Corina Vacco, My Chemical Mountain, YA Author Talk at Book Passage


Corina Vacco, local author and SCBWI member, spoke at Book Passage last night about her Delacorte Press Prize winning YA novel, My Chemical Mountain, which was just released by Random House in June.

Transferred by her husband’s job to Upstate New York, Corina discovered that her new home was next to one of America’s most toxic waste dumps, which contained over one thousand tons of waste, including radioactive material from the Manhattan Project of WWII. Having been raised by an environmental activist mother, Corina attended a neighborhood meeting where community members addressed their concerns to a panel of chemical industry executives and local politicians.

One woman told the spokespeople that 22 neighbors on her street had cancer. Another said that when her son stepped into a puddle at the base of the landfill, his shoe melted. To all their statements and questions, the experts asserted that the environment and drinking water were safe. Basically, they said the companies were not responsible for any cleanup or safety measures.

Corina saw the hope in the people’s hearts dying before her very eyes. They were just ordinary men and women trapped in terrible circumstances being snowed over by sophisticated, monied interests. The experts were smug and dismissal until one seventeen-year-old boy took the mic. He raged against the pollution and that no one was doing anything about it. That’s when Corina knew she had a story to write.

A few days later, her protagonist popped into her head, and she began to ask him questions. Soon, two more characters joined in. Each character’s voice was strong and distinct. It was as though the story had come to her to be written, as if it were a living thing with its own heartbeat and life force.

Central to the story is this question: When you are in real danger and no one listens, no one cares, and no one will do anything to help, then what is the right way to go about driving meaningful change? The plot revolves around three different boys with three different answers, and all are addicted to the danger and thrill of landfill culture.

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