Podcast: Spotlight on Ohio Author Mindy McGinnis

During this episode of the Booklovers Podcast, I chat with Kristine from our New Richmond Branch about Ohio author Mindy McGinnis. Ms. McGinnis is the Edgar Award-winning author. She’s a teen librarian, as well as the host of the Writer Writer Pants on Fire podcast for aspiring authors.

Books by Mindy McGinnis

Transcript for the Mindy McGinnis episode

Laura: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Clermont County Public Library’s Book Lovers podcast where we talk about all things related to the library. I’m Laura and I’m joined today by Christine from our New Richmond Branch Library. We’re going to talk about books by Ohio author Mindy McGinnis. Ms. McGinnis is the Edgar award winning author of several claim novels as well as the host of the  Writer Writer Pants on Fire podcast for aspiring writers.

So Christine welcome.

Christine: [00:00:27] Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Laura: [00:00:29] Okay, Christine what made you want to talk about? Mindy McGinnis has books today.

Christine: [00:00:35] Well as a youth specialist at the New Richmond Branch, I like to read a lot of young adult fiction. And Mindy has become one of my favorite authors over the last couple years partly because she’s a teen librarian as well.

And she’s from Ohio our very own Buckeye state, which I think is really cool.

Laura: [00:00:54] That is cool.  I actually looked at my  good reads list and I realized that I’ve actually read a couple of her books, but I didn’t realize that she was  from, Ohio. Or  a teen librarian so super cool.

Christine: [00:01:04] Yeah. Yeah. I thought that was really really cool. I also really like her books because she covers a lot of different genres. She has some fantasy some of her books also include dystopian fiction historic fiction suspense and real realistic fiction. So she covers just about all of the bases and has something I think for everyone.

The other thing I really like about her work is that she’s not afraid to tackle sometimes difficult real life issues that teens and young adults young adults face every day. And so I think that’s really important that teens have books that they can relate to and I think that a lot of her work definitely fits that description also.

So, I started working at the library a couple years ago and I had never heard of Mindy McGinnis and there was a display setup in her library. And every time I walked by it there was a book on the shelf that always caught my attention and the cover is really interesting. It’s got a pond and a kind of a small cabin like how.

And the silhouette of a girl standing on top of it and the title of the book is Not a Drop to Drink. Well, I walked by that look time after time thinking that looks interesting. I never picked it up and then finally somebody checked it out and when they returned that I thought okay, I need to read this book.

So I took it home and I read it and I thought well that was a great book. I really enjoyed it and it turns out it was one of Mindy McGinnis is books. It’s actually her debut novel. And again the title of the book it’s called not a drop to drink. This book is a post-apocalyptic Survivor story. So if you like action if you like it’s kind of dystopian as well.

So if you like The Hunger Games, if you like survival stories, this book is definitely for you. It’s full of drama. It’s got danger even a little romance in the story. She does cover it all. She does she’s got a little bit of everything in here. So this story is set in a world where drinkable water is a scarcity and is some of the things in this book.

Although it’s not realistic fiction. You could plausibly see happening sometime in the future. So anyhow water is a scarcity. Considered more valuable than gold and 16 year old Lynn lives with her mom on the Family Farm which is set in rural, Ohio.  And basically her life focuses solely on Survival.

There aren’t many other people around. She’s in a very rural area and basically everything her mom do our for them to survive. They have to even though they have a pond. It doesn’t have enough water for them to survive all year. So they have to collect and sterilize rainwater.

They have to or catch their own food. And of course they have to protect what is theirs their house and their pond because again water is a scarcity not everybody has. So we learned very early on that’s protecting. The pond is their number one priority and I’d like to read just a little bit from the very first chapter of the book we have these do yes.

Lynn was nine. The first time she killed to defend the pond the sweet smell of water luring the man to be picked off like the barn swallows that dared to swoop in for a drink. Mother had killed the people who came too close to their pain before but over the next seven years, they fell by limbs gone as well.

Their existence easily wiped out first by a bullet then by the coyotes before the sun could rise death and gunpowder were sent from her childhood. But today the fall Breeze brought something less familiar to her rooftop perch and her nose wrinkled. What is that Lynn? Nerves prickling.  so to find out that unfamiliar sense that Lynn was smelling and what happened after you’ll need to pick up Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis again.

This was a great book. I highly highly recommend it.

Laura: [00:05:33] That was great and what a way to get people to want to check it out. It was a perfect teaser.

Christine: [00:05:38] Yes. All right. I got some more I do have some more so the covers of Mindy McGinnis’ books always just intrigued me.  The next book I brought is called a Madness So Discreet and the cover has a picture of a girl.

She’s breaking through the floor. So half her body is above the floor – half is below and there’s a hand grabbing at her ankle. So the cover of the book just again, it just kind of intrigued me and the other thing that really intrigued me about this book part of it is set in the Athens Lunatic Asylum, which is an Athens, Ohio where Ohio University is located and I went to Ohio University.

Laura: [00:06:29] Oh, super cool.

Christine: [00:06:30] So that really piqued my interest about the lunatic asylum is obviously not an asylum anymore. It’s called The Ridges and it’s actually part of the University where they do research and different things in the building. That’s a huge building. And I remember when I went there walking up on the grounds and of course, we weren’t allowed to go in at the time, but just looking at the building that was really cool and kind of knowing a little bit about the history.

So that really piqued my interest about this book .

Laura: [00:07:00] I bet .

Christine: [00:07:01] And also this book, was the 2016 Edgar Award winner for best young adult novel.

Laura: [00:07:09] Oh fantastic.

Christine: [00:07:10] So so this one again, it’s called a Madness So Discreet.  Is a combination of historic fiction and a mystery and it explores the fine line between sanity and insanity.

So the story begins in Boston during the 1800s and the main character Grace May. Is a pregnant teen who finds herself locked in the Boston insane asylum to protect certain family secrets, of course, of course so asylums in the 1800’s were not very pretty places.  The patients were not treated very well oftentimes oftentimes whether due to ignorance or intentionally they were harmed sometimes even killed.

So Grace finds herself at an asylum. That is not a pretty place.  And due to certain circumstances, she finds herself banished to the dark cellars of the Asylum.

Laura: [00:08:19] Oh that’s terrible. You’re already in an awful place and that you get sent to the cellar. Yes. Well, that sounds awful.

Christine: [00:08:28] Grace is fortunate though to escape with the help of a visiting doctor who also dabbles in criminal psychology. So she escapes and ends up at the Athens Lunatic Asylum in Ohio.  She ends up in the Asylum, but she’s not really insane.  Okay, kind of because of those family secrets that’s why she ends up there.

But to keep from getting caught that she’s this escaped.  Patient she has to pretend like she’s insane and that she’s had a procedure done on her brain that basically makes her mute.  Oh, wow, okay and talk.  Because of her sharp mind and her keen eye for detail, she becomes the doctor that helped her escape she becomes his assistant at crime scenes because again, he’s kind of dabbles in criminal psychology.

And so the story basically kind of looks at how she helps him to solve a couple of murders that have been happening in the area and kind of what her life is like at this new Asylum, which is not quite as terrible as the one she came from.

So to find out what happens to Grace how she ended up in the asylum in the first place. And what happens to her check out a Madness So Discreet.

Laura: [00:09:52] That sounds really good. I think that’s definitely going on my to be read list.

Christine: [00:09:55] All right, my next one is called Heroine.  And on the cover, it’s actually heroine with an E. Okay. But as you look at the cover the word heroine is repeated four more times, but each time a little bit’s kind of shaded out. So it’s heroin like the drug and then it’s hero and then it’s her.

Laura: [00:10:19] That is some really clever design.

Christine: [00:10:23] Yes. So Heroine, which is actually Mindy’s newest book that was just released in 2019. Just this spring and actually has become an Amazon best book of the month. Takes an extremely powerful look at the realities of teens and drug addiction specifically opioids.

Laura: [00:10:45] That’s super timely. Unfortunately.

Christine: [00:10:48] Yes. So again as I mentioned before, you know, her books definitely can tackle some difficult issues and this one. I highly highly recommend. I think this book should be required reading for teens, teachers, coaches, parents, anybody that has contact or interaction with teams.  So in this book the main character, her name is Nikki.

And she’s a great student, stellar softball player. She’s actually looking at going to college to play softball at a division one school.  Her best friend actually has already gotten a full ride scholarship to play softball at Ohio State. She’s a pitcher. So they’re halfway through their senior year Nikki and her friend Carolina when a terrible car accident occurs and changes everything.

So I would like to read again a little bit from this one.

Laura: [00:11:49] Please do. I like when somebody comes and they’re willing to read to us. It’s my own personal book talk.

Christine: [00:11:58] So this is actually kind of from the middle of the book.  It’s chapter 40 and she starts every chapter with a vocabulary word and the definition. And for this one the word is boundary – that which indicates or creates a limit for. A  separating line, a real or imaginary limit.  I am not a changed person I go to school on Monday and no one knows that I have crossed a line.

I have not become someone else. There is no sign on my chest. I’m not accused of anything. Ironically Lydia pulls me aside to apologize for what went down at the lunch table last week. I tell her not to worry about it.  But I do not tell her they were wrong. I admit to myself that I am a heroin user while also updating in my mind what that actually means.

I am not a wasted person. I’m not crowding the streets. I am not an addict. I’m a girl spinning her locker combination. I’m a girl who got a B on her math test. I am a girl who has two holes on the inside of her arm. But they do not tell the whole story of me.

Laura: [00:13:17] Wow, that is some powerful writing .

Christine: [00:13:20] And I think one of the great things about this is just about anybody can fall into that trap , you know of doing drugs, you know, she she wasn’t the typical what you would think of as the typical drug user. I mean she was a great student. She was an athlete. She was very involved and just through a series of unfortunate events that’s where she ended up and ,it just looks at how she interacts with her friends, after that point, her parents.

How she’s able to hide it which I thought was  amazing and terrifying, her parents, they cared and  they questioned at times but she did such a good job of hiding it that they had no idea.

This is such a powerful read I would recommend it to anybody that deals with teens, interacts with teens on a regular basis. So I really love this book. And I think it’s very timely not necessarily an easy read There are definitely some parts in it that that are hard but it’s a great book.

Laura: [00:14:34] I think that’s good. I think books about tough subjects should have tough parts in them. I think that’s the worst thing is when you take a tough subject and the author makes it seem like it’s it’s a problem that’s easy to deal with or it’s easy to overcome. I mean, that’s not right.

Christine: [00:14:48] Not to give too much away, but  there are consequences for her actions and it what those consequences are and they are very real and they’re very hard consequences,  so it doesn’t sugarcoat. It doesn’t, paint a pretty picture of it. it’s very realistic. And it just kind of lays it out there. So I thought that was that was good.

Laura: [00:15:12] Yeah, that sounds like a very powerful book.

Christine: [00:15:13] So I would say one thing list some of her books they’re young adult books so if you’re looking for them in the library, they’re going to be in the young adult or teen section, but they definitely are young adults. Like I said, some of the subject matter is is very intense.

We definitely want to keep that in mind.

Laura: [00:15:36] Something important for people to remember too is just because it’s in the young adult section does not mean that adults can’t enjoy it. I found some of the actually the best written books teens are clearly a much more critical audience than we adults because I find a lot of those books are actually better written than what authors that write for adults are turning out.

Christine: [00:15:55] So most of what I read is either juvenile fiction or young adult fiction and I agree. There are some fabulous looks very well written. So just because you’re an adult does not mean that you cannot read them. And so there’s no keep out adult side than it solves and I mean some of them yes, I’m very very much enjoyed even the ones for kids.

So, all right I have one more book that I have brought and this one is called the Female of the Species and this is another one that tackles some kind of difficult subject matter. This one kind of looks at rape and sexual abuse. That teens may have to deal with in face. Is probably more common than we realize right?

And so it also kind of might indirectly deal a little bit with the mental illness. There’s definitely some  kind of violence in the form of revenge. So but this one I just kind of like to maybe read the little excerpt. Yeah, perfect. So the main character her name is Alex,  Alex Craft.

Alex knows how to kill someone and she doesn’t feel bad about it when her older sister Anna was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free Alex uncaged the language she knows best, the language of violence. While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight. Unremarkable in the high school hallways, but Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be, the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm.

Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex and now her green eyes and that a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex craft. He wants to know her.

So does PK, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her her dad’s job though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of fear or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend.  When PK and Alex start working together at the animal shelter a friendship forms. And Alex is unprotected nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack and PK together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night  Alex’s darker side breaks out setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever .

Mindy artfully crafts 3 alternating perspectives into a dark and riveting exploration of what it means to be the female of the species. So to find out what happens to Alex and how she gets revenge and what happens between her and Jack you’ll need to read that the Female of the Species.

Laura: [00:19:05] Yeah, I actually read that and I have to say I really enjoyed it. She is definitely a very skillful writer. Yes and tackles as you said some really difficult subjects, but actually makes it really engaging. I mean you really want to know what happens.

Christine: [00:19:19] So yeah, there’s a lot of kind of kind of mystery, suspense involved in her writing and there are definitely some unexpected things that happen and she definitely keeps you kind of on edge of your seat wanting to know what’s gonna happen next. So, yeah, so I really enjoyed that one. It was not quite what I had expected and from reading some reviews of her books. I think that kind of is common but especially with this The Female of the Species.

She really builds up those characters though. So you get to know them and just really feel for them. Yes kind of empathize with them. So. I really enjoyed that book a couple of other books. Mindy has written one of them that I have read which I did not bring with me today is called This Darkness of Mine and we actually talked about a little bit a little bit before we started.

So This Darkness of Mine is a really interesting book.

Laura: [00:20:26] I’m going to give you my one word review which was Bonkers.

Christine: [00:20:29] Yes, as I kept reading. I’m like did that just happen and my goodness and wow. It’s definitely  a psychological kind of thriller. The main character definitely has some maybe some mental illness.

Laura: [00:20:50] People who like the whole unreliable narrator bit.  You know Gone Girl those sorts of books. I think will enjoy this book because she’s very definitely an unreliable narrator.

Christine: [00:21:01] Pick it up and check it out. It kept me kept me reading I’ll say that. It was definitely interesting, definitely intriguing. The verdict’s still out. I can’t decide if I liked it or not, but it definitely stuck with me.  That one is called This Darkness of Mine and then her other books.

She has a companion novel to the first book I talked about, Not a Drop to Drink and it’s called In a Handful of Dust. It looks at Lynn and kind of what happened about 10 years after Not a Drop to Drink took place. It’s not considered a sequel but a companion novel so you could pick it up and read it and still know what was going on.

And then she also has two fantasy books.

The first is called Given to the Sea and the second is called Given to the Earth. I have not read those yet. But if you’re a fan of fantasy, I think they sound like they would be very interesting.

Laura: [00:22:01] I don’t think she writes boring books

Christine: [00:22:04] No,  every book of hers I’ve read I’ve enjoyed and I’ve read them quickly.

I mean I could turn the pages because I want to know what’s going to happen next.

Laura: [00:22:16] Absolutely.

Christine: [00:22:17] So highly recommend Mindy McGinnis and any of her books. I think you can’t go wrong with.

Laura: [00:22:24] All right, super well, thank you for joining me today. I really appreciate  it.

Christine: [00:22:29] Thank you for having me.

Laura: [00:22:29] Absolutely, anytime . Thanks to all of our listeners.

I’ll have links to the books that Kristine talked about in today’s podcast in the show notes at clermontlibrary.org. If you’re so inclined, please rate and review our podcast. It helps other listeners to find us and you can always reach out on Twitter. If you have any comments about the books that we’ve recommended or you just want to hit us up and say hello, we’re @clermontlibrary.

Until next time reader read on.


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