Laurence Klavan

"Guardians" Interview from

Kayla: Hi Susan and Laurence, and thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. Do you mind telling us a little bit about the Wasteland series?

Laurence: The Wasteland trilogy takes place about thirty years from now. Climate change has thawed the Arctic ice in which the bodies of 20th century Spanish Flu victims had been preserved. The freed virus destroys nearly the entire world population; and the mutating disease—spread by water droplets, even rain— kills off all survivors by the age of nineteen.

Kayla: What can you tell us about Guardians if we haven’t read the first two books?

Susan: In book one, Wasteland, Esther, our heroine, is a rebellious 15-year old who lives in a small town called Prin. She fights against not only the short, brutal life of scavenging and mindless drudgery she is expected to lead, but also the hatred that the other townspeople have for “variants”, mutated outsiders who are half-male and half-female. A stranger with revenge on his mind, Caleb, comes to town… and Esther unexpectedly finds herself falling in love as she joins forces with him to defeat Prin’s ruthless leader. In book two, Wanderers, Esther, Caleb, and their friends are forced to leave home after an earthquake levels the town. After a grueling and deadly journey to the seemingly perfect city of Mundreel, the children meet the last adults living. The grownups treat them as honored guests in their home, a former luxury mall called the District… until Esther discovers their terrible secret. Joining forces with the Insurgents, a gang of street dwellers led by the charismatic Gideon, Esther is finally made the District’s leader. In the final book, Guardians, it turns out that the peace Esther has fought for so bitterly is a short-lived illusion. Two of those closest to her are plotting against her and will stop at nothing to take control of the city and its precious resources. The final book is more than Esther’s struggle to stay alive and save those she loves: it’s a battle between good and evil.

Kayla: What is your favorite development that came along in the series that wasn’t originally there?

Susan: The character of Saith changed a lot. She’s one of the two bad guys in the final book; and at first, we struggled a little bit with her, trying to pin down exactly who she was and what drove her. Because she turns out to be perhaps the most destructive villain in the entire series, we had always thought of Saith as being a peer of Esther’s: at least fifteen or sixteen. But halfway through the first draft, we suddenly thought, “what if Saith were a little girl?” Ageing her down to nine suddenly changed everything: it made the fact that Esther feels sorry for her and takes her in so much more believable. And her climb to power is all the more shocking because she comes across as a young, innocent child. It also made her bad behavior not only disturbing but tragic: you can see her as someone who’s very spoiled, someone who’s never had anyone to take care of her or teach her anything but terrible lessons.

Kayla: What do you think sets the Wasteland trilogy apart from other young adult novels?

Susan: One thing we always wanted was to create a protagonist who wasn’t initially a heroine or a warrior or a leader in any way, but a flawed and ordinary person who ultimately grows into those roles over the course of the series. Esther starts off as a shirker, someone who’s rebellious just for the sake of fighting with her older sister and not pulling her weight. Even though she’s likeable, she’s also irresponsible and frankly kind of immature. Even throughout the final book, Esther makes constant mistakes because she’s headstrong, impulsive, and a little too emotional. She means well and is a loyal friend, but she screws up constantly. Yet because of that, she eventually comes to realize what’s worth fighting for, whom to trust, and how to rally the people around her. Over the course of three books, she is forced to dig down deep and that’s where she discovers the courage and authority that were there all along. The secret, of course, is love: for not only her best friend and boyfriend, but also those around her. Obviously, the action and romance parts of the story were super important to us; but Esther’s character arc was also something we spent a lot of time on, and we think it’s a little unusual.

Kayla: What was the most fun part of writing the series with another person?

Laurence: There can be tensions in collaborating with anyone—especially if you’re married!—but there can be a lot of fun, too. The best part is when you come to a roadblock in the story and then you figure it out and fix it together; one person identifies the problem and the other person comes up with a good answer. Neither of you could have done it alone.

Kayla: Do you have any other upcoming works after Guardians that we can look forward to reading?

Laurence: I have a collection of short stories out, “The Family Unit and Other Fantasies,” from a publisher called Chizine. It’s full of strange stories, but for adults. Susan and I are also working on a new series and are just about to send something to our agents. So we should know soon whether it’ll be upcoming...or outgoing.

Story Behind the Story of "The Family Unit and Other Fantasies," from the blog,

The collection came about because of fear. Most of the stories were inspired by my dread, anxiety, and unease after 9/​11.

In November of 2001, my then-girlfriend, now-wife, Susan Kim, and I rented an apartment ninety miles north of New York City. We intended to use it as a kind of bomb shelter where we would flee on weekends. It was in a ragged little ranch-house building complex that resembled a nursing home.

When we first came to look at the place, there was a police car parked outside. The super emerged from behind the building, where woods were. He was carrying a shovel on which we could see a small animal twitching. The cop left his car and went with the other man out of our view, into the woods. We then heard a dull pop. When the two men returned, the cop was holding a plastic garbage bag, tied at the top and weighed down at the bottom. He got into his car with it and drove away.

“Rabid woodchuck,” the super said, with a shrug. “Want to see the apartment?”

We barely decorated it, bought just a table, a futon that doubled as a bed and couch, and silverware and cups; it looked like the apartments that terrorists inhabit while hiding in sleeper cells. (One time, we brought Susan’s cats with us, and they were so terrified by all the empty space that they hid in closets or under the futon cover, looking like three cancerous lumps. All have since died.)

Every day and night, the old woman in the next apartment watched “The Sound of Music” and smoked cigarettes; smoke seeped through the thin walls and coated our clothing and hair and was impossible to get out. Other animals—raccoons, skunks—haunted the backyard, baying, foraging for food, and leaving their own bad smells behind. Eventually, the super was fired for selling meth and, upon leaving, abandoned the cats he had owned, which joined the other tormented, keening strays behind the house. One night, I sat on the futon and, in the morning, found a gray paté-like substance splattered on the wall behind it: I had inadvertently crushed to death and smeared a mouse there.

While we were gone, phone messages would be left for the same local boy, telling him where and when his Boy Scout meetings were, messages which he apparently never got (or had gotten years before, when he was still alive; that’s what it felt like). One day, when we walked in, we found that the pipes had burst and scalding hot water had sprayed onto the futon where we would have been sleeping; it had bent and melted the candles we left there and curdled the pages of books open on the floor. The next time, a hive of bees hidden beneath our windowsill outside had been jostled loose, and the place was filled with dying bees which had gotten in and couldn’t find their way out. We cleaned up as many as possible but still awoke with bites all over us and more dying bees everywhere.

We ended up feeling unsafe in the place, as if we had brought the danger with us or, wherever we went, we would always find another threat, and so we moved out.

This was where some of the stories came from. I had lived my adult life in cities, and I was antsy in the “exurbs,” as this area is called in New York. Susan saw and heard my disquiet and suggested, exasperatedly, “Why don’t you just—I don’t know—write a story, or something?” I had been writing books, plays, and other scripts and hadn’t written a short story in years. So I gave it a shot.

I wrote animal stories, family stories, working class stories, some but not all set in a version of the town and apartment, most filled (I found at the end; I didn’t intend it) with the unease I felt there, both inside and out. Some of the stories were discarded, others held for a (I hope) later collection. One title for the book was “Bomb Shelters.” I later chose “’The Family Unit’ and Other Fantasies.”

In the end, maybe it wasn’t just the effects of 9/​11. Since my childhood had been spent in the suburbs, maybe the town reminded me of being little, and that added to the uncanny and disorienting quality the stories ended up having. But like so many things about the experience, I’m not sure about that.

A "Wanderers" blog post from

In the world of the WASTELAND trilogy, the adults are long gone and no one lives past the age of 19. So we asked the authors, Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, what they would do if they could only live to be 19. Read on for their responses!

1. I’d be friends with a lot more people. It’s really easy to decide you hate most of the world and then hang out with only the ones you think are cool or interesting; but then you end up surrounded by friends who are just like you, which gets boring. Besides, most people aren’t all that awful if you give them a chance.

2. That being said, I would also ditch the bad people: the ones who undermine you, talk behind your back, and make you feel lousy. (They know who I’m talking about.)

3. I’d be a lot more honest with my feelings. If you say “I love you” to someone who doesn’t love you back, so what? If someone makes fun of you for showing vulnerability, whose problem is that? Yours or the other person’s? C’mon.

4. I would dance a whole lot more. And I wouldn’t care if anyone laughed at me because again, who cares? You’ll be dead at nineteen!

5. I would say yes to more things. Once, some friends and I were driving along and someone suddenly said, “Hey, how about we drive to Canada?” Because it was a school night, and because I didn’t want to worry my parents, and because I didn’t have any money on me… I said no. I still regret that.

6. I’d have a lot more fun with clothing and would definitely stop worrying about fashion or what’s in. Coolness is something people invented to make themselves feel better than others. Why let that rule your life?

7. I’d be a lot nicer to everyone. I don’t think of myself as a mean person; but I’m pretty sure I hurt people’s feelings mostly because I was trying to be funny, which can run dangerously close to being insensitive.

8. I’d stop obsessing about food and my weight. I’d stop weighing myself every three seconds and screaming at myself if I had a second brownie.

9. This may be extreme: but I think I’d try some kind of team sport. Yeah, radical I know… since I always hated, hated, HATED gym class, this is a pretty big concept. But I think being on a team is actually kind of cool. It makes you get to know people you wouldn’t know otherwise and is a big change of pace from being a cynical loner hanging with your cynical loner friends. And maybe I’d understand I wasn’t as big of an uncoordinated weakling as I always assumed I was, because no one really is. Really.

10. I would NOT go out with a certain guy who will remain nameless. He was brooding and misunderstood and tragic, and he somehow convinced me that his interests and dreams were more interesting and important than mine. I just wouldn’t go there.


11. Get married to know what it’s like. Then get divorced, for the same reason.

12. Have as many different haircuts as possible, since I still have the hair.

13. Go to school just to learn things and not worry about grades.

14. Do things that might be frightening if I thought about them too much (sky dive, bronco bust, luge).

15. Don’t worry about how I look since everyone young is good-looking (or so older people say).

16. Travel to as many places as I can and be unafraid of flying, because, you know, why?

17. Be as open and honest as I can with everyone, including myself—but accept the fact that I still don’t know at all how I feel most of the time.

18. Try to see my family members for who they really are, good and bad, while understanding that I’ll never have any perspective about them, not by nineteen.

19. Try to live to be twenty.

A "Wasteland" Q & A from

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?

Susan: That’s a good question! Weirdly enough, I think dark stories make people feel better and less anxious. There’s something satisfying about following characters you care about through a dark and scary world and seeing how they manage to battle through to a different place. It feels like a real journey in clear terms, through good and evil, in a way that a romance or comedy or everyday drama can’t do. (Not that I’m against romances and comedies and dramas, by the way!)

Laurence: I think there's a lot of concern now about the state of the world and the future, especially among young people. As Susan says, seeing characters battle through bad times and triumph over them helps us cope with those fears. Besides, it makes for a juicier story if things are rotten (and if some characters are, too).

If your book had a theme song, what would it be and why?

Laurence: Since our characters have such short lives and have to make the most of them, I'd choose: "Fifteen" by Taylor Swift..."Forever Young" by Bob Dylan..."Your Life is Now" by John Mellencamp... and "Time" by Pink Floyd.

Susan: Because the world in our book is so torn apart, I immediately think of the primitive energy of early punk, like Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”. And because Esther turns into such a kickass, I’m also reminded of Joan Jett, like “Bad Reputation”.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/​her best friend and why?

Laurence: I think Esther would get along with Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, and Harriet the Spy (though her New York references might confuse Esther, it being the post-apocalypse and everything). Anyone with spunk.

Susan: Definitely Scout! Although I could imagine her really admiring Katniss, too.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?

Susan: Some of my favorites are classics. Lord of the Flies by William Golding is an amazingly suspenseful story that also explores good and evil—all told through a group of schoolboys lost on an island. I read that when I was fourteen and felt like I viewed the world differently afterwards. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is also amazing, in a totally different way. If you love books (and I assume anyone reading this does), what could be worse than a world in which they’ve been outlawed? Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is spooky, sad, and so well-written… I don’t want to give away the hook! I’m going to cheat and mention two dystopian movies that I loved: Children of Men, based on the book by P.D. James, and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

Laurence: I'd add a few more classics: 1984 by George Orwell, which invented so many of the ways people think about dictatorships, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which predicted test tube babies, rampant consumerism, and the waning of individuality, among other things. To the movies, I'd add Blade Runner, based on the book by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?

Laurence: Get my rent check back. Cancel my haircut. Apologize to many people, and demand their apologies. And start writing a new book.

Susan: Travel to more places—India, Turkey, Japan, Iceland. Swim in more lakes. Own more cats. Spend more time with the people I care about and stay up all night with them telling jokes and ghost stories. And definitely write more!

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?

Susan: This is by no means a knock on other books out there, but I’d say that our novel stands out for not only its characters, but for the individual journeys they each take. Esther, one of our two heroes, doesn’t start off as being heroic at all; she’s just a normal 15-year old, someone who despises small-town conformity and meaningless rules and basically wants to be left alone with her friends. She fights with her older sister, Sarah, who seems close-minded and controlling, but is ultimately more complicated than that. Our other hero, Caleb, starts from a very dark place, but comes to re-think who his real enemies are and what he needs to do to protect the people he loves. Neither is a superhero; they have flaws like anyone else. But eventually, both come to realize how important it is to act when terrible things are happening around you.

Laurence: It takes place in a world made up only of children and teenagers, and yet the emotions are hopefully as big, deep, and complex as in books about adults. So are the events of the plot, the action, and the romance.

Plus bonus Q! Why did you two decide to write this novel together?

Laurence: Susan and I had really enjoyed writing the graphic novels, City of Spies and Brain Camp, together. While there was some screaming and crying--all by me--we generally found it fun and gratifying. So writing a three-book novel series was a new challenge, one we wanted to see if we could survive both as writers and a couple. The good news is: we did both. Susan is the best collaborator I've ever had, and I've had several.

Susan: We were both writers long before we met each other… in fact, we met at a theater conference, both as playwrights. Writing our first graphic novel together was a little scary at first, but we really liked how they turned out, i.e. distinctly different than if we had written them solo. It calls for insane amounts of communication and trust; and there’s ZERO room for ego. But, honestly, I wanted to collaborate with Laurence because I love the way he tells stories, and I thought it would be fun.

Thanks Laurence and Susan!

About "Brain Camp":

A few years ago, we were at a party where we met an eight-year-old girl, the daughter of an acquaintance and the only kid present. She solemnly told us about the science camp she was attending, which had made her very knowledgeable about levers, pulleys, and chemical reactions. At our suggestion, the three of us filched lollipops from the kitchen: she was thrilled not only by the candy but by the subversive nature of the foray. Then we heard her mother yelling at her later, "We don't eat sugar! And certainly not between meals!" We flashed back to our own childhoods, where during grown-up parties, kids trampolined on guests' coats piled on the bed before retiring to the den to watch TV, play cards, and fight. We attended rustic, unstructured, and vaguely feral summer camps, and were generally left alone by our parents to be bored, messy, and creative. We thought today's parenting could be the subject of a horror novel.

About "City of Spies":

Susan Kim and I had an elderly friend who, as a little girl, chased imaginary Nazi spies in NYC during WWII. As she told us, the years disappeared and, in her face, we saw the child, having this adventure. We thought: what if there had been spies? And she’d caught them? And thwarted the Nazis’ nuclear plans? It was a story so big, so heightened, it could be a graphic novel, a Hitchcock movie for kids.

Our friend didn’t live to see “City of Spies,” but we take comfort in knowing, in our book at least, forever, she helped win the war.

My Works

From Harper Collins - the conclusion to the Wasteland series!

Who will survive the Wasteland?

"Action packed, page turning suspense. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a thickening plot and high adrenaline rushes."

"Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan have woven an intricate & breathtakingly sad future in this breakout dystopian series."

"I am hooked...I highly enjoyed the storyline in this book."

"A gripping dystopian trilogy that always had me reading as fast as I could to see what was going to happen next. There continues to be a ton of action in the book, so you never quite know what to expect....The plot was thrilling and full of tense moments and exciting twists...Definitely recommended for fans of science fiction and dystopias, as well as those who enjoy action and adventure."

A new short story collection, from Chizine!

"Klavan’s first collection hark[s] back to stories popular a generation ago, involving a world much like our own but creepier, curated by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling."
--Toronto Star

"The stories in “The Family Unit” are sure to make the reader squirm and Klavan would not have it any other way... “The Family Unit” is the poetry of the off-kilter mind that shockingly illuminates the weird world that surrounds us...There was not one story that I did not like."

"A playwright, graphic novelist, and mystery writer, Laurence Klavan has long enthralled audiences with his extraordinarily fertile imagination, insight, and style. He is also an admired short-story writer. The Family Unit brings together his best work, reminding us of the pleasure of unplugging, putting your feet up, and living someone else's life for a while."
—T.J. Stiles, author of the Pulitzer-winning The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Custer's Trials: A Life on the New Frontier of America

"I have this secret addiction to the short stories of Laurence Klavan, which sneak up on me at odd moments in little magazines and small presses. Attention, all! Give these stories big magazines and big presses. They are full of unexpected joys and always leave me feeling terribly uneasy and blissfully satisfied."
--John Guare, Tony Award-winning author of Six Degrees of Separation and The House of Blue Leaves

"These are wonderfully strange tales – cunningly written – eerie and satiric by turn – often evoking tremendous pathos."
--David Greenspan, five-time Obie Award-winning author of The Myopia

"Disturbing, surprising, and unflinchingly intimate, Laurence Klavan’s stories make the mundane bizarre and are absolutely engrossing."
--Danica Novgorodoff, author of The Undertaking of Lily Chen

"Laurence Klavan knows all too well that the world is changing too fast to offer us much in the way of shelter. To remind us of this, he’s written an impressive collection of stories—some playful, others tender or sobering, all of them shrewd and surprising and wise."
---John Dalton, author of The Inverted Forest and Heaven Lake

"Laurence Klavan uncovers the places you didn't know exist, the gaps between everyday life and existential horror, where the disconnect between reality and the weird operates its quiet and subtle magic."
--Maxim Jakubowski, Editor and Author

"A masterful, unnervingly funny collection set in a society with no place to hide: in other words, our own."
--Irina Reyn, author of What Happened to Anna K. and The Imperial Wife

"Laurence Klavan’s The Family Unit and Other Fantasies rides a rush of paranoid anxiety—and manages to induce a great deal of it, too...Impending doom is the genre...Reminiscent of Rod Serling...What shines through, powerfully, in these stories is the simple reality that the weirdest things happen the closest to home."

The "Wasteland" series continues...

Life ends at nineteen.
Try to get there.

"Harrowing...Well-rounded Esther is a brave, compelling hero...The book offers a tantalizing glimpse of the origin of this future populated only by savage teens..."

"Interestingly enough, Kim and Klavan provide the most idiosyncratic social formation in a sort of cross-“racial,” queer relationship, suggesting the need for an alternative kinship to help establish the possibility of a future, however guarded or limited it may be...A must read for fans of the paranormal/ fantasy/ romance/ young adult fiction genres."

"Great book, great story. Would I recommend Wanderers? Yes. Do I look forward to the next book in the series? You bet."

"I loved getting back into this dystopian world, because I really enjoyed Wasteland. The world-building in this series is great, and there's a whole lot of new stuff in this one...I don't want to give anything away so I won't say any more about it. But I definitely enjoyed this book."

"This was a great second book in a series that continues to grasp the reader until the very end. I'm interested to see where the next book will lead and what might happen. Definitely recommended for fans of science fiction and dystopias, as well as those who enjoy action and adventure."

"This was a solid continuation of a unique story with excellent world building. I look forward to seeing what the series finale has in store."

"Thrilling. Will have readers glued and guessing what to expect at each turn of the page. Thrown in are several plot twist that will unquestionably leave readers gasping."

The paperback is now on sale from Harper Collins

At fifteen, the citizens of Prin marry.
At seventeen, they reproduce.
And at nineteen, they die.

Esther is fifteen.
She has four years left.

"A Lord of the Flies for future generations, Wasteland is an irresistible and complex novel that I just couldn’t put down.”
--Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author

"Kim and Klavan’s world-building enticingly trickles through the brutal, fast-paced, multilayered plot, which is fueled by a sweet romance between brooding Caleb and spunky Esther and plenty of mysteries...The first in a planned trilogy, Wasteland raises plenty of captivating questions and doesn’t shortchange readers on satisfying answers."
— Booklist

" Once I picked this up, I couldn't put it down....Wasteland is a thrilling novel with twists and turns around every crumbling corner, romance in unexpected places, and cliffhangers that are sure to have you begging for more."

"A fast-paced and emotionally filled novel transforms into a winner for me. The two authors really know how to convey their characters' feelings and to fill the plot with multiple twists and turns. A great read for anytime of day, Wasteland has the potential to be a great series."

" Wasteland is action packed, but it also features a lot of character growth and emotion....[A] well-written dark world with surprising twists at every turn... I didn't know what was going to happen next....The ending and some of the twists are enough to break your heart. "

"Captivating...The premise of Wasteland is actually pretty cool....I recommend Wasteland to readers of post-apocalyptic novels."

"This really was a very intriguing story. It was well done and very different from other dystopians I have read...I loved the world that the authors created."

"Kim and Klavan have given us a story that is fast-paced with great character development....The surprises are many...The authors will soon present us with the second in this trilogy. I, for one, can't wait."

" I truly loved this story! I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. So unpredictable! Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan are master plotters. This book was good!"
--Millie D's

"Addicting. A great twist to the story...A straight through action packed ride."

"Great storytelling...Highly compelling characters...This first in a trilogy is a great way to start it off."

"Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan make a great writing team...Wasteland is a good start to this new young adult series."

"Dystopian at its best with vivid world-building, Wasteland is awesome...A great story that can capture any reader's imagination."

"I would recommend this book...It flew by because I just couldn't stop reading."

"This story is full of twists and turns and will surprise you even when you expect to be surprised. I would recommend this book to anybody who loves adventure stories with a great setting, storyline, protagonist, and antagonist."

"I very much enjoyed every moment of Wasteland...I anxiously await the next book in this trilogy by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan."

"Expertly plotted."

"Discover the treasure of Wasteland...Five Stars...You have to read this...This book is a must read for fans of a dystopia based not on games of chance...This is a dystopian which makes the reader think about [what] he or she is reading."

First Second Graphic Novel August 2010
Square Fish Edition 2015
Junior Library Guild Selection
Scholastic Book Fair Selection
Chosen One of 2010's Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens by the American Library Association
Chosen One of 2010's Best New Comics for Teens by Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal
Chosen for the Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List by the Texas Library Association
Chosen as one of 2013's Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

"Smart, disgusting fun...sly social commentary with a fizzy dash of stomach-lurching horror."
--Kirkus Reviews

"A throwback to the kind of paranoia that 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Stepford Wives' capitalized on...Kim and Klavan, who balanced adventure and kids' social issues so well in City of Spies (2010), do the same in another well-rounded adventure here, as the far-out (and kind of gross) climax mixes with genuine insight into dealing with parents, fitting into a new crowd, and handling the pressures of performance."

"A quick and quirky graphic novel...A fun story--illustrated with excellent full-color artwork."
--School Library Journal

"[A] moody, paranoiac fantasy chiller...A rollicking rollercoaster scary story...Dark, seditious and creepily effective, this is a thriller with a bark and a bite that will satisfy the most demanding teen reader or aged savant, rendered in a loose and beguiling manner that easily combines innocent charm with clinical precision."

"An undeniable nudge (resounding smack?) at all the preposterous things parents are willing to do to give their children any small step up on the ever-ridiculous road to so-called achievement..."
--Book Dragon blog

"This book would be an excellent, unqualified recommendation for anyone who wants to get a young person into comics... [B]ut it still has the power to entertain the older and more jaded among us. That's the kids' book's secret weapon: everybody was a kid once."

"It’s a fast read, slick and enjoyable, and when I was twelve I would have carried it around in my arms like a teddy bear...If 'Brain Camp'’s for kids, kids got cooler while I was away.”
- Matt Brown,

"For any parent, teacher, or librarian who has ever wanted to recommend a graphic novel to a unique and exceptional student who stands out from the crowd, Brain Camp might just be your best bet."
--Katie's Korner, Graphic Novel Reviews for Schools and Libraries

"Deliciously gross. Reminiscent of those scary stories you like to share around the bonfire, you can't go wrong with this sweetly sadistic summer camp chiller."

"An appealing graphic novel, with good, anti-heroic protagonists and engaging artwork...Fun, if creepy."

"It's creepy stuff, made all the more chilling by tapping into those teenage fears that the world is out to get you, and authority figures—including parents—don’t have your best interests at heart...A compelling story that manages to tap into our memories of teen angst, and probably even strikes a nerve with actual teens today."

"It's a good briskly-paced read and I think Hicks' art is a great complement to the writing. Think of it as a "popcorn" movie -- a wacky, kind of scary thriller."

"Creepy and enjoyable. I had a great read with it and like any good Twilight Zone episode it has an ending with a twist."

"Lots of fun..The words and art work together perfectly to tell a really good story."

"It’s a great treat of a story...The teen leads are very likable and this should be a popular pick for teen librarians to show to readers..."
--Good Comics for Kids blog (School Library Journal)

"Wonderfully creepy story...A perfect entrance point to the world of comics and graphic novels."

"I love BRAIN CAMP...Complete with camp antics, a wee bit of romance, conspiring adults and plenty of aliens, BRAIN CAMP is a fun, quick read."

"Utterly and wonderfully bizarre...This book is really funny with just the right amount of creepy. It keeps you guessing and confused up until, you know, your mind is blown...The artwork is fantastic...This is a perfect summer read and I highly recommend checking it out."

"[A] terrifying take on everyone's favorite school break."
--RT Book Reviews

"[A] delightfully creepy suspense story with just the right amount of intrigue to keep its target teen audience on the edge of their seats."

"[A] smartly-written, fast-paced thriller of a story...Nice, understated satire of the labels and expectations that we place on kids and teens...[A] wonderful, short read that leaves out the boring bits and gives its readers the stuff they came for."

"I bought this book because of Hicks’ art, but loved the story Kim and Klavan crafted."

"Grabs readers by the throat. This is a sidesplitting, teen-oriented mystery read."

"This is an excellent one! The premise is super creepy, the points about love and companionship are poignant. I wish there was a sequel. Really great read for the summer!"

"The really intriguing part of this book [is] the feeling it carries of its characters being unacceptable to their families as they are. Love is not unconditional for the children who are sent to Camp Fielding. In the course of the book, we learn just how conditional it is. [It's] the mood that makes readers feel that these children are being thrown to the wolves by the adults who are supposed to love them simply because they can't conform to a standard of achievement that makes Brain Camp striking."

"At times it's a bit gross, other times it's hilarious. Read it, read it. Oh and read it."

"It's a really good comic and I really recommend it! It's kinda like Detentionaire meets the Hunger Games."

"Fantastic, suspenseful and quite clever. It’s also very creepy and weird (which is a great draw for me)....This book is the total package...I can’t wait to read more books from these guys!"

"Brain Camp was a fun, gross, terrifying, and exciting adventure geared toward older children and teens, though still a great read for just about anyone who's interested."

"This book was just plain sci-fi fun. I would guess this book is aimed at the middle grade crowd, but this middle-age woman thoroughly enjoyed it."

"Brain Camp is NOT for the faint of heart, and certainly is for those who love horror and sci-fi movies! There is some really gross stuff in here (but it's a good story)."

"Fabulous creepiness!"

"One would be mistaken for thinking that this is just a simple zombie adventure ends up being a far more engaging and unique affair. I give it a “Highly Suggested” rating, and if you’re going to recommend it for your kid, make sure you’re not a domineering dick first."

First Second Books Graphic Novel May 2010
One of the Best Books of the Year for Children--
Scripps Howard News Service
Chosen for the Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List by the Texas Library Association

"A terrific adventure story...Rip-roaring fun."
--Publishers Weekly (starred)

"Told with seat-of-the-pants, graphic-novel immediacy, [this] is an artful melding of jewel-box illustration with noir atmosphere--Tintin directed by Hitchcock. Still, the story's slant is all its own...The snappy, uncluttered tale has a rousing visual flow and plot depth on a variety of fronts. Plus, the Nazis wind up swimming with the fishes. Pow! Pow! Pow!"
--Kirkus Reviews

"A sophisticated spin on classic boys' adventure...A tale filled not only with a thrilling sense of excitement but also with a child's longing for a grown-up to believe in."
--Booklist (Starred)

"A strong book...The plot is engaging...the tale has an authentic feel."
--School Library Journal

"A story with a lot more depth and emotion than I expected or even imagined...It's truly a beautiful, moving book. For both Young Adults and old ones. And it's got tons of super-heroics and spy smashing, too."

"[A] very winning graphic novel...A most satisfying read that I hope receives many accolades as the year continues."

"Kim and Klavan's story is thrilling, while the illustrations by Pascal Dizin (Hilary Sycamore added the color) pay wonderful homage to Herge's "Tintin" books."
--Seattle Times

"An exciting story in which two kids' spunk and ingenuity triumph over the adult bad guys...I look forward to seeing this team together again."
--Detroit News

"[An] excellent graphic novel—it has a great plot, interesting characters and fantastic artwork."

"It is hard to know which to praise more in 'City of Spies,' the grand, old-fashioned story crafted by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, or the enchanting artwork by Pascal Dizin...The tale of Nazi spies in New York is full of a Golden-Age Hollywood ambiance, like some lost Hitchcock or Hawks film. Mixing romance, humor, suspense, and pathos, this graphic novel should be handed out to every young reader you know—after you’ve enjoyed it yourself."
--Asimov's Science Fiction

"[A] charming yarn...Dizin's bright, clean palette pops in this pitch-perfect portrait of wartime Gotham."
--AM New York

"Page-turning entertainment...A pleasant surprise."
--100 Scope Notes blog

"A winner...solid thrills...The book really worked on all levels for me."
--Comics Waiting Room 4.0 blog

"[A] wonderful story that brings back the olden days of comics...Recommended..." blog

"A wonderfully rich, action-packed story told in a classic style that is well-worth reading."

Ballantine Hardcover February 2004
Ballantine Paperback February 2005
Available as an Audiobook from Sound Library

"A witty spoof...Klavan gleefully slices and dices every known specimen of the Hollywood film trade...Worth its weight in popcorn."
--Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

"Highly entertaining...Klavan knows his turf...Sure to put a smile on any movie buff's lips."
--Leonard Maltin

"Brimming with engaging tidbits of movie trivia...This tongue-in-cheek whodunit marks the long overdue second coming of a gifted novelist."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A lightning-paced, high-concept thriller...Astonishingly inventive...One of the best mysteries of the year!"
--Tess Gerritsen

"Something completely different...What a relief to read a murder mystery that does not feature a bullet-munching, tough-as-nails cop or private detective and a dame to kill for..."
--Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ballantine Hardcover March 2005
Ballantine Paperback May 2006
Available as an Audiobook from Sound Library

"Hilarious...[A] wholly entertaining sequel: a frenzied encore for suspense fans and an edifying indulgence for seasoned film buffs."
--Publishers Weekly

"Hard-boiled nerd Roy Milano is back in another screwball adventure...Enough delightful insanity to please fans of silly suspense (from Jonathan Lethem to Kinky Friedman.)"

"Another madcap adventure for the self-described 'trivial man'...Very funny...with a cast and crew of zanies."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Movie buffs will absolutely gorge on this smorgasbord of arcane silver screen trivia; THE SHOOTING SCRIPT is a sparkling, fast-paced jewel of a novel."
--Katherine Neville, author of The Eight

"Great fun and full of movie trivia...Klavan should have an endless supply of material for novels to come."
--Mystery Scene

"Fast action...Fun to read...Second in an up-and-coming mystery series tailor-made for film history buffs and movie lovers alike. Milano is a comic cross between a Dashiell Hammett gumshoe and a Woody Allen schlemiel."
--The Strand magazine

"Packed with old-movie references, this sequel to 'The Cutting Room' is a delicious read for movie and mystery fans."
--Chronogram magazine

"A cast of oddball characters scramble to get their hands on a copy of a lost Jerry Lewis film...The action moves at a crazy clip from New York City to L.A. to Amsterdam to upstate New York, with stops in Maine and Philadelphia. The digs at Hollywood are fun, and the hero's habit of reciting movie trivia when he's nervous is not only endearing, it's informative."
--Romantic Times magazine

Premiered at New York's Vineyard Theater
Winner of two Obie Awards, and Seven Drama Desk nominations including Best Book and Lyrics to a Musical, A Second-Place Best Musical nod from the New York Drama Critics Circle, and an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Best Musical
Produced by Philadephia's Wilma Theater: Winner of two Barrymore Awards
Published by Dramatists Play Service
Recorded by Fynesworth Alley
Produced by London's Finborough Theatre 2011: Nominated for Five Offie (Off West End) Awards, including Best Production

"A delight! First-rate! A classy treat! A new work that both honors the original and gives it a sternly funny stage life of its own."
--The New York Times

"Wonderful! A must-see! So perfectly done it is almost unfair to the rackety hacks who infest our musical theater."
--Michael Feingold, Village Voice

"Enchanting! Exquisite! A wholly original piece of musical theater!"
--Linda Winer, Newsday

"Fresh and endearing! As original as it is impudent! The show has jaunty music by Polly Pen and a jazzy text by Laurence Klavan."
--John Simon, New York Magazine

"An evening to treasure--a funny, touching, musically sumptuous jewel that speaks with equal ease to mind and heart."
--Philadelphia Inquirer

“This enchanting, boutique chamber musical is in every way a winner, not to be missed. It’s glorious theater and glorious music.”
--San Diego North County Times

"An absolute charmer...Entices from the first note."
--Denver Post

"Whether you are a fan of Soviet satire and Soviet films of the 20s or not matters not a bit to delight in Polly Pen and Laurence Klavan's faithful but oh so witty rendering of 'Bed and Sofa'...A shower of five stars for all."
--British Theatre Guide

"A startlingly honest and wonderfully expressive musical version of a lost art form..."
--London Fringe Review

"Polly Pen and Laurence Klavan’s quirky show is both original and unusual."
--Daily Express (UK)

"Marvelously inventive." (London)

Premiered at Philadelphia's Wilma Theater
Published by Dramatists Play Service

"A lively, funny, and very smart musical...Klavan's clever book is well matched by Pen's music."

"An inventive musical...features Pen's explosive score and Klavan's exceptional book..."
--Philadelphia Weekly

"An offbeat, original, and enjoyable musical...[A] witty and knowing book...concise and imaginative songs."
--Philadelphia Inquirer

"A breathtaking 90-minute chamber musical...Cannot help but redefine the artistic boundaries of the musical theater."
--Reading Eagle

Premiered at New York's Ensemble Studio Theatre
Produced by Texas' Renaissance Guild Theater
Published by Dramatists Play Service

"Positively off-the-wall...Bizarre, funny...[A] surreal comedy lampooning fairy-tale-perfect love and the mindless hype of TV news...[A] mad, manic slap at hype."
--San Antonio Express-News

Premiered at New York's Manhattan Punch Line Theater
Produced by Philadelphia's People's Light and Theater Co.
Published by Dramatists Play Service

"A wonderful example of the one-act breed."
--The New York Times

"Slapstick, verbal burlesque."
--Village Voice

Premiered at New York's Manhattan Punch Line Theater
Published by Dramatists Play Service
The most produced short play in American high schools 2015-2016, according to Educational Theatre Association's Dramatics Magazine

"A wonderful piece for actors."
--New York Daily News

"A very funny and astute parable about the inability to break out of humdrum routine."
--The Bergen Record

Premiered at New York's Manhattan Punch Line Theater
Produced by New York's American Jewish Theater
Published by Dramatists Play Service

"Very funny lines...We learn that dying is no excuse to stop laughing."
--D. J. R. Bruckner, The New York Times

"Most entertaining...The ghosts...are a mischievious band."
--Mel Gussow, The New York Times

"Charm and dizzy surrealism."
--Back Stage

Premiered at New York's Manhattan Punch Line Theater
Published by Dramatists Play Service

"A stunning forty-five minute version of LA RONDE...[An] affecting melding of slyness and conviction...Each time they open their mouths, the characters reveal themselves, each with a poetic idiom of longing and cynicism."
--Village Voice

Premiered at Philadelphia's Festival Theater for New Plays
Produced by New York's Working Theater
Published by Dramatists Play Service


Selected Works

Who will survive the Wasteland? The series comes to an end.
A debut collection--fantastical stories set in this jittery, polarized, increasingly impersonal age.
Life ends at nineteen. Try to get there. The Wasteland saga continues.
Esther is fifteen. She has four years left.
At Camp Fielding, get higher SAT scores, a monster IQ, and your parents' love and approval. What have you got to lose? Only your mind...and maybe your life.
In New York City, during the summer of 1942, eleven-year-old Evelyn Weiss will grow up, find a new family, and, in the process, save the world.
CLICK TITLE TO READ AN EXCERPT! Movie geek-turned-detective Roy Milano chases the long-lost complete print of Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons."
Roy returns to look for Jerry Lewis' notorious, never-released film, "The Day the Clown Cried."
Written with composer Polly Pen, a musical based on a notorious Russian silent film.
The newest collaboration with Polly Pen musicalizes novelist Henry James' disastrous foray into theater writing.
Lonely, mixed-up Mona Kale is accused of killing the two "perfect lovers" of her high school years.
Every potential lover Louise might ever have had shows up at her apartment one day.
A suburban family must read from scripts--until they meet a woman who wants to improvise.
At his grandfather's deathbed, the ghosts of Gilbert's relatives arrive to debunk the old man's myth.
A harsh but compassionate comedy, set in a recession, about four people pursuing the wrong partners.
Yuppie Randolph Hackmeat sees his entire life go by in one dizzying day.