YA Author Talks Controversy

By Jeehyun Kim

The Mirror

“I want to do my best to give back and inspire because I truly think they can change the world.”


Author Sparks Lively Discussion about Controversies


Gay Rights, Black Lives Matter, and Donald Trump’s campaign were some of the controversial issues that students heatedly argued about with author Brendan Kiely during his appearance at Van Nuys High School on September 21.

Donna Hubbard Auditorium was packed with students who came to hear Kiely speak during periods 4, 5 and 6. As a renowned author of young-adult novels, he confidently spoke out on debatable issues, encouraging the audience to participate..

A rising star in the world of authors, Kiely has received numerous awards and recognitions for his books.

His debut novel, The Gospel of Winter, published in 2014, was selected as one of American Library Association’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults in 2015.

As a coauthor for All American Boys, released last year, he won the prestigious Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.

Throughout his speech at Van Nuys High, Kiely consistently emphasized that it was necessary for an author to include their own personal experiences in their books. As an Irish-American from Boston, Kiely said he had countless personal stories that had been incorporated into his much-admired novels.

One personal experience prompted him to write The Gospel of Winter, his take on the scandals that were occurring in the Catholic church.

As a Catholic Irishman, Kiely told the audience he had faced many conflicts and doubts about his religion.

Kiely also focused on another major issue of our time: Black Lives Matter. Even though he is a white man, he feels strongly about this topic. After getting together with African-American author and friend Jason Reynolds, he decided to co-write All American Boys.

The book focuses on the racial tension and heated controversies that stem from police brutality towards an African-American boy who is wrongly convicted of a crime and malevolently beaten by the police.

By using his writings as a way to express his beliefs and opinions, he was able bring up many opinionated statements, which captivated the audience’s attention.

“I wanted to speak to high school students because I believe deeply that the energy of the young people can change this world. I’m interested in change because I think that there are things that we could do better, and I believe wholeheartedly that are the folks that can make it better.”

Kiely has experience with young people because he was a teacher for 10 years.

“I had kids coming into my class and telling me tough stories about their life. I felt like I wanted to honor their stories, so all my stories, at the end of the day, are really for them as they all inspire me,” he said.

“I want to do my best to give back and inspire because I truly think they can change the world.”

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