Meet Kate McCaffrey

High school teacher and celebrated author Kate McCaffrey is best known for her award-winning YA novels Destroying Avalon, In Ecstasy and Beautiful Monster. Her latest book for teens is Crashing Down.

Does the book Crashing Down aim to teach student readers any life lessons? If so, what are they, and how are they taught?

I think the aim of all YA fiction is to show aspects of the world, as yet unexperienced by teenage audiences. Through this the teen reader is able to assess unfamiliar situations vicariously. Being a teacher and having a daughter just graduate Year 12 (and once being in Year 12 myself) I know how much pressure the final year places on teenagers. So much pressure to achieve and succeed, whilst emotionally it can be one of the most fraught times with relationships. I wanted to show how the pressure of exams isn’t life and death – and sometimes you don’t realise this until you are facing life and death.

An important theme of the book is decision-making. What does the book aim to teach student readers about decision-making, and the importance of considering the consequences of their actions?

Life is about the consequences of your actions. Everything we do from the most trivial to the most important. And decisions can’t be made in a vacuum, there needs to be someone to talk to, to trust. In this instance Lucy has some very intelligent and understanding parents – who she relies on heavily for advice. Everyone has someone they can trust, be it a friend or even a teacher. I hate the idea of ‘suffering in silence’ – I think it is a theme that pervades all my novels. Seek help, don’t suffer. As Lucy’s dad says, ‘Knowledge is power’.

How does the book attempt to teach students lessons about genders? Also, how are gender stereotypes portrayed?

It’s time to banish gender stereotypes – we live in a society that is evolving and allowing these stereotypes to be broken down. Lucy’s dad is a nurse, her parents are divorced – yet maintain a very amicable relationship. Lucy’s dad serves to illustrate the rejection of male stereotypes. He works in a feminised profession, he is considerate and understanding, yet he remains a man in every sense of the word. Having said that, it’s important to realise that while there is a sense of equality emerging between the genders, situations like Lucy’s do exist – someone taking squatters’ rights over a woman’s body. I wanted this book to empower women – they have the right to make their own choices about their bodies and their lives, not dictated by the rules of a supposedly defunct patriarchal society.

How does the book teach student readers about both the physical and emotional aspects of puberty and pregnancy?

I think often, with the realisation of an unplanned pregnancy, the consequences aren’t immediately apparent. It’s very easy to think in the short term – to have or not to have. When the realisation occurs – this is a lifetime decision – all the details come into focus. The actual logistics of being a teenage mother, the ability to support financially and emotionally another human being, can’t be ignored. It’s a decision that has to consider all the shades of grey – it’s not black and white, as so many teenagers think.

Are there any aspects of Crashing Down that you think may raise debate in the classroom? How important is the discussion of the issues raised in the book?

I think it raises the abortion issue and individual rights. Attitudes towards abortion are often seen in terms of right or wrong, yet given we are all unique it seems difficult to accept this polarising approach. I would like the book to encourage discussion about the morality and ramifications of abortion. Which leads into the discussion of individual rights – Lucy’s right to make her decisions about her body in conflict with Carl’s rights (if he has any) as the father.

Carl’s role here is interesting – and it is Lydia who broaches the idea that ‘If you wanted the baby, he’d have to accept it and become a father whether he wanted to or not.’

Books discussed
In Ecstasy
Destroying Avalon
Saving Jazz
Crashing Down

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