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Summer reading: Five Utah writers launch books across the fictional range

Books » Don’t look for descriptions of mountains or a gridded city plot in these new fictions, which range from literary contemporary stories to dystopian young-adult plots.

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Kate Jarvik Birch

Books » "Deliver Me" and "Perfected"

At a glance

Summer reading with Western flair

KUER’s RadioWest recently broadcast its list of books for summer reading, as recommended by Utah booksellers. Find the complete list at radiowest.kuer.org/post/2014-summer-reading.

Here are suggestions from Ken Sanders for books about Utah, LDS culture and western Americana.

“Wild Rides and Wildflowers: Philosophy and Botany with Bikes” » by Scott Abbott and Sam Rushforth, Torrey House Press, paperback, $15.95.

“Theories Of Forgetting” » by Lance Olsen, Fiction Collective Two/The University of Alabama Press, paperback, $22.95.

“Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism’s Original Quorum of Twelve” » by William Shepard and H. Michael Marquardt, hardcover, $35.95.

“Joseph’s Temples: The Dynamic Relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism” » by Michael W. Homer, hardcover, $34.95.

“The Ghosts of Dandy Crossing” » by Katie Lee, Dream Garden Press, paperback, $25.00.

“South Pass” » by Will Bagley, Oklahoma University Press, hardcover, $29.95.

“Blow Sand In His Soul: Bates Wilson the Heart of Canyonlands” » by Jen Jackson Quintano, Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks, paperback, $18.95.

Utah Lit goes live

You’re invited to the first live meeting of The Tribune’s Utah Lit book club, a discussion with Rebecca Morris, co-writer of “If I Can’t Have You,” a true-crime book about the disappearance of West Valley mother Susan Powell. The event will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Viridian Event Center, 8030 S. 1825 West, West Jordan.

Book launch for Kate Jarvik Birch’s “Perfected”

When » July 2, 7 p.m.

Where » The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Info » Free

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference

When » June 16-20

Where » Waterford School, 1480 E. 9400 South, Sandy

Registration » Featuring writers, agents and editors: weeklong classes, $545; afternoon mini workshops, $110.

Keynote » Writer James Dashner will offer a keynote address as part of a free public event, which begins at 2:15 p.m. Thursday, June 19, and continues at 6 p.m.

Where » Waterford School Auditorium, Performing Arts Building #800, 1700 E. 9550 South, Sandy

Readings » Carol Lynch Williams, Saturday, May 17, 7 p.m.

Info » wifyr.com

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Background » I can’t pretend any journalistic objectivity in writing about Birch’s two young-adult novels, as their publication this spring has been the talk of our Sugar House street. I’ve known Kate since she was a girl, and we regularly talk about our families and writing and books. I’ve watched as she received an art degree in 2005 from the University of Utah, produced art works for scores of gallery shows (including a painting that hangs on my living-room wall) and co-wrote the play "a man enters" with her mother, Elaine Jarvik; it was produced at Salt Lake Acting Company in November 2011. Along the way, Birch has ambitiously written six novels. "I always tend to write about people who end up finding out they have more control over their lives then they thought," Birch says.

Inspiration for "Deliver Me" » The idea began three years ago on a family camping trip, where Birch and her family wrote down wishes, which they burned in the campfire. Birch wished to publish a young-adult novel, so she started brainstorming a plot centered on injustice. "What if women were just used as vessels to make children and didn’t actually get to keep them?" recalls the mother of three. "In my mind at the time, that was the most fearful thing."

Plot » Birch created a main character, Wynne, who aspires to be a Carrier, the highest calling for young women in The Union. Carriers spend 10 years living in luxury while delivering babies who are raised by others to serve The Union. Wynne’s dreams are dashed when her best friend, Odessa, is selected as a Carrier, and she’s assigned to care for mothers as they deliver their babies. After one mother refuses to give up her baby, Wynne comes to understand the layers of her cultural brainwashing.

Inspiration for "Perfected" » Birch is a devoted, soft-hearted pet lover, whose current zoo includes three dogs, two ducks, a chicken, a hedgehog and a snake that her son is babysitting for the summer for his biology teacher at Highland High. The novel began when she was thinking how lucky her pets are, and then started wondering if they actually felt lucky.

Plot » It’s the story of Ella, a 16-year-old girl bred and sold as a pet to a congressman and his family. She eventually falls in love with her owner’s son, which causes her to question her family’s history with their previous pet, as well as the luxury in which she lives.

What’s interesting » Both of Birch’s books are well-paced page-turners with overlapping themes about female motherless characters who are bred for physical perfection and regimented societal roles. "Deliver Me" is notable for the richly developed friendship between Wynne and Odessa, which Birch says was based on Jenny, her own best friend from childhood. "Perfected" takes an oddball idea — what if girls were bred to be pampered pets? — and crafts an interesting story out of it.

What’s next » Birch has just finished co-writing a middle-grade novel.

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Carol Lynch


Book » "The Haven"; subtitle: "What If Your Life Isn’t Really Yours?"

Background » Williams, of Provo, has published more than 30 middle-grade and young-adult books, including 2009’s lauded "The Chosen One," about a teenager in a rural polygamous family. She is an organizer of the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference, which will be held this week at the Waterford School in Sandy.

Plot » Teenager Shiloh lives a carefully monitored life at Haven Hospital & Halls, where she and her classmates follow rules about rest and eating to help control their terminal diseases, which claim limbs, lungs and memories. "It’s the story of a girl who starts to wake up to what her life really is," Williams says.

Inspiration » Williams, who says she writes mostly contemporary, realistic young-adult novels, began writing a speculative novel seven years ago with the working title "The Body Shop," but set it aside when a movie about clones, 2005’s "The Island," was released. She worried that her plot might seem too similar. Her agent sold the novel immediately after sending out a draft of the first 30 pages, but Williams found it difficult to finish. "It’s completely different than anything else I’ve written," she says. "I was editing this book, cutting and tightening, up until the galleys went out."

What’s interesting » The confidently spare language of "The Haven" makes its otherworldly, eerie story come alive.

What’s next » In May, Williams published "Signed, Skye Harper," which she laughs about being labeled a historical novel because it’s set in the 1970s. It’s the story of a girl, Winston, who with her grandmother steals a motorhome for a road trip to pick up the mother/daughter who left them a decade earlier. They learn they are kidnappers when they find a stowaway on board. "It’s a happy book," Williams says, laughing. "It’s about kissing."



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