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Deaver, Julie Reece 1953-

DEAVER, Julie Reece 1953-

PERSONAL: Born March 13, 1953, in Geneva, IL; daughter of Wilds P. (an advertising writer) and Dee Rider Deaver. Hobbies and other interests: Cats, "animals of all kinds (except those with more than four legs and less than two), listening to and singing old fashioned love songs (Gershwin, for instance)."

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Writer and illustrator. Teacher's aide in special education in Pacific Grove, CA, 1978-88. Illustrator for Reader's Digest, New Yorker, Chicago Tribune, and McCall's Working Mother.

MEMBER: Writer's Guild, West.

AWARDS, HONORS: Best Book for Young Adults citation, New York Public Library Books for the Teenage recommendation, Book List Young Adult Editors Choice citation, and Library of Congress Books for Children recommendation, all 1988; American Library Association (ALA) Recommended Books for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1989, International Reading Association Young Adult Choice, 1990, Virginia State Reading Association Young Readers Award, 1991, and Washington State Evergreen Young Adult Award, 1994, all for Say Goodnight, Gracie; ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults, and South Carolina Young Adult Award nominee, 1997-98, both for Chicago Blues; ALA Popular Picks for Young Adults, 2003, for The Night I Disappeared.


Say Goodnight, Gracie, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.

First Wedding, Once Removed, Harper (New York, NY), 1990.

You Bet Your Life: A Novel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Chicago Blues, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

The Night I Disappeared, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2002.

Also author of a screenplay based on Say Goodnight, Gracie. Writer for television series Adam's Rib, 1973.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel; illustrating a novel about Shakespeare written by her brother, Jeffery Deaver.

SIDELIGHTS: Julie Reece Deaver's novels for young adults focus on the relationship of middle-class teenagers with their friends, families, and selves as they experience loss and the grief process. Most of her novels take place in Chicago, or one of its suburbs, where Deaver grew up. Her protagonists are most often seventeen year old females, and Deaver has noted that she "loved writing about that time of life when people are on the brink of adulthood."

Deaver's first novel, Say Goodnight, Gracie was warmly received by critics and young adult readers. It chronicles Morgan Hackett's recovery process after the death of her best friend, Jimmy Woolf. Both performing artists, Morgan and Jimmy have been friends since babyhood. They attend high school in a suburb of Chicago, but make frequent trips to the city for auditions and workshops. They share a genuine platonic friendship based on humor, shared interests and deep affection. When a drunken driver kills Jimmy, Morgan must adjust to her life without him. Deaver's depiction of Morgan's denial, anger, and depression is telling and accurate. At first Morgan does not accept help from others, especially adults. Eventually, with the help of her Aunt Lo, a psychiatrist, she comes to terms with her loss.

The book's strengths are the accuracy and poignancy of Deaver's description of Morgan and Jimmy's relationship and Morgan's grief and healing process. While some critics mention an unrealistic lack of sexual tension between Jimmy and Morgan, Deaver places the two in some situations with sexual nuances, but lets Morgan and Jimmy slip effortlessly out of them. Deaver suggests to her readers that it is possible for young people of the opposite sex to have strong platonic friendships without sexual interaction.

The strength and believability Deaver creates in Say Goodnight, Gracie juxtaposes the fragility of her second novel, First Wedding, Once Removed. This novel chronicles the loss of closeness between fourteen-year-old Alwilda (Pokie) and her older brother Gib. The two share an idealized relationship that centers on their love of airplanes and desires to take flying lessons. When Gib graduates from high school and goes to the University of Missouri, Pokie fears the end of their close relationship. Gib reassures her that he will come home for holidays and summers, but Pokie believes that they just won't be the same. When Gib meets and falls in love with Nell, Pokie is proved correct. Gib cuts his visits short to see Nell, and buys an engagement ring with the money he was saving for flying lessons. First Wedding, Once Removed has borne criticism for the old-fashioned depiction of Pokie and Gib's relationship. A girl of fourteen might not react so forcefully to an older brother's romance as she enters high school herself. Also, much is made of the distance between Pokie and Gib's Chicago suburb and the University of Missouri, which is a day's drive away at most, and Gib has no problem flying to see Nell.

In her next novel, You Bet Your Life, Deaver makes loss more tangible, as she details high school senior's Bess Milligan's recovery from her mother's suicide six months earlier. Another talented suburban Chicago teenager, Bess has an internship with comedy writers for the Les Komack show. Her mother's love of comedy influenced Bess's goal of becoming a comedy writer, and Bess's internship in unusual in its prestige for a high school student. But Bess cannot fully appreciate the closeness of her goal and spends much of her commute time to downtown dwelling on her mother's depression and suicide. Bess is able to work through her grief with the help of lead comedy writers Nate and Georgia, Georgia acting as a surrogate mother to Bess. Gradually Bess comes into her own in life and on the show, writing a one-liner that is aired on the program and appearing as a stand-up comedienne in a local club with new friend Eliot. Although some reviewers noted the sometimes-pat plot devices that move Bess along her path to acceptance, others focused on its authentic setting and voice.

Deaver's next book, Chicago Blues also received praise for its realism. The story of Lissa and her eleven-year-old sister, Marnie, Chicago Blues deals with the girls' emotional loss of their parents. When Lissa and Marnie's divorced mother is sidetracked by alcoholism, Lissa must "kidnap" her sister to maintain stability in Marnie's life. Another talented Chicago arts student, Lissa has her own apartment in the city and creates perfectly scaled miniature rooms. At first, the girls struggle as Lissa resents the burden of caring for a sixth grader, Marnie cuts class, and their finances are stretched thin. Gradually things start to improve for the girls as Lissa's miniatures begin to sell, Marnie makes friends in school, and the girls learn that their mother is attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Lissa is still distrustful of her parent's interference with Marnie and her life, as she rebuffs her father and stepmother's offers of increased involvement with Marnie, and questions her mother's dubious improvement. She is forced to find forgiveness and acceptance of her mother's sobriety when Marnie opts to live with their mother instead of Lissa.

In Deaver's subsequent novel, The Night I Disappeared, she revisits the themes of loss and friction with adults that she explores in her previous works. This novel chronicles a climatic summer in the life of Jamie Tessman, a California high school student. Jamie and her mother, a high-profile attorney, move to Chicago for a major case. Although Jamie has been struggling in school and is in danger of having to repeat a grade, she is distraught at the thought of separating from her lifelong friend, Webb, who will be backpacking in Europe that summer. They have seen each other every day since Jamie was nine and the severing of their ties casts a cloud on Jamie's move. Once in Chicago, Jamie begins to have panic attacks and eventually lands in the emergency room, due to a bicycle accident that Jamie causes. There she meets Morgan Hackett and her Aunt Lo from Say Goodnight, Gracie. Although Jamie's mother is so ensconced in her trial, Jamie's worsening mental condition prompts her to recruit help. With psychiatric treatment, Jamie is able to uncover the reasons behind the depth of her relationship with Webb to discover that he is a creation of her imagination, and the trauma that led her to invent him. Reviewers reacted differently to the speedy treatment of Jamie's diagnosis and recovery. The plot has been called transparent, and though it is tightly written, readers will not be surprised to learn that Webb is imaginary. Nonetheless, Deaver is able to call upon her experience with teenage development to create an authentic emotional landscape for Jamie and her readers to navigate, albeit quickly.

Julie Reece Deaver once commented, "I've always been interested in writing. I started out writing puppet plays when I was about six for a captive audience (my family). My parents were both very creative and encouraged me a lot. My father was an advertising writer and an accomplished artist (oil painting and pottery) and my mother was an excellent artist herself (water colors). Because of this encouragement, probably, my older brother (Jeffery Wilds Deaver) and I both grew up to be writers. My brother writes mysteries.

"I also started drawing and painting at an early age. I've enjoyed doing small illustrations for various magazines, likeReader's Digest and the New Yorker, but primarily I enjoy painting now for my own pleasure. I paint with egg tempera (I use real eggs!). Maybe someday I'll combine my art with my writing, although for right now I'm mostly interested in writing young adult novels, and of course they aren't illustrated!

"One question I get a lot from my readers is: 'Where do you get your ideas?' It's not an easy question to answer. I usually start writing dialogue, and eventually a situation or a story emerges. I don't use an outline when I write, but let the characters take me where they want to go. When a book is finished, there's always a lot of revising to do, but for the most part, I enjoy the polishing of a story.

"With Say Goodnight, Gracie, the original version was about twice as long as the published version. My editors guided me and helped me see what to cut out (not as easy as it might seem, because when one thing is cut, it always alters something later on you might not want to cut). I always think of revision as trying to remove a middle card from a house of cards. You try to do it without letting the whole thing collapse! But somehow With Say Goodnight, Gracie, I wanted to show a boy-girl friendship about best friends who were not romantically involved. I was so pleased the first time I got a letter from a girl in Iowa who liked reading about the friendship—that letter was my first feedback on the book. Since then a lot of letters have followed, and I feel very lucky that my readers take the time to sit down and write me. I love hearing about what they think of my books.

"First Wedding, Once Removed is a lighter-in-tone book than Gracie, but has a few serious moments, too. I originally thought of it as a skinny book for very young readers, but my editors showed me how it was more suited for middle-grade readers, so I expanded it by about a hundred pages. From my initial idea to the time a book is eventually revised can be a long process. Say Goodnight, Gracie started out as a short story that Seventeen Magazine didn't want, and Harper & Row encouraged me to expand it into novel form. I had never thought of writing young adult novels. At the time Harper first read Gracie, I had been trying to break into the short story market (mostly to Seventeen, where I had won an honorable mention in their annual fiction contest when I was seventeen). I was collecting hundreds (well, it seemed like hundreds) of rejection slips, so it was really nice to have a publisher interested in my work."

Deaver concluded, "I'm interested in writing books that entertain. I don't like young adult books that try to teach a lesson, so I don't write that way. I'm just interested in telling what I hope will be a good story."



Beetz, Kirk H., editor, Beacham's Guide To Literature For Young Adults, Volume 8, Beacham's Publishing (Washington, DC), 1994.


Booklist, June 1, 1992, review of Say Goodnight, Gracie, p. 1768; August, 1993, Ilene Cooper, review of You Bet Your Life, p. 2049; September 1, 1995, Merri Monks, review of Chicago Blues, p. 66; March 15, 1996, review of Chicago Blues, p. 1294.

Book Report November-December, 1993, Connie Allerton, review of You Bet Your Life, p. 44; January-February, 1996, Jeri Drew, review of Chicago Blues, p. 42.

Books for Keeps, July, 1992, review of Say Goodnight, Gracie, p. 14.

Center for Children's Books Bulletin, September, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 11.

Children's Book Review Service, June, 1993, review of You Bet Your Life, p. 313; July, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 154.

Children's Bookwatch, September, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 2.

Emergency Librarian, November, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 58; September, 1996, review of Chicago Blues, p. 27.

Horn Book, spring, 1994, review of You Bet Your Life, p. 85; fall, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 309.

Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, October, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 169; December, 1996, review of Say Goodnight, Gracie, p. 318.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1993, review of You Bet Your Life, p. 858; June 1, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 780.

KLIATT, September, 1993, review of First Wedding, Once Removed, p. 6; July 2002, Sharri Forgash Ginsberg, review of The Night I Disappeared, p. 16.

Magpies, September, 1992, review of Say Goodnight, Gracie, p. 37.

Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1990, Diane Roback and Richard Donahue, review of First Wedding, Once Removed, p. 126; June 21, 1993, review of You Bet Your Life, p. 105; June 26, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 108; April 22, 2002, review of The Night I Disappeared, p. 71.

School Library Journal, July, 1993, Marilyn Makowski, review of You Bet Your Life, p. 98; August, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 154; May 2002, Francisca Goldsmith, review of The Night I Disappeared, p. 148.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1993, review of You Bet Your Life, p. 150; December, 1995, review of Chicago Blues, p. 299; February, 1999, review of Say Goodnight, Gracie, p. 423.*

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