Children: Maeve. Education: Attended Bath Spa University, England.
Writer, singer, songwriter. Toured with band Way Out.
PFD Bath Spa Prose Prize, 2005; Manchester Book Award, 2007, for Beast.
Beast (novel; for young adults), Push/Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
Ally Kennen's debut young adult novel, Beast, concerns a troubled youth and his plan for murder. In this case, however, homicide is not the goal. Rather, seventeen-year-old Stephen plots to kill his pet crocodile, a birthday gift from his biological father. Stephen has had little other contact with his father, however, having been in and out of various foster families since the age of seven. The crocodile, kept in a metal cage by a nearby reservoir and fed on the butchered animals Stephen can gather from him, is a twelve-foot-long beast that is proving to be a burden. To make matters worse, Stephen has also been arrested for arson. Ultimately, he discovers that he must somehow allow others into his life in order to rid himself of his true beast.
Kennen, who was exposed to numerous foster brothers and sisters on her parents' organic farm in Exmoor, wrote this first novel partly out of personal experience. As she noted on the Scholastic Web site, while studying creative writing at university she became pregnant and lost interest in the adult novel on which she had been working. "My tutor suggested I try something new. I decided to write in the first person and in the present tense to make it difficult for myself to introduce too many new elements. Everyone says you should write about what you know, and having spent my childhood with fostered teenagers, I thought this might be the way to go. I was obsessed with the Exmoor beast as a child. All that rustling in the hedges."
Reviewers in England responded warmly to this first novel, which won the Manchester Book Award. In the United States reviewers thought the occasional British locutions might distract young American readers, but otherwise had praise for the work. For example, a Kirkus Reviews critic commended the "dark humor, [and] occasional toe-curling danger," while Alana Abbott, writing in School Library Journal, felt the novel presents "the sort of story that Jack London might have written if he'd crafted tales for hip modern teens."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bookseller, February 17, 2006, review of Beast, p. 36.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2006, review of Beast, p. 845.
School Library Journal, November, 2006, Alana Abbott, review of Beast, p. 138.
Education Guardian Online,http://education.guardian.co.uk/ (September 19, 2006), Alice Wignall, "Novelist Ally Kennen Was Born to Run."
PFD,http://www.pfd.co.uk/ (March 12, 2007), biographical information on Ally Kennen.
Scholastic Publishers Web site,http://www.scholastic.co.uk/ (March 12, 2007), "Ally Kennen: Questions & Answers."