Gabriel Dylan on Themes – Whiteout Blog Tour

Today the wonderful Gabriel Dylan is gracing Amy’s Bookish Life with a guest post all about the themes within his INCREDIBLE debut YA Horror Whiteout (read my full review here) for my stop on the Whiteout Blog Tour. 

Thank you so much to Stripes Books and the lovely Charlie Morris for giving me the chance to be part of this fantastic blog tour. And also to Gabriel for providing me with an incredibly interesting guest post.

Gabriel Dylan on the themes in Whiteout

Every story needs to have themes, whether it’s plain old good versus evil, or more complex, contemporary ones that reflect what’s going on in the world around us. I think, as a writer, themes are almost inherently born into the story you tell, and, for me anyway, they kind of work their way in as I carry out the writing bit.

There ended up being quite a few themes I tried to tackle in Whiteout, and most of them stem from my day job – running a sixth form of four hundred plus students from a huge range of different backgrounds and abilities is never dull! But no matter how hard it is at times, my job really is a privilege. Being in a position to help young people achieve success, or deal with whatever they’re going through is the highlight of my job, and the quirky, wonderful, hilarious, brave students I work with made my job of capturing that teenage voice in Whiteout much easier. (Although I wouldn’t really feed any of my students to a vampire…)

Loss – A lot of the young people go through some tremendous losses – parents, siblings, loved ones, and they deal with them with far more dignity and courage than I ever would have done when I was their age. I’ve had students who have come in to sit final exams on the morning a parent has died, and students who have gone through the most terrible of hardships, and never said a word. Right from the start, that was something I wanted to explore with my two main characters – Charlie, who feels he has nothing to live for due to his tragic home life, and Hanna, who has turned her back on everybody she ever cared about in her quest to solve the riddle of her brother’s death. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been, but I wanted to reflect the loss that so many young people face, and how hard it is to keep going when all the joy has been drained out of the world – but also to try and show that there’s always hope, no matter how grim things get.

Hard being a teenager – Another thing that strikes me is all the pressures that teenagers nowadays face – something again that I would have really struggled with back when I was a teenager, particularly with social media. When I was growing up, it took me a long time to work out my place in the world, and to have the confidence to do what made me happy and not give a damn what anyone else thought. Today it’s so much harder with the internet. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat all seem to be screaming about what everyone else is doing, how great their lives are, and for those on the outside of it all things can be miserable. Part of what I wanted to do with Whiteout was to strip all that away – so you have these characters, from a wide range of different social circles and backgrounds, and they’re stranded in the Alps, with no way to get home, and no social media, or contact with their cliques or support groups. I wanted the characters to fall out, bicker, argue, but at the same time eventually rely on each other for survival, and look beyond their preconceived ideas.

Appearance versus reality – Again, tying in with the above, and informed by some of the characters I deal with at school, I wanted to explore the theme of what lies under the surface, and the capacity of people to change and grow. Whilst in my story Hanna and Charlie try to conquer their inner demons and realise that there are far worse fates than death, some of the other characters go on very different journeys. So Nico, film buff, game geek, object of ridicule to many of the students, realises that life is very different from the virtual shoot outs like Halo or Fortnite, and when he has the chance to act the hero he realises he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. But over the course of the novel he begins to change, and keeps surviving whilst other, seemingly more capable characters surrounding him aren’t so fortunate. Similarly Jordan, who I wanted to represent that cold, cruel bully that we’ve all come across in one place or another, is forced to reassess his prejudices and realises that he is not as brave as he thought he was. All the characters, I hope, have hidden depths, rather than being the disposable teenage sacrifices that we normally see picked off one by one in the horror genre.

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