Award-winning author Neal Shusterman visits MSD


Neal Shusterman answers questions regarding his books and inspirations. Photo by Kaleela Rosenthal

Kaleela Rosenthal

Neal Shusterman answers questions regarding his books and inspirations. Photo by Kaleela Rosenthal

On Friday, Sept. 20, hundreds of students gathered at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School media center to meet with award-winning author Neal Shusterman. 

Throughout his years of writing, Shusterman has won numerous awards including the National Book Award for his book “Challenger Deep” and the Florida Teen Reads Award in 2019 for his book “Dry.”

“I’ve read his [Shusterman’s] Scythe series before and highly recommend them to my friends,” junior Alexis Tracton said. “Knowing that he put time away from his schedule to meet with us shows how the connection authors have with their readers really matters.”

Instead of starting with a presentation, Shusterman first opened the floor to students to ask him any questions regarding reading, writing, and everything that goes with it. Students asked a variety of questions including what motivated and inspired him to write his books. 

“[The presentation] felt more like a conversation than a lecture,” junior Brandon Rush said. “He took our questions into account instead of talking about topics no one would be interested in.” 

Along with answering questions, Shusterman discussed his process of conceiving ideas for his stories. Intense social situations and real-world occurrences play an important role throughout his thought process. By thinking of the future in a more sociological way rather than a technological way has helped shape most of Shusterman’s work. 

Shusterman’s New York Times Bestseller book “Unwind” provides a look into the “worst possible compromise” in human society. This story pertains to the government using delinquent teenagers to “unwind” or harvest their organs for the ones who need them most, though those teenagers do live on in a divided state. 

Throughout the thought process of “Unwind,” Shusterman eliminated the idea of a society killing off teenagers and replaced it with the harvesting of their organs due to the unrealistic nature of society simply allowing the government to kill children. 

“You know what makes a story like this work, is if there is a kernel of truth,” Shusterman said. “Just enough that you can see how it can be real.”

Although “Unwind” has some political connotations, Shusterman labels the book as apolitical which he believes draws readers to understand the topic even more. 

“When you take simplistic sides on complex issues, you become part of the problem,” Shusterman said. 

After presenting four times to different English classes, Shusterman sat with the MSD Book Club and a few teachers during their lunch period.  He shared an excerpt from a book he is currently working on, that is soon to be published. 

“I would like to see students reading his books and asking for his books for years to come,” Media Center Director Diana Haneski said. “A good author visit has that type of ripple effect that lasts and that’s why I plan these visits YA authors have a way of connecting with their readers and it’s wonderful to witness.” 

Shusterman’s latest publication is titled “Dry” and explains the story of four teenagers stuck in suburban southern California when the primary source of water from the Colorado River runs out. This real-life “zombie apocalypse” story brings the idea of this fear into an occurrence that could happen today, where neighbors would kill for a simple drop of water. “Dry” and other publications by Neal Shusterman can be found in the MSD media center.