Sophie talks to us about using fiction as a way of encouraging young adult readers to think about bigger issues...
Our Sister, Again is a contemporary story of a family living in a small Hebridean community, and an organisation that uses technology and social media to try and replace what has been lost when a person dies.
Perfect for YA readers ages 10+, it's an intriguing, thoughtful and poignant exploration of what makes us, us; exploring issues and questions around grief, identity, and family with a deft and gentle touch.
This fictional story tackles these issues for young adults in a way that is easy to read and engaging; gently encouraging thoughtful exploration of the issues at hand, including:
- The progression of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- What makes consciousness, and humanity?
- Privacy and permission - the ethics of AI and social media, and consequences we may not even yet comprehend in giving away so much of ourselves to these platforms
- Grief and the process of letting go in the age of social media
- The Hebridean setting - a contained island community inspired by Sophie’s own highlands upbringing, and life on Ibiza
- An SFF novel in a rural setting, in contrast to most SFF which is most often city based
YA Author Sophie Cameron Says...
The inspiration behind Our Sister, Again...
A few years ago, I went to a talk at the Edinburgh International Science Festival titled ‘What is the soul?’ I would have thought that question was more fitting for a panel about philosophy or religion than science, but the experts taking part explored whether the soul is part of our physical body, something separate from it, if it exists at all, and if so, if it could ever be replicated in machines.
That talk was partly the inspiration for my new book, Our Sister, Again. It’s the story of a family on a remote Scottish island who lost their oldest daughter, Flora, to a short illness 3 years ago, and who are given the chance to have her back in the form of an ultra-realistic robot.
A bit about the story...
At first, Flora’s younger sisters Isla and Una are convinced that this AI replica really is exactly like the girl they remember, but as time goes on the differences between the human version of Flora and her mechanic replacement become more and more obvious.
Eventually, both Flora and her family are forced to question if she can be considered a person at all.
Tackling difficult questions with young adult fiction writing...
These are pretty big questions for anyone to consider, especially younger readers. But children’s literature has always tackled important issues, from religion and bereavement to war and climate change.
When I’m thinking about the themes or messages that I’d like a story to convey, the age of the reader doesn’t really come to mind at all. There will of course be differences in content, register and pacing, but as a child, a lot of my favourite authors (as well as delivering an amazing story) gave their young readers the opportunity to think about big questions – books like Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, or Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
There will be some readers who take the narrative at face value, and that’s fine too. But for me, much of the best children’s literature trusts its younger readers and respects their curiosity and intelligence.
Of course, neither Our Sister, Again nor I have any answers to the question of what makes us human and whether AI should have rights! But these are issues that are sure to become more pressing in the next few decades, and I hope that Flora, Isla and Una’s story gets some of its young readers thinking about them – and, most importantly, that they enjoy the sisters’ adventure along the way.
About the Author: Sophie Cameron
Sophie Cameron is a YA and MG author from the Scottish Highlands.
She studied French and Comparative Literature at the University of Edinburgh and has a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University.
Her debut novel Out of the Blue was nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2019.
She lives in Spain with her family.
Our Sister Again, by Sophie Cameron, is out now in paperback (£7.99, Little Tiger Press Group, ISBN 9781788953917)
“A powerful exploration of grief, technology and what makes us human, Our Sister, Again skilfully combines warm-hearted contemporary writing with a sci-fi twist to create a thought-provoking, thrilling read” – Lucy Powrie, author of THE PAPER & HEARTS SOCIETY series.