For young adults, Cinderella stories with a twist

For young adults, Cinderella stories with a twist
Moderator Aaron Hartzler, left, talks with young-adult writers Abby McDonald, Jessica Morgan, Heather Cocks and Paul Rudnick at the L.A. Times Festival of Books.
(Denise Florez / Los Angeles Times)

Be careful what you wish for.

That was the lesson imparted by young-adult authors during a Sunday morning panel titled “Modern Cinderella Stories” at the L.A. Times Festival of Books.


Audience members braved the early heat at the Young Adult Stage to listen to Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks, authors of “Messy,” the follow-up book to “Spoiled.” They tell the story of Molly Dix, who after her mother dies discovers that her father is world-famous actor Brick Berlin.



Young women like Molly finding beauty, fame and fortune may seem like dreams coming true, but to the characters in Abby McDonald’s “Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood,” a modern take on “Sense and Sensibility,” it may be more than they bargained for.

In the book, sisters Hallie and Grace see the world in different ways. Forced to move from San Francisco to Beverly Hills after their father’s death, Hallie is thrilled to finally be close to the Hollywood stars, while Grace misses her quiet life up north.

The allure of beauty proves deceitful to another young-adult character. Becky, the character inside Paul Rudnick’s “Gorgeous” who top designer Tom Kelly promises fame and a wonderful life once she wears three dresses. She becomes beautiful Rebecca and meets Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and begins to wonder whether she should behave like the marvelous Rebecca or the Becky she really is inside.



For Rudnick, a playwright whose body of work includes “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” writing young-adult fiction was a lucky accident: “I let the story take form and it wasn’t until I started writing that I realized it was YA,” which he also described as an “extraordinary field.”

McDonald said she prefers to focus on the character, and then work on developing the story. “Yes, we need an outline!” Morgan and Cocks, who also run the fashion and celebrity blog, concurred enthusiastically.

The takeaway: All the stories, while different, offer a healthy and safe escape from “boring” teen life. “When you’re a teenager, you want something exciting to happen,” Morgan said.

This being L.A., Hollywood is a mandatory pit stop, of course.

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