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Thompson shifts to darker young adult dystopia in 'Take Me Tomorrow'

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Kansas author Shannon A. Thompson sets her fourth young adult novel, the thriller ‘Take Me Tomorrow,’ in a grim dystopian America where the State controls the civilian population after blaming a clairvoyant drug called tomo on a revolt that ends in massacre. Drugs, oppressive government and revolution are weighty backdrops for a YA novel about a teenage girl, but Thompson isn’t shy about tackling darker material.

Thompson’s last two novels were the first two books in The Timely Death Trilogy, which are young adult paranormal romance tales with fantasy elements. ‘Death Before Daylight,’ the final book in The Timely Death Trilogy, is scheduled for release in early 2015, but Thompson says ‘Take Me Tomorrow’ is a chance to introduce readers to her darker side.

‘The Timely Death Trilogy is the lightest piece of writing I’ve ever written,’ Thompson says. ‘I generally focus on darker writings, and I wanted to share ‘Take Me Tomorrow’ in order to get a feel for my readers. I want to go back toward darker fiction, and sharing that story is allowing me to prepare my darker fiction while I also focus on releasing the final book of the trilogy. It also shows my readers something else they can look forward to.’

Thompson says a conversation with her father sparked the idea for ‘Take Me Tomorrow.’

‘I’m very passionate about drug use, including the effects of addiction and abuse,’ she says. ‘I have been ever since my mother died from an accidental overdose. At first, I didn’t understand what had happened, so I spent many of my teen years reading everything I could about drugs. … The novel itself was sparked from a single conversation I had with my father in a coffee shop one afternoon. We were discussing what I had learned when the conversation turned toward futuristic drugs. ‘Take Me Tomorrow’ was born.’

‘Take Me Tomorrow’ is told from the first-person point of view of 16-year-old Sophia Gray, a strong-willed protagonist who’s essentially oblivious about the world around her until she meets a mysterious young man on the run named Noah.

‘I think all of my characters are oblivious to an extent,’ Thompson says. ‘I am attracted to situations where characters are oblivious because it forces them to choose between remaining oblivious or to face the truth. To me, actually dealing with the truth of a situation is a very heroic thing to do, especially if that truth destroys your comfort zone or the relationships you’ve held dear to you for your entire life. It changes everything, and it shapes you into someone new entirely.’

Another prominent theme in Thompson’s novels is the struggles her young characters have with their identities and their places in the world.

‘Identity is such an important subject matter, especially for young people, which is probably why I focus on it so heavily,’ Thompson says. ‘Finding yourself is a constant adventure, and it can morph over time, leaving people wandering around in directions they never thought they would go. Because of this, identity is different for everyone, so it’s fascinating to explore that endless array of possibilities – both good and bad.’

While ‘Take Me Tomorrow’ is about Sophia’s journey, the dystopian setting manages to hit close to home: A government that limits freedoms and closely monitors its citizens all in the name of security. The quote from the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ comes to mind: ‘People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.’

‘Looking at the current state of our world – both economically and politically – I have many fears for young people in the future everywhere,’ Thompson says. ‘I’m very involved with politics, but I do try to keep my beliefs to myself. That being said, I do encourage young people to read more about the world from outside sources … sources in other countries, not mainstream media. The first time I ever did this was a life-changer. My history teacher brought me a French history book to flip through, and their stories were almost the stark opposite of what I read in U.S. classrooms. I was hooked.’

If ‘Take Me Tomorrow’ reads like one book in a larger series, it should. Thompson has already written the sequel, but its release will rely on reader response and isn’t set in stone. With 'Take Me Tomorrow,' Thompson admits the urge to go into more detail about key aspects of the plot was difficult to resist, so she tapped her own experience as a youth trying to comprehend a national tragedy.

‘I wanted to show more information on the massacre, but Sophia was very young and still is when the novel takes place, so it didn’t come naturally,’ Thompson says. ‘I thought about 9/11 when I considered the event. I was 10 when that happened, and it took me many years to finally grasp it or understand the importance of the event, but I definitely didn’t understand it when it happened. So I took that approach with Sophia.'

Thompson says the sequel to ‘Take Me Tomorrow,’ titled ‘Take Me Yesterday,’ is written, but its future isn’t part of any tomo-induced vision. It's strictly up to the readers.

‘It answers many questions that readers have had,’ Thompson says. ‘What was the massacre? What are the other regions like? Who is Lyn and what happened to Sophia’s mother? Will Noah and Sophia end up together? But the sequel is completely dependent on whether or not readers want it. Sharing the novel and encouraging others to share it will make the sequel happen.’

Read the Examiner.com 5-star review of 'Take Me Tomorrow' here.

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