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McNary alumna debuts first novel, plans trilogy


Of the Keizertimes

Jillian Torassa’s first book, Rebel Thirds, transports readers to a dystopian future where intelligence is worshipped and ignorance is revered.

“The premise is that its post-nuclear and set in New Zealand, the only place left inhabitable. The destruction of the world was blamed on intelligence because it was fancy weapons that destroyed everything. The first class citizens are are believed righteous for their lack of knowledge while those born with intelligence are kept down,” said Torassa, 24, a 2008 graduate of McNary High School.

The book is available through most outlets selling e-books, like, and in paperback form from the author at her website,

The novel is the story of 18-year-old Jade Doe, a Third Class Citizen who has been enslaved for her inherent intelligence. When Jade learns of a dangerous secret, she is given the risky chance to build a better life from the ashes of her old one. Torassa hopes that fans of the Hunger Games series find something to like in her take on a totalitarian future, escpecially considering that trilogy was no small influence on Torassa’s approach.

“In college, I wrote my senior thesis on social spaces and tropes of dystopian novels. This book was a chance to put my spin on it,” Torassa said.

She said the recent surge in bleak futures portrayed in young adult fiction is a reflection of her generation’s outlook on the real-world future.

“There is a lot of uncertainty for my generation right now and the future seems so wide open. There’s a lot of time when it looks like its going to be bleak, but its still open and you can change it and there is still hope,” she said.

Torassa added that young adult novels are a prime venue for such stories. When the writer wants to address things like hope, it doesn’t come off as merely naïve, as it might in adult fiction.

Author Jillian Torassa. (Submitted)
Author Jillian Torassa. (Submitted)

Torassa wrote her first stories in middle school, but spent most of her writing energy on essays during high school. She returned to her fiction roots as an English major at Brigham Young University.

While studying she began rereading the Harry Potter novels and discovered that while the story was one that still enthralled her, the writing left a bit to be desired.

“It’s interesting how a really good story isn’t always really well written. I can pick out the things now that I learned writers
are not supposed to do,” she said. “I tried to work on that in my book. I wanted it to be less cliché and tried to describe the physical effects of emotion rather than simply saying ‘her heart dropped.’”

She focused the year she spent writing the novel on honing her descriptive techniques and trying to bring them to bear in the book.

The cover of the book features another McNary alumna, Hannah Patterson, who is studying drama at Portland State University. The two connected through the drama program at McNary and Torassa pictured Patterson as the physical manifestation of her red-haired heroine.

“On the chance it ever got made into a movie, I always pictured Hannah in the lead role,” she said. The pair went to Salem’s Minto Brown Park in the fall, when the landscape appears more desolate, to do a cover shoot.

Torassa envisions Rebel Thirds as the first in a trilogy of books. Although the second one is proving more difficult, she’s also been busy with life’s other wonders. She expected to give birth to her first child, a son, earlier this week.

“Writing the book was definitely hard, but it was never as though I never wanted to work on it. I think the same thing is happening with the second one,” Torassa said.