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MacCullough, Carolyn

MacCULLOUGH, Carolyn


Female. Education: Grinnell College, B.A.; New School University, M.F.A., 2002.


HomeNew York, NY.


Writer. New School University, New York, NY, teacher of creative writing; Gotham Writers' Workshop, teacher of creative writing and children's book writing.


New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age selection, for Falling through Darkness.



Falling through Darkness, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.

Stealing Henry, Roaring Brook Press (New Milford, CT), 2005. Drawing the Ocean, Roaring Brook Press (New Milford, CT), 2006.


Young-adult novelist Carolyn MacCullough is the author of such critically acclaimed works as Falling through Darkness, Stealing Henry, and Drawing the Ocean. Though she did not initially plan to write for a teen audience, MacCullough finds great satisfaction in her work. "I think you can do all the things in a YA novel that you do in a novel for adults, she commented in an interview with Deborah Brodie for the Voice of Youth Advocates. "Young adults or teenagers are going through all the same emotions and experiences that adults do. The only difference is that maybe teens are having these experiences for the first time."

MacCullough published her debut title, Falling through Darkness, in 2003. The work concerns seventeen-year-old Ginny, the survivor of a tragic car accident that took the life of Ginny's boyfriend, Aidan. Ginny sinks into a dark depression after the tragedy, refusing to talk about it with either her father or her best friend, neither of whom is aware of the terrible secret she keeps. When her father rents the apartment above their garage to Caleb, an older man who lost his son, Ginny finally opens up, confiding to Caleb about her relationship with Aidan, whose abuse at the hands of his father led to his final, desperate act. "No false cheer at the end, but a sliver of hopefulness as Ginny begins to gain clarity," remarked a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Critics praised the author's plotting and characterization. "MacCullough expertly fleshes out the scenes," noted a Publishers Weekly critic, "enabling readers to visualize the action and intuit the implications for the characters." According to Booklist critic Hazel Rochman, the author "gets the seventeen-yearold's viewpoint, haunting memories, and interminable days on the edge absolutely right." In Horn Book, Martha V. Parravano was apt in deeming the novel a "promising debut"; Falling through Darkness was honored as a New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age.

A teenage girl takes to the road to escape her unhappy life in Stealing Henry, which MacCullough released in 2005. When she can no longer endure her stepfather's violent outbursts, seventeen-year-old Savannah wallops the man with a frying pan and flees their home with Henry, her eight-year-old half-brother, in tow. The pair ventures first to New York City and then north to the State of Maine, where they reconnect with Savannah's great aunt. Interspersed with the tale of the siblings' journey is the story of Alice, their estranged mother, who left home at age eighteen after becoming pregnant and roamed the country for years, living a nomadic life with Savannah. "MacCullough captures the panicky quality of the escape," noted School Library Journal critic Kathleen Isaacs, "telling the story obliquely but with intermittent flashes of minute detail." Booklist reviewer Cindy Dobrez observed that "tiny strokes of details paint whole backstories for the characters, revealing the tenuous love between mother and daughter."

In Drawing the Ocean, published in 2006, sixteen-year-old Sadie, a talented painter, wants nothing more than to fit in at her new school. Complicating matters are Sadie's relationships with Ryan, the school outcast, and Ollie, her twin brother who died years ago but now reappears to her in a vision. "MacCullough's subtle use of present tense and visually evocative writing create an eloquent portrait," noted a critic in Kirkus Reviews, and in the Voice of Youth Advocates a reviewer concluded that the novel's "pacing and dramatic tension are lovely."

In addition to her career as a novelist, MacCullough also teaches creative writing. She acknowledges that the process of completing a novel can be both exhausting and exhilarating. "Writing a book feels a lot like being in a relationship," she remarked in the Voice of Youth Advocates. "Sometimes it's magical, sometimes it's a lot of work. When things go really well, it doesn't even feel like writing. It feels like flying.…"



Booklist, November 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Falling through Darkness, p. 607; April 1, 2005, Cindy Dobrez, review of Stealing Henry, p. 1359.

Horn Book, November-December, 2003, Martha V. Parravano, review of Falling through Darkness, p. 750.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2003, review of Falling through Darkness, p. 1178; March 1, 2005, review of Stealing Henry, p. 290; September 15, 2006, review of Drawing the Ocean, p. 960.

Publishers Weekly, October 13, 2003, review of Falling through Darkness, p. 81.

School Library Journal, November, 2003, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Falling through Darkness, p. 142; April, 2005, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Stealing Henry, p. 137.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2004, Carolyn MacCullough and Deborah Brodie, "AuthorTalk: Listening In," pp. 458-460; April, 2004, Amy Alessio, review of Falling through Darkness, p. 49; April, 2005, Ed Goldberg and Abbe Goldberg, review of Stealing Henry, p. 92.

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