Teen Book of the Month: Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist

BookThe Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist by by John Young  | Age category: 13+

Quick-witted, sharp-tongued Connor Lambert won't take it any longer: the bullying, the secrets, and the sympathy. He was diagnosed with cancer aged seven, but he's not dead yet. And he isn't going to let his illness define him.

An unlikely friendship forms between Connor and his former bully, Skeates. The pair set off on an eventful and memorable tour across Scotland- avoiding the police, joy riding and extreme partying. They are desperate to find and reach Connor's dad, an inmate at Shotts prison. But in the mayhem of their escape, Connor has left two things behind - his medication, and the girl who makes living bearable.

Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist is John's debut YA novel. He previously worked as a lawyer but turned his passion to writing, winning the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award in 2013. John and his wife Laura founded and run The Teapot Trust, a children's charity which offers art therapy for children with chronic illness. 

Hear more from John in our Q&A below, or enter our competition to win one of five copies of The Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist!

Q&A with John Young

Did you enjoy writing your debut YA novel?

I began writing when my daughter Verity was receiving chemotherapy. I found escaping into another world to be both cathartic and an experience to cherish. So, despite writing about a subject that was intensely painful to me, writing provided an outlet for my emotion and, surprisingly, a catalyst for humour. I believe that a sick or disabled person needs laughter, mischief, friendship, fun and adventure just as much as, if not more than, anyone else. This sentiment spurred me on to write a story about a seriously ill child’s capacity to live fully rather than focusing on what their illness stops them achieving. I did this by sending our spunky protagonist on a road trip in search of answers, accompanied by the school ‘headcase’, the very person who has no limits.

People say that they have laughed and cried whilst reading Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist – I did too whilst writing it.

What is the best thing about being an author?

Rules destroy creativity. When you’re writing you can do what you want – it’s your book. Writing is one of the few things that liberate us because there are no boundaries, overseers or controllers. No one has the right to say with any credibility that your book ‘should have been this or that’ because it’s your story. The sense of freedom writing gives me is both magical and very special.

It’s truly exciting to create worlds and events that other people see in different ways and it’s a nervous privilege for any writer to have their work read and edited (thank you Sally and Lois).

Writers have to read a lot to perfect their craft and so anything that encourages reading is wonderful. When you’re a writer, lazing about reading a book becomes a productive working day. How cool is that? 

What tips can you give to any aspiring writers?

Buy a bike – bike time is thinking time.

Don’t let fear of failure discourage you from writing (or anything at all). The reality is that creativity is an endless series of failures. It’s natural to feel that unproductive writing or unused writing is somehow wasted. But it’s not – the creative process is beneficial in itself and every word improves your writing skills.

Keep writing no matter how bad you feel because sometimes the hard days produce the best words. Read everything and keep your eyes and ears open for inspiration and nuggets of conversation.

Go to court as an observer, because the courts are where lives are at their limits and real stories are told.

Finally, openly admit you’re a writer and be proud of it; you are the only person in the world who can write your book.



We have 5 copies of Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist to be won - just answer the question below. The competition closes on Thursday 31 May 2018 at 5pm. All entrants must reside in the UK.

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