Esckilsen, Erik E.
Esckilsen, Erik E.
Born in South Burlington, VT. Education: St. Lawrence University, B.A., 1986; San Francisco State, M.A.
Home—Burlington, VT. E-mail—[email protected]
Novelist, journalist, and educator. Taught English in Japan; worked as an editor for a health magazine in Boston, MA; freelance writer in VT, 1992; Entertainment Weekly, New York, NY, associate editor, 1993-95; adjunct writing professor at Champlain College and Burlington College. Also worked as a cab driver and a guitar player in bands.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS
The Last Mall Rat, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
Offsides, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.
The Outside Groove, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.
Also author of plays produced Off-Off-Broadway. Theater critic for Seven Days. Contributor to periodicals, including Boston Globe, Burlington Free Press, Nova, and San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Educator and journalist Erik E. Esckilsen is the author of a trio of critically acclaimed young adult novels. "My stories tend to feature teenagers who, acting on their emotions, get into some kind of trouble, freak out about it, and eventually solve the problem—sometimes by eliminating the problem, sometimes by just moving beyond it," the author noted on his Web site. "In the process, I try to show teenagers providing role models for each other, but those role models are not always the kinds of characters you'd expect to be role models. I'm convinced that a young person's best, truest guidance will come from within youth culture."
The Last Mall Rat, Esckilsen's debut work, concerns Mitch Grant, a fifteen-year-old living in the depressed New England town of Shunpike Falls. In need of money but too young to legally obtain a job, Mitch accepts a small fee from a shoe salesman at the local mall in exchange for providing an unusual service: harassing rude customers in the parking lot. When the enterprise proves popular with the other salesclerks, Mitch recruits several of his friends in an effort to expand his business. Dubbed the "Mall Mafia," Mitch's group turns a nice profit until Jimmy, Mitch's tough-as-nails buddy, goes too far and physically assaults a mall patron. According to Kliatt reviewer Paula Rohrlick, The Last Mall Rat "is an intriguing read for junior high students, with a convincing moral about taking responsibility," and Booklist critic Debbie Carton observed: "This clever, believable first novel captures teen boredom and frustration, while never evading the moral issues."
In Offsides, a soccer star must choose between playing for his high school team or honoring his family and heritage. When Tom Gray, a talented center striker, moves to a new town after his father's death, he receives an invitation to play for Coach Dempsey's Southwind Warriors. A Mohawk, Tom is offended by the school's mascot and refuses to join the squad. Instead, he assembles a team of neighborhood misfits and accepts a challenge from Dempsey's squad. "The controversy over sports mascots that stereotype Native Americans is effectively explored here," wrote Booklist contributor Diane Foote. In School Library Journal, Sean George called Offsides "an enjoyable sports story with characters and plot that extend well off the field."
The Outside Groove focuses on seventeen-year-old Casey LaPlante, the sister of a local stock-car hero. Tired of standing in her brother's shadow, Casey decides to take to the racetrack, enlisting her Uncle Harvey to help her navigate the hazards of the male-dominated sport. Ed Sullivan, reviewing the work in Booklist, remarked that The Outside Groove "helps fill the void of good sports fiction with female protagonists."
Young adult novels "are valuable for the questions they generate outside the text," Esckilsen told Seven Days interviewer Cathy Resmer. "While they have to be good stories first and foremost, if they raise real questions, then I think they can be an important part of a young person's education."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2003, Debbie Carton, review of The Last Mall Rat, p. 1386; September 1, 2004, Diane Foote, review of Offsides, p. 110; September 15, 2006, Ed Sullivan, review of The Outside Groove, p. 55.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of The Last Mall Rat, p. 676; October 1, 2004, review of Offsides, p. 959.
Kliatt, May, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of The Last Mall Rat, p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003, review of The Last Mall Rat, p. 71.
School Library Journal, January, 2005, Sean George, review of Offsides, p. 126.
Seven Days, December 18-24, 2003, Cathy Resmer, "Why ‘YA?’ A Burlington Author Targets Teens."
Erik E. Esckilsen Home Page,http://www.erikeesckilsen.com (July 1, 2007).