Lion, Melissa 1976-

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Lion, Melissa 1976-

PERSONAL: Born 1976, in CA. Education: Saint Mary’s College, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES: Home and office— San Francisco, CA. E-mail— [email protected]

CAREER: Bookseller and writer. Instructor at Saint Mary’s College.


Swollen, Wendy Lamb (New York, NY), 2004.

Upstream, Wendy Lamb (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of fiction to periodicals, including Santa Monica Review and Other Voices. Contributor to anthologies, including The Crucifix Is Down, Red Hen Press.

SIDELIGHTS: Melissa Lion’s novel Swollen focuses on a young woman’s struggle to come to terms with her unwillingness to trust others. Samantha’s parents are divorced; her mother is absent, and her womanizing father cheats on his live-in and pregnant girlfriend, Ruth, whom Samantha admires. Two events ultimately cause Samantha’s life to change: for one, a popular boy in her high school—and the star of the school’s track team to which she also belongs— mysteriously dies, and for the other, she begins a romantic relationship with Farouk, an immigrant student. Torn between her love of running and her romance with Farouk, Samantha leaves the track team, but when the relationship ends it confirms Samantha’s suspicion that all men cheat. Fortunately, Ruth’s decision to finally exhibit some self-respect impacts Samantha more positively, and the teen ultimately finds sanctuary with Ruth and her new baby brother.

While a Publishers Weekly contributor faulted Swollen for building to a conclusion that the reviewer characterized as somewhat “ambiguous,” other critics found Lion’s conclusion more satisfying. Susan Riley, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, praised Lion’s fiction debut as “an achingly beautiful story that shows one young woman’s growing strength as she realizes that she deserves better.”

Lion found her inspiration for writing Swollen while watching a group of teen girls running track near her home in La Jolla, California. “I wondered what it was like to be the most middle girl in the pack,” she explained to an online interviewer for Bookselling This Week.“I wasn’t on any sports team and I hated to run, but I remember longing to be in the lead, in anything.” Commenting on the author’s focus on the girl in the middle, Reyhan Harmanci commented in the San Francisco Chronicle that “rarely... has a high school protagonist perched between social groups been rendered as skillfully and soulfully as Samantha.” Debbie Carton, reviewing Swollen for Booklist, concluded that, with its “clear, distinctive language,” Swollen“will keep teens reading and savoring.”

Lion’s second novel, Upstream, features a more confident protagonist. Grieving over the death of her boyfriend, high school senior Martha struggles to deal with the pity she receives from her Alaskan community. Lion uses the Alaskan landscape to mirror Martha’s inner journey, depicting the teen’s grief and guilt at the part she played in the accident that led to her boyfriend’s death. “It is this very concrete evocation of place and people that makes this offering stand out,” concluded Vicky Smith in a Horn Book review of Upstream.“Lion writes with sensitivity and depth,” Booklist critic Gillian Engberg noted of the book, while Johanna Lewis commented in School Library Journal that Lion’s “descriptions, especially of emotion or moment, are resonant and truthful.” Reviewing the novel for Kliatt, Claire Rosser maintained that Lion “continues to demonstrate her skill and her commitment to her YA readers” in her sophomore effort, while in Kirkus Reviews a contributor deemed the novelist “a YA author to watch.”

Lion’s vivid memory of her teen years serves her well in her career as an author. As she told Carolyn Juris in an interview for Teen Reads online, “I remember so clearly what they [teen girls] are going through. And I watch them and my own emotions are right there.”



Booklist, October 15, 2004, Debbie Carton, review of Swollen, p. 398; June 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Upstream, p. 1786.

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, October, 2004, Karen Coats, review of Swollen, p. 87.

Horn Book, March-April, 2005, Vicky Smith, review of Upstream, p. 205.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, March, 2005, Nicole Denourie, review of Swollen, p. 525.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of Swollen, p. 690; April 15, 2005, review of Upstream, p. 477.

Kliatt, July, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Swollen, p. 10; May, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Swollen, p. 20; March, 2005, Melissa Lion, “Why I Write,” pp. 4-5; May, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Upstream, p. 15.

Publishers Weekly, September 13, 2004, review of Swollen, p. 80.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 26, 2004, Reyhan Harmanci, “Running through High School, Tripped Up by Death,” p. M6.

School Library Journal, August, 2004, Susan Riley, review of Swollen, p. 126; July, 2005, Johanna Lewis, review of Upstream, p. 105.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2004, review of Swollen, p. 221; June, 2005, Leslie Carter, review of Upstream, p. 132.


Bookselling This Week Online (American Booksellers Association), (September 23, 2004), Nomi Schwartz, “Looking at Life from Both Sides Now: Melissa Lion, Bookseller/Author.”

Melissa Lion Home Page, (January 11, 2007).

Random House Web site, (January 11, 2007), “Melissa Lion.”

Teen Reads Web site, (June 15, 2005), Carolyn Juris, interview with Lion.*