Jenny Downham: 'Writing from the point of view of someone impulsive is enormously freeing'

Jenny Downham: 'Writing from the point of view of someone impulsive is enormously freeing'

Jenny Downham answers our questions about her latest YA novel, Furious Thing (David Fickling Books), which has been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2020.


1. Can you sum up Furious Thing in one sentence?

There are many ways a girl’s sense of self can be whittled away — this book explores what happens when one girl fights back. 

2. What inspired Furious Thing?

I wanted to write about a teenager who trusts her own instincts about what’s right and wrong, despite what others are telling her. I wanted to write a book that contains love and laughter, despite the challenging subject matter. Lexi’s funny, brave and hopelessly in love as well as being someone with a furious temper.  

3. Which character in the book is your favourite?

Lexi! I loved writing her because she’s so impulsive — not academic or popular, wildly rude, badly behaved and always in trouble. Writing from the point of view of someone who doesn’t consider outcomes before they act is enormously freeing. 

4. What does being on this year’s YA Book Prize shortlist mean to you?

It’s a huge honour. I am humbled to be chosen.

5. What's the best thing about writing for young adults?

You get to meet enthusiastic, intelligent and lovely young readers! Also, in terms of storytelling, young people are on the cusp of adulthood and yet are boundaried by gatekeepers — so many stories are to be found in that simple equation.

6. What was your favourite book as a teenager?

Z for Zachariah by Robert C O’Brien — a book that contained many difficult things. But sometimes difficult things in stories give a child the courage to deal with a real-life situation and remind them that they’re not alone. 

7. What is your top writing tip?

Carry a notebook everywhere and actively look for stories.  

8. What songs would be on a playlist for Furious Thing?

  • Men Explain Things to me by Tacocat
  • Breakin Dishes by Rhianna
  • You Don’t Own Me by Lesley Gore
  • I’m Not Taking Orders from No One by Sophie Tucker
  • Rosie Strikes Back by Rosanne Cash
  • Bust Your Windows by Jazmine Sullivan

9. Who would you cast in a film version of Furious Thing?

An unknown British actress to play 15-year-old Lexi. Michael Fassbender to play her step-dad. Carey Mulligan for Mum.

10. Which book would you recommend to someone who enjoyed the book?

Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly. A wise and fascinating book that explores female anger as a tool for positive change.

Find out more about Furious Thing by Jenny Downham and read the first chapter of the book on the YA Book Prize website.​​