A new line of YA nonfiction from Simon Pulse called Simon True, which launches in May with two titles, will chronicle actual crime stories involving real teens who have faced the very real consequences of their illegal actions. Written with a “you-are-there” immediacy rather than from an historical perspective, the books catapult readers into a moment when a single decision – invariably a bad one – forever changed teens’ lives. Simon True debuts with One Cut by Eve Porinchak and Deep Water by Katherine Nichols, which will be released simultaneously in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.
The launch titles exemplify the line’s focus on actual events with far-reaching repercussions. One Cut recounts a backyard fight that ended with the stabbing of two boys. Five teens were charged with first-degree murder, four of whom stood trial and faced life prison sentences. In Deep Water, a group of high-school students from Coronado, Calif., devise a scheme to swim to Tijuana to bring marijuana back to the U.S. to sell. Masterminded by the teens’ former Spanish teacher, this operation evolved into a large-scale drug smuggling outfit.
Fiona Simpson, editorial director of Aladdin Books, Simon Pulse’s “sister imprint,” credits Jon Anderson, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, for planting the seeds of Simon True. “This was definitely Jon’s brainchild,” she said. “When he was a teenager, he was a fan of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and other true-crime books, and he felt that there was a market for the genre today. Kids—and adults—are obviously interested in crime stories like Serial, Making a Murderer, and The Jinx, but those protagonists and perpetuators are adults. And I hate to say it, but a lot of kids also do really stupid things, because they think they are indestructible. When presented with a choice, in the moment teens often think, ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen to me?’ Well, the consequences of making the wrong choice can be horrible.”
The editorial mission of Simon True, Simpson added, is rooted in portraying crime stories and delivering messages about the consequences of actions responsibly, and with sensitivity and respect. “We want to make sure that our books are not sensationalizing stories,” she said, noting that the line’s authors include journalists well versed in portraying real life accurately and objectively. “The stories told in our books are not ripped from today’s headlines. Each case has made its way through the court system and has been adjudicated—there is a clear set of consequences and a moral outcome. Yet the books do not ram a message down readers’ throats, but instead aim to make them think about making good decisions when they find themselves at important crossroads.”
Simpson reported that a new title will be added to the Simon True list in spring 2018, and another the following fall, and she anticipates that the annual output for the line will not exceed three books. “We know there are many interesting stories to tell, but we’re not going for the immediacy factor, in terms of the timing of publishing the books,” she explained. “Our authors will take the opportunity to review all of the evidence that was presented at the time of the case and that has been revealed since. We will give each book the time it needs.”
The editor expressed optimism about the timing of the Simon True launch, observing that the current popularity of contemporary realistic fiction among teens bodes well for the reception to true-life crime stories. “We’re seeing a surge in realistic—and often very gritty—YA fiction dealing with difficult issues that kids themselves are dealing with,” she said. “And I think that the growth of teens’ interest in nonfiction organically comes from what they are reading in fiction.”
One Cut by Eve Porinchak. Simon Pulse/Simon True, $19.99 May ISBN 978-1-4814-8132-8; paper $10.99 ISBN 978-1-4814-8131-1
Deep Water by Katherine Nichols. Simon Pulse/Simon True, $19.99 May ISBN 978-1-4814-8107-6; paper $10.99 ISBN 978-1-4814-8106-9