only good for a book a week. Right now I’m reading “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson. It’s so good I did a pre read this morning before working. It’s set in North Korea and is depicted as realistic by the PBS I saw on it. Actually it’s quite horrific and depressing but I like it so far because of the questions it asks us of moral and patriotic issues. I think this book is google worthy so off I go.

    I do tend to read more books of Picture book genre than one a week, however. There I’ll take on five or six in a sitting.

    I couldn’t find your email but wanted to share a prayer I saw on this blog and this post:

    “I have a prayer I offer each time before I start writing:

    “Because there will only ever be one of me, if I don’t tell the stories you give to me in the way only I can, they will never be told. So help me to be brave, and to do my work today, even when I don’t feel like it and I’m afraid what I’m writing is of no worth or value.”

    The world needs our stories. So be brave, get them down, and send them out!”

    I thought that worthy to share with you. it dealt with authors of color or biracial authors and biracial characters.

    1. Thanks for the link and the prayer. I’m an atheist, so I don’t pray, but I have been known to use a mantra that I stole from Oprah, of all people. ‘Oh glorious future, my heart is open, come into my heart’. Also, I should confess that I pray to Mary MacKillop (Australia’s first -only? saint. when taking off and landing (airplane anxiety).

      I’ve never really prayed or meditated for help with writing. That’s really stupid I now realize. I will begin today.

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