The Replacements by Brenna Yovanoff
Razorbill, September 2010
Young Adult (Horror-I think)
I read it because Maggie Stiefvater is quoted on the cover. I had to force myself to do it. It scared me and grossed me out. I had to keep putting it down. I read it because Penguin Books sent them to me and I’d like them to send me more I had seen the cover at ALA this past June, but, no surprise, it creeped me out!
Some will love it (see starred review from Booklist below) and as I reflect on how much I loved horror as a middle school and high school student, I think I used to be the perfect audience for it.
I did find the characters really interesting and like the relationship between the main character and his sister as well as the relationship between the main character and his best friend.
Q: Where did you get the idea for The Replacement?
A: The Replacement happened because I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of changelings, but that by itself wasn’t enough to kick-start the story. I didn’t have an actual book until I started wondering one day what it would be like to be a changeling today, where everything is made of steel, and high school means being around a lot of other people all day every day and trying to act normal. One afternoon, I wrote a couple chapters and they worked, so I kept writing!
Q: How does The Replacement differ from other novels about changelings and the fey?
A: I’d say that one of the biggest differences is probably the tone. Even though the changeling aspect of the story has a strong basis in folklore, a lot of the settings and the characters are very contemporary. The story is just as much about Mackie finding his place in the human world as it is about the fantastical world that exists underground.
Q: Your main character, Mackie, is a teenage boy. Given that you are not, in fact, a teenage boy, did you find it difficult writing a male voice?
A: Honestly, I was really scared at first, but that went away once I actually started writing. Now, I don’t think it was much different from writing any other point of view. Every character is their own person, and ideally they each have their own voice. It was really an issue of figuring out what Mackie’s voice sounded like, rather than figuring out what a teenage boy sounded like.
Q: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kinds of music, artists/bands or songs influenced The Replacement?
A: I love to listen to music while I write. For The Replacement, I had a dedicated playlist that was pretty much all rock music, but the two songs I listened to more than any other were The Rat by Dead Confederate, and Allison Crowe’s beautiful cover version of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.
Q: What do you like about writing for teenagers?
A: I really like the freshness and the immediacy. The emotions are very raw and intense. I think there’s something so exciting about telling a story where a lot of the things that happen to the characters are happening to them for the very first time.
Q: What were some of the books that you loved as a teen? Did any of these books influence The Replacement?
A: As a teenager, I loved to read. My school locker was full of books and my bedroom floor was covered in them. Some of my absolute favorites were The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. However, if I had to pick one piece of fiction that really influenced The Replacement, it would definitely be The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
Q: The Replacement is being described as Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye, and it certainly has quite a Tim Burton-esque feel. Do you think that’s an apt description of your book? How did you go about creating the uniquely unsettling world of Mayhem?
A: Well, I’m crazy about J.D. Salinger and Tim Burton, so to me, that’s an incredibly high compliment—I’ll take it! For the world of Mayhem, I thought about all the things I like and the things that scare me (which are sometimes the same things anyway—I love horror movies). Then I kind of let them live them together in Mayhem and watched how they eventually grew together.
Q: If you weren’t an author, what do you think your career would be?
A: Well, the actual answer is that I would probably be an editor or a copywriter or a proofreader, which is all stuff I’ve done before, and in a lot of ways, it’s all very closely related to being an author. So, for the sake of novelty, I’m going to say that I would be a forensic anthropologist. Because that just seems really interesting.
Q: What would you like your readers to take away from the experience of reading The Replacement?
A: It’s always difficult to say what someone will get out of a book, because people definitely bring their own experiences to books. However, if readers take anything away from The Replacement, I hope it’s the sense that everyone has their own doubts and insecurities, even if they’re good at hiding them, and you don’t have to be ashamed of who you are, no matter how freakish or strange you might feel sometimes.