S.A. young-adult author fearlessly tackles tough subjects despite controversy
San Antonio-based author Rachel Toalson is courageous in her writing approach by addressing difficult topics in her young-adult novels that others shy away from. Her books range from tackling sensitive topics such as puberty and menstruation, mental health, addiction, divorce, and racial conflict. In today’s controversial world, such as in Texas, where over 2,000 content reviews of challenged school library books have been conducted, Toalson feels the pressure. Nevertheless, she believes that young adults deserve the truth and the knowledge of these situations.
Pushing Boundaries with “The First Magnificent Summer”
Toalson’s newest novel, “The First Magnificent Summer,” tells the tale of 12-year-old Victoria Reeves, who is grappling with the complexities of divorce and trying to win her father’s affection on a camping trip. The book depicts Victoria’s struggles, from being shunned in a tent while her father’s new family occupies a recreational vehicle to her first menstruation, which her father dismisses due to her gender.
The novel, written as a series of journal entries and interstitial asides, presents Victoria’s amusing journey through the often humiliating obstacles she encounters. The novel has excellent echoes of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” a popular young-adult novel by Judy Blume.
Dealing with Controversy Head-On
Toalson’s works deal with difficult topics that often create controversy. She acknowledges that she is scared given the present context, but that does not stop her from writing about challenging topics. Toalson’s approach is to be honest and factual in writing about these issues, providing young adults with the tools to navigate common struggles.
As a mother of six boys, Toalson and her husband Ben allow their children to watch or read materials that align with their ages. They initiate conversations with their children about various topics, such as the time when one of their 10-year-old twins read a book about a trans character. The couple had a chat with their son to explain what that meant. This approach has enabled their children to understand that different lifestyles exist, and it offers a space for them to express themselves without fear.
The Second Magnificent Summer and Beyond
Following the success of “The First Magnificent Summer,” Toalson’s next book, “The Second Magnificent Summer,” is already slated for publication in 2024. The book follows Victoria’s journey as she initially rejects and later accepts her stepdad. It is based on Toalson’s personal experience, in which she was unkind to her stepfather.
Despite the controversial nature of her work as a young-adult writer, Toalson has the ability to create moving and sincere narratives. Her editor at Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, describes Toalson’s latest work as an impressive display of her talent. Toalson’s courage offers a powerful message to young adults, reminding them that they are not alone in navigating difficult situations in life.
- In Texas, conservative groups have challenged numerous books pertaining to LGBTQ+ issues in public school libraries, and Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a search of public schools for books purporting to contain pornography.
- Toalson’s latest novel, “The First Magnificent Summer,” tells the tale of a 12-year-old girl grappling with the complexities of divorce and trying to win her father’s affection on a camping trip.
- Toalson’s next book is titled “The Second Magnificent Summer,” and will be released in 2024.
In writing young-adult novels that tackle tough and controversial issues that others avoid, Rachel Toalson seeks to provide young adults with the tools to navigate common struggles. She writes with honesty and facts, reminding young adults that they are not alone in navigating difficult situations in life.
Rachel Toalson is an author who is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects in her young-adult novels. Despite the current cultural climate, Toalson believes that young adults deserve the truth and the knowledge to navigate these situations. Her works are not only compelling but also offer valuable lessons to young adults.