Nathanael Lessore on Steady For This and funny books for tweens and teens

Steady for This by Nathanael Lessore. Book cover and author photo.

Funny books for teenagers are sometimes in short supply, so we were thrilled to be sent Steady for This by Nathanael Lessore, which was an easy pick for our Macaw boxes. Perfectly pitched for tweens and early teens, this is a hugely entertaining book with real heart, not to mention a fantastic cast of characters that young readers will instantly relate to. We asked author Nathanael Lessore to tell us why he was inspired to write the book and which other funny books for teenagers he recommends you read next.

What inspired you to write Steady for This?

I fell out of love with reading as a teenager in South London. There wasn't much relatable literature, especially in the form of comedies. Stories set in South London are frequently dark and gritty, where in reality my life on an estate was full of laughter and vibrant characters. Writing Steady For This gave me the opportunity to write a sincere, authentic, and hopefully entertaining book that kids like me can relate to in a positive way. 

Are any of the characters or elements of the story based on real people or events?

Growls is very close to how I was growing up. The awkwardness of adolescence and ridiculousness of the situations he finds himself in tend to be true to my life. His voice is mine, and that of various people I grew up with. The scene of him getting stuck in a pushchair in the street happened to me. And other moments, like taking yogurt to the cinema, or accidentally kicking a ball into his face while trying to impress his crush, are things that actually happened to me! I hope these real world experiences keep Growls grounded in reality as a character.

What do you hope young readers will take away from the story and how it unfolds?

Firstly, I hope that they can see themselves and their friends, and families, and communities reflected back at them. And if I can make the reader laugh, or even smile, then that's the biggest takeaway I could hope for. 

I also hope the reader can see the value in a true, open and honest platonic friendship. I see Growls and Shanks as friendship goals; they're openly affectionate with each other and have true, shameless care for one another without building their friendship on bravado. I hope that kids can see their emotional vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness. Through interactions with Mr Rix and Karen, too, Growls' growth comes from shedding the image he's trying to portray, and he finds real joy in being himself. To love is just as important as it is to be loved, to support is just as important as it is to be supported. Growls' relationship with Siobhan and his family are great examples of that too. Growls' growth as an MC is also in line with his growth as person. His lyrics (hopefully) get better and better as the story progresses, influenced by English lessons with Mr Rix and the music that Growls listens to. I hope young readers are inspired to do what they enjoy because it's enjoyable, and not because of how it might make them look to the outside world.

I also hope that Siobhan can be a shining light and inspiration to the reader. She's a total boss, not just with her personal strength in her home situation, but in the way that she still invests time and kindness into her relationship with Growls.

And lastly, I hope that through Growls, young readers can see that there is love and beauty and joy and laughter wherever you look hard enough for it, even within difficult living situations. You can be whoever you want to be.

What would you say is the biggest or most valuable thing Shaun learns?

He learns so much, so narrowing it down is difficult! But personally, I think that Growls' biggest gift to himself is gaining confidence in who he is, rather than who he's trying to be. That self-acceptance has really positive ripple effects on all the relationships in his life. For example, when his guard comes down, he's able to learn valuable life lessons from Mr Rix. He's able to put Karen's wisdom into practice, which improves his relationships with Shanks and Siobhan. His family unit is strengthened, especially his relationship with his mum. And he doesn't feel the need to pine after Tanisha anymore, because his motivations are vastly different at the end of the book than at the start. Growls starts the story as a fairly short-sighted character, and maybe a gift that he isn't initially aware of, is his growing ability to love outwardly and consider those around him. 

Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Shaun?

There's an endless well of anecdotes and adventures and characters that informed the construction of Shaun and his universe. I think an entire school year with Shanks and Siobhan by his side, with the ups and downs that comes with their ensemble relationship, would see him completely in his element. If we were to revisit Shaun at any point in time, he could be doing any random activity he's acidentally found himself in, like destroying a pottery class, or getting stuck in a toilet cubicle, or maybe he's being granted the keys to the city of Liverpool by the mayor. With his open heart and his support system, and maybe with a wider world that's open to him, Growls will always be living an interesting and entertaining life, whenever and whatever situation we find him in.

But my next book will be about a new set of characters – still living and laughing in South London, but with a different set of ambitions, struggles – and one liners!

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

After the Harry Potter and Noughts and Crosses series, I fell out of love with reading as I didn't have a lot to relate to. It wasn't until early adulthood that I got back into books in a big way. If I can remedy this for a younger generation, then that would mean the world to me as an author. Seeing kids from my old school, knowing that Steady For This is for them, brings me hope that maybe some of them will still read for pleasure. When I'm reading, I'm looking to be entertained, to escape or to learn. I hope to do one of these for any teen readers out there.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

Not yet! Steady For This is my debut, and I'm still learning the world of being a writer. I do most of my writing on my living room couch (I'm lucky enough to live alone), but that's through a lack of discovering a better place. If I ever need a change of scenery, I change rooms or go to Costa for that sweet free wifi and intermittent coffees. 

Which other funny books for tweens and teens would you recommend our subscribers read next?

I've always been a fan of rom-coms and would point towards This is How You Fall in Love by Anika Hussain, or anything by Beth Reekles. And Glow Up, Lara Bloom by Dee Benson is another situational comedy for teens about self acceptance, so that's definitely one to get stuck into.

Copies of our Steady for This pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


Children's book news straight to your inbox

Sign-up now