Evansville, IL Courier & Press

By Susan Carpenter

"From mouths of babes onto pages of novels"

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ life hasn’t changed much in the two years she’s been a published author. Her mother still makes her do the dishes. He teachers don’t cut her any slack on homework.

"I’m still a high school teen," sighed the young fiction writer, who has two published vampire novels to her credit.

The Concord, Mass., 16-year-old has been writing full-length works of juvenile fiction since she was 12. Nearly two dozen remain in three-ring binders on her bedroom shelves. But in 1998, she got her lucky break. Working with an English teacher who was also a literary agent, she won a contract with Delacorte Press in New York for "In the Forests of the Night" (1999) and "Demon in my View" (2000). Another pair are due next year.

Atwater-Rhodes is part of a growing group of teens writing novels, confessionals and nonfiction for major publishing houses competing in a booming juvenile book market. Published teen-written books are nothing new, but editors at several publishing houses agree the number is up this year. In June, leading publishers released "Pure" (Grove Atlantic, $13), an angst-ridden confessional by 19-year-old Rebecca Ray, who dropped out of high school at age 16, "Katie.com" (Dutton, $20), 17-year-old Katherine Tarbox’s personal account of online sexual victimization; and Atwater-Rhodes’ "Demon in my View."

More books are due out in the fall from adolescent unknowns, including "Teen Angst? Naaah…" (Free Spirit Publishing, $13), a collection of essays by Ned Vizzini, a 19-year-old New Yorker who’s being marketed as a youthful David Sedaris, and "Wall Street Wizard" (Simon & Schuster, $16), by 18-year-old Jay Liebowitz of Moorpark.

"There is a much larger market for teen books right now, so in a larger market, you’re pulling from more sources," said David Gale, editorial director of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. "Teenage writing is one of those sources."

Gale approached Liebowitz about writing a book after reading a 1998 New York Times profile about the 17-year-old whiz kid and his investment Web site, http://www.StreetWhiz.com. Liebowitz had no prior writing credits, but that didn’t concern Gale. (The Web site still exists but has been transformed into an electronic e-mail business news service and ad for his coming book.)

"I could see the scope of his knowledge about investing and the clarity of his writing from [his Web site]," Gale said. Liebowitz’s manuscript, which he wrote in three months last summer between semesters at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, "didn’t need much work at all."

"The thing I love about it is it’s written [in] a teenager’s voice," Gale said, "and he’s very adamant that there’s only one way to do anything. That’s the way teenagers think. I just think kids are gonna relate to it because the voice is so true."

Liebowitz’s youth will be one of the book’s selling points, Gale said.