Russon, Penni 1974-
Russon, Penni 1974-
Born 1974, in Tasmania, Australia; married May 17, 2002; children: two. Education: Attended Monash University and RMIT University.
Home and office—Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Writer and editor.
(Editor, with Jill Allan) Ranthology (short stories and poetry), Rant (Clifton Hill, Victoria, Australia), 2000.
Drift, Random House (North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2007.
Australian freelance writer and editor Penni Russon began writing poetry because she felt the length was "more manageable," according to her home page. Eventually, however, she "discovered novels were a lot more forgiving," and has gone on to create the "Undine Trilogy" for teen readers. In this series of young-adult novels, Russon draws on chaos and string theory, as well as traditional sources such as Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, Shakespeare's The Tempest, and the German myth about Undine, an immortal water nymph who loses her ability to live forever after she falls in love with a mortal man. Recasting the story for a contemporary audience, the author recreates Undine as a modern teen who just wants a normal life.
In Undine, the main character slowly realizes that she possesses strange powers that draw upon the ocean. Although her mother has told her that her father disappeared long ago, Undine now hears a voice in her head that she is certain belongs to her missing dad. "The language is vivid and rich, full of references to [Shakespeare's play] The Tempest in an Australian setting," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. June H. Keuhn, reviewing the novel for School Library Journal, also noted the strength of Russon's prose, and concluded that Undine "offers readers a new and interesting magical twist as well as a surprise ending," while Booklist critic Gillian Engberg deemed the book "an impressive debut from a writer to watch."
Breathe finds Undine exploring her father's home in Greece, and there she is tempted to use her magic. Trout, the teen's best friend and love interest, is nearly killed by Undine's magic; nonetheless, he is drawn to learn more about the powers he fears. As a result, Trout becomes a pawn of Max, another girl obsessed with magic. "In this mesmerizing story, Trout is the real protagonist and his search to find himself stands in contrast to Undine and her desire to lose herself in magic," explained Janis Flint-Ferguson in a Kliatt review of Breathe. "Russon's bracing, poetic voice and earthy, likable characters ground the story's esoteric symbolism," wrote Engberg in praise of the trilogy's second volume. The saga concludes in Drift, which finds Undine missing and Trout hoping to forget about her—until her shadow begins appearing in his photographs.
Discussing her work on the "Undine Trilogy," Russon noted on her home page that she has "grown to care deeply for all my characters." She also offered the following advice for young authors: "Write honestly, write what you know and understand. This doesn't mean you can't use fantasy scenarios (like a spy or future world), but your characters' psychology needs to be in your grasp, the emotions should be real."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Undine, p. 93; February 15, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of Breathe, p. 73.
Horn Book, March-April, 2006, Claire E. Gross, review of Undine, p. 194; March-April, 2007, Claire E. Gross, review of Breathe, p. 201.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2006, review of Undine, p. 89.
Kliatt, January, 2006, Lesley Farmer, review of Undine, p. 12; January, 2007, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Breathe, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2006, review of Undine, p. 76.
School Library Journal, February, 2006, June H. Keuhn, review of Undine, p. 136; January, 2007, June H. Keuhn, review of Breathe, p. 138.
Penni Russon Blog Site,http://eglantinescake.blogspot.com (May 17, 2007).
Penni Russon Home Page,http://www.pennirusson.com (May 18, 2007).
Random House Australia Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com.au/ (May 18, 2007), "Penni Russon."