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Monica Hesse Books In Order

Publication Order of Stray Books

Stray (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Burn (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Girl in the Blue Coat (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
American Fire (2017) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Monica Hesse is a journalist and novelist best known for the writing of young adult and historical fiction, the most popular of which is Girl in the Blue Coat. She is also the author of the popular Stray series of novels. She is an accomplished journalist that has worked at for the Washington Post writing feature stories covering White House state dinners, Academy Awards ceremonies, political campaigns, dog shows, and royal weddings and some that are a mish mash of all the above. In addition to penning the feature stories for the Post, she has appeared on NPR, Fox, CSPAN, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC to talk about a range of societal issues. Hesse has won several awards for her work over the years the most significant being the James Beard and Livingstone Awards. Apart from her writing duties, Monica is the host of a Washington Post online chat program known as Web Hostess. She currently lives in Washington D.C with her husband and their dog.

Monica Hesse is a self-effacing mid-thirties writer credited with pulling back the Washington Post Style section from the brink, in the face of shrinking staff and shortened stories. What makes her journalistic writing and her novels so unique is that she has a talent for writing delightful prose even for subjects that may be sensitive or bizarre. She has written about a polyamory convention, overpriced enviro-gadgets, the death of facts, and even about a wrestling bout between a woman and an alligator. Hesse never had an interest in journalism growing up; though with a father that was a writing professor at Illinois State, it is no wonder that some of that rubbed off on the impressionable young Monica. Nonetheless, she would get into writing when she attended the Bryn Mawr all female college in Philadelphia, where she took a class in feature writing and became a columnist for the school magazine.

It was during her junior year that she would get her first shot at serious writing, when she got an internship at AARP Magazine. She would later join the magazine fulltime in 2003, when the publisher gave her a job as a fact checker. By the time she turned 23, she had moved from fact checking to feature writer of the Big 5-0 column where she wrote the stories of celebrities that were turning fifty. Her knack for writing about anything continued to show all through her time at the magazine as she could write about a bar scene even though she was no drinker, or about fifty year olds while she was only 23. With regard to fiction, she has attended a non-fiction class taught by Laura Blumenfeld at Johns Hopkins. Hesse is also a very observant writer and seems to just knows the type of story that would capture an audience’s imagination.

Monica Hesse asserts that the fact that she has training in both journalistic and fiction writing is what makes her such a good writer, as the two fields tend to complement each other. In her historical fiction works such as Girl in the Blue Coat and American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, Hesse excellently paces the narrative, building the tension before releasing it. The same can be said in her science fiction works of Stray and its Sequel Burn which follow the same principles. While her first novel was a historical fiction, she ventured into science fiction with her Stray series. The Stray series is a dystopic tale with a Washington DC setting that is two parts bizarre notions of how the American foster care system works, and one part romance narrative. The narrative follows unwanted or troubled children that are put into Path a virtual reality where they live as Julian a long dead boy. While the novels are technically science fiction, they have many real life details such as metro stations and romantic flings that make them more grounded in reality. Monica Hesse would get back to writing historical fiction after the publishing of the second of the Stray series, as she asserted that it felt more comfortable given that it was based on research. Having grown up reading The Diary of Anne Frank and been a journalist most of her adult life, the writing of the historical novels comes more easily. Her expertise at checking and re-checking facts and tracking down obscure expert have placed her in good stead in the writing of her historical fiction.

Girl in the Blue Coat is a meticulously researched, intricately plotted, and beautifully written novel about the story love, grief, and bravery in hard times. Set in 1943 Amsterdam, it follows the story of Hanneke, a girl that spends her waking days procuring black market items for a select group of customers, and her nights pretending to be an innocent girl to her parents. Her boyfriend died on the Dutch front lines fighting the Nazis. She tells herself that her illegal work is a form of rebellion against the people that took her boyfriend from her, even as it helps feed her family. While on one of her regular delivery schedules, Mrs. Janssen one of her customers pleads with her to help find a Jewish teenager she had been hiding who had suddenly disappeared from his room. Even as she initially is reluctant to get involved in such a dangerous endeavor, she eventually mellows and is drawn into the web of stunning revelations and mysteries, in which the only way she can get out is by going through.

Stray the first novel in the Stray series is one of Monica Hesse’s best works. It portrays Lona Sixteen Always, a girl that lives a life in virtual reality. Her life is the experiences of Julian a role model boy who represents the ideal for unwanted or troubled children rescued by the government and now on rehabilitation programs. But one day, Lona breaks free of the virtual reality and starts thinking for herself. She also has screen access to Fenn, a familiar boy that she believed had graduated to a higher level of the program. But it seems he did not. Fenn and a few other boys had become rebels to the program and now ask Lona to join them. Life outside the virtual reality world she had grown used to is difficult and strange. Moreover, she has just discovered a secret that may be a threat to all their lives. Could she leave the program and live her life outside the virtual reality?

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