Greetings, book pals! I’m so excited to have YA author Anna Banks on Rather Be Reading today to chat about her new book: JOYRIDE (Feiwel & Friends, June 2, 2015). If you are looking for a book with a great “opposites attract” friendship, complex family relationships, and something I’m surprised I don’t see more in YA — pranking! — then you are going to really enjoy this one. I hope you’ll read through my chat with Anna about the core relationship of this book, her inspiration, and pranking tips. No fear, you won’t find any spoilers here. BUT if you do read to the end, you can enter for a chance to win a sparkly finished copy of JOYRIDE to add to your summer reading list.
Anna, I really enjoyed Joyride. It was the perfect companion for a bit of a traveling I did recently. My first question is probably an obvious one. What inspired you to write about a family torn apart because of deportation?
Gosh, there are so many answers to this. One, it’s been a big subject of debate especially in the news as of late, and I found that many people took a harsh view of the matter, instead of a human view. Complete jackasses, if you ask me. I wanted to show people what it’s like to be in that position, and force them to at least admit that immigrants, documented or not, are living breathing people with interests and goals and anxieties just like the rest of us.
Two, over the years, many of my jobs put me in contact with Mexican immigrants, documented and undocumented. The ones who were undocumented shared their stories with me on how they were able to get to the U.S. and what they left behinda, their hopes and dreams of bringing their family over. Their experiences were amazing and heart-wrenching, and the dangers they faced getting here and the everyday risk of getting deported really left an impression on me. The writer in me began to wonder what it would be like living as a teen and going through this. That’s how JOYRIDE started unfolding in my little brain.
Even though Carly and Arden didn’t start their friendship in a super conventional way, I loved that their relationship wasn’t on the fast lane to falling in love with each other either. What are some of your favorite books that feature guys and girls that start out as friends?
My favorite book with friends-first is Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, with Mal and Alina. They are close to each other, and loyal, but it takes a while for the romance to kick in. Mal drove me freaking crazy at first, but it kept me turning the pages. There was a point in my reading life where I devoured books with insta-love or at least insta-attraction plot themes (I’m a complete romance junkie) but now I’d rather have that push and pull, that testing and challenging and slow realization that there are feelings deeper than friendship there. I thought it would be more realistic with Carly and Arden, since they are pretty much opposites in every way.
Joyride explores so much about obligation — obligation to your family vs. yourself and what happens when you might have to make a choice between the two. This is constantly something that pops up in life whether you’re in high school or a big kid like me. Who do you think was in the tougher spot here: Carly or Arden?
Geez, these are great questions! I think Carly has it a bit rougher than Arden. Family is an essential part of Mexican culture—doing what it takes to make sure everyone is cared for. With Carly, there was this internal struggle because she wanted to be true to that, to what was ingrained in her since childhood, and that is completely understandable and totally admirable. But I think for teens and big kids ☺ it’s important to find a balance between your happiness and your responsibilities. Carly goes from one extreme to the other before finding that balance, and that may be what we all need in order to find peace with our circumstances.
Even though Mr. Shackleford and Carly don’t know each other so well, he’s still a special adult in her life. He watches out for her without even knowing her story. Did you have someone like this in your life? A blessing in disguise?
I’ve had many. My sisters have been my saviors more times than I can count, and probably more than I even know about. My dad died when I was 14, and my mom and I were pretty poor. I know we couldn’t have made it without my sisters’ help, both financially and emotionally. Of course, Mr. Shackleford isn’t exactly based on my sisters—they’re not philosophical town drunks who have a tendency to urinate in convenience store aisles….So….
What’s the key to a successful prank?
There are so many keys. Keeping a straight face while you watch it being executed is a biggie, because if not, you’re totally caught and you’re a complete amateur. Targeting the right people is also important. If you’re scaring people, you don’t want to go after the elderly—can we say heart attack? Instead shoot for high school kids or unsuspecting middle aged Walmart shoppers. Also, go for people who won’t throat punch you. That may be the best advice..
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Note: The above giveaway is open to U.S. & Canadian readers, 13 & up.
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Thanks to Macmillan Kids for providing an early copy of this book & the giveaway copy!
KISSING IN AMERICA by Margo Rabb [web | tweet]
Published by Harper Teen on May 26, 2015
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: first love, parental loss, airplane crash, detached mothers
Summary: Not many things have gone right for Eva, but when she meets Will and they connect over personal losses they’ve both suffered through, she feels like she’s finally piecing herself back together again. Until Will has to move across the country and she’s not sure how or when she’ll ever see him again.
• • •
Kissing in America was my in-flight book of choice a few weeks ago. Usually I do a little bit of reading about the book before I jump right in, but I’d momentarily forgotten to download my review books to my kindle so I quickly did that moments before I was told to temporarily turn off my devices. I hadn’t even read the summary when I began, and I’m pretty sure that made reading this book even more special — I had no expectations.
Eva is a pretty typical teenager — she struggles with fitting in, is angered by how detached her mom can be one moment and how suffocating she feels the next, and has one solid best friend, Annie. But there’s something that sets Eva apart, too. Her father died two years ago in an airplane crash. The piqued curiosity she received when telling people about his death infuriated her so much she began to tell people he died peacefully in his sleep from a heart attack. (Meanwhile her mother never, ever mentions him and discarded any trace of him weeks after he died.)
When she begins tutoring Will by proofing his college essays and English papers, they connect over their personal tragedies. His younger brother died as an infant and his mother has never recovered from the loss. As Eva’s adoration for Will grows, she can’t lie to him anymore about her dad’s death. She spills the truth to him and this bonds them even more; she loves that she can be honest about all of these pieces of her no one except Annie knows: how she secretly reads messages in a forum for the surviving family members of the airplane crash or how she hoarded some of her dad’s belongings before her mother could toss them out. Their love for reading and poetry, their losses, and their easy banter bind Will and Eva together over the course of the school year.
Just when things have hit their stride, Will’s forced to move to California. How will these two ever reunite (especially considering she could never fly there)? Kissing in America is a strong tale about first love, healing, heartbreak, parental struggles, not always seeing eye-to-eye, and best friendship stress when you suck at life and let someone down. Eva and Annie find a way to road trip to CA by entering in a game show competition to find the Smartest Girl in America. Annie is a brilliant girl destined for MIT, but she’s overwhelmed by the cost of it and knows her parents couldn’t afford it. This could be her ticket to her dreams.
With much hesitation and a few embarrassing rules in place, Annie and Eva are allowed to road trip from New York to Los Angeles. This was by far my favorite aspect of the book. They meet a crazy bus thief, a few Texas cowboys (who were severely over-exaggerated, but still so fun), and get some solid advice from Eva’s mom’s best friend Lulu. There were moments of such extreme realness in Kissing in America that made me feel like an eavesdropper/stalker along for the bus trip.
The remainder of Kissing in America needs to be experienced by you and I should stop babbling on. (But believe me I could chat forever about this one.) It made me giggle, brought tears to my eyes, made me think about the type of mother I hope to be, and even frightened me a little bit as the details of her father’s plane crash were revealed. It’s one of those books that gives you a whole lot of story in the best and simplest of ways, with characters you love, and a great sadness when it’s all over.
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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
This past weekend, I took Susane Colasante’s new book, City Love, to my favorite park in Long Island City and read about three girls — a local and two transplants — who were beginning a new stage in their life in the Big Apple. I love hearing about people discovering the sights and sounds of the city. One of the biggest takeaway from the book is the reminder to LOOK AROUND IT and TAKE IT ALL IN. So those of you who are returning to NYC or visiting for the very first time, don’t let yourself get trapped in a conference center for too long.
Big thanks to everyone who took part in our third annual BEA Part of It series (2013 & 2014). I love hosting it, and while it’s exciting BEA will find a new home in Chicago next year, I’ll miss putting this collection together.
For those of you looking for some city recommendations while you are in town next week or sometime in the future, here’s the full rundown:
Resources on the actual conference:
Remember: Have fun! This is your vacation too! Happy packing & happy travels! xo
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center ( web | tweet )
Published on March 24, 2015 from St. Martin’s Press
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: divorce, nature, new beginnings, family
Summary: A year after her divorce, Helen decides to go way out of her comfort zone — she’s trusting her irresponsible little brother with her beloved kinda mean dog and embarking on a wilderness survival course. She’s ready for a fresh start but a familiar and unexpected addition to the wilderness team in addition to all the time spent in nature, turns the trip into a different kind of adventure.
Happiness for Beginners is one of the only books where I can remember seeing almost an unanimous reaction amongst readers: they could not stop and read it in one sitting. I’m joining those ranks. Mostly. If I had just started it a little earlier, I would have finished it in only a few hours. What’s the mysterious formula for a book of this caliber?
In this case: snappy, fresh dialogue; a main character you feel invested in; an unbelievable setting.
Like Helen, I’m not much of a nature girl. I have never gone camping. If I did, it would have to be the “fake” kind with showers and toilets. It’s brave as hell for Helen to go off for three weeks with a backpack full of nothing (no shampoo), one book of her choosing (!!), and do something so out of her normal routine. When life isn’t looking great and you have no idea where to turn, there’s nothing better than shaking it up in an enormous way, right?
Most of the people participating in the wilderness course have had some experience and are in a different age bracket than Helen. She’s feeling lonely at home with her singledom and now she’s thrown in with a bunch of people who look at her like she’s the old person. (She’s only 32.) She has to work to make connections with people while attempting not to die out in the wilderness. The pressure! Even though she’s feeling weak and incapable, Helen learns to feel empowered and rediscovers her confidence — by getting to know new people, opening herself up to strangers, and getting zen with nature.
Two characters I love: Jake — her youngest brother’s best friend and a surprising revelation — and Grandma Gigi — a lady who still knows how to have fun and is beyond wise. Helen is forced to come to terms with the truths surrounding the hierarchy of her family, as well as — gasp — think of her younger brother as a real person and not just the annoying thorn in her side. It can be difficult but it’s amazing how learning our siblings are real people with lives and feelings too can give us such clarity.
An unexpected gem, I’d suggest Happiness for Beginners to any Bethany Chase or Liza Palmer fan — they make for a trifecta of smart, thoughtful women’s fiction. We need more books where we see a character facing moments of vulnerabiity and bravery in unexpected yet realistic situations. We can all find a little bit of ourselves in Helen and her story. This is a book to add to the “let’s buy for everyone you ever talked to” list and meant to have a long life on my most trusted bookshelf.
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An early copy of this book was supplied by the publisher. Thanks!
Looking back, I feel disdain for about a handful of high school memories but never about prom. Even though my boyfriend and I had just broken up and we decided to go to the dance as friends, it was still a total blast and one of my favorite memories ever. I survived self-tanner and missing the complimentary makeup appointment I won. (Truth: I got way lost. Some things never change.) I couldn’t have asked for a better date, and a better final weekend with my closest friends (in true Jersey fashion, we spent it down the shore).
To get in the spirit — my mom informed me that our high school prom is occurring this weekend (lucky ducks! It’s Memorial Day weekend!) — I’m sharing a few prom-worthy reads AND a prom-tastic Spotify playlist to get you grooving on your next walk, while you’re sitting at your desk at work, or maybe for your own personal dance party. Thanks to those of you who sent in suggestions to our Twitter account and also told us a little bit about your prom! I love taking trips down memory lane with you.
Your prom book list:
- Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg: A modern retelling of the Jane Austen classic, Prom & Prejudice focuses on the pressures of getting to the actual dance. It was so light and fun, and inspired me to pick up my dog-earred copy of Pride & Prejudice ASAP.
- Promposal by Rhonda Helms: Magan dubbed this book “worth it”. Here’s a short blurb from her: “Promposal reads easily and was a quick, enjoyable book. The story is about two genuine, innocent characters who want things to finally work out for them.”
- We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg: What is it with Eulberg and dances?! I love it! This book might not be about prom, per say, but it is about girlfriends hanging out, making time for one another, and having so much fun.
- Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas: How about getting a glimpse into one girl’s prom — and two different journeys? This book was SO much fun, and relatively low drama for a book about a big dance that gets everyone a little obsessive.
And now for some tunes:
A note: Write down the songs you remember to from prom because I guarantee 10-ish years later, you will not remember any of them. (I swear! I asked my best friends.) I even danced a lot! Second, you may notice some modern tunes mixed it. Well, these are songs we would love to dance to at prom NOW if we could. Happy listening!
If you feel like sharing, we’d love love love to hear about your prom. Did you go on a trip afterwards? Was there a theme? Did you go with a friend or was it your sweetheart? WE LOVE STORIES so feel free to tell us some.
Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy ( web | tweet )
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on April 28, 2015
Target audience: Middle grade
Keywords: grandparents, remarriage, cousins, new friends, popularity, parents & secrets
Summary: After Grandpa Howe and Grandma Tess get married, Lana and Cassie are invited on their road trip honeymoon. Lana is hoping to embark on a brand new friendship, but Cassie has other ideas — she’s addicted to keeping up with everyone at home. Will this new family survive this trip as the girls get to know each other and still find themselves dealing with stresses from home?
Looking back, it would have been a dream come true to be invited on a vacation with my grandparents sans parents. Grandparents are just the coolest, aren’t they? They understand us in a way that are parents don’t, right? (The spoiling part isn’t so bad either.) So Grandpa Howe and Grandma Tess inviting Lana and Cassie along for their honeymoon road trip sounds like total bliss. Grandpa Howe is Lana’s grandpa and Grandma Tess’s is Cassie’s grandma so it’s a nice way to bring their families together after their wedding. Out on the open road with dessert for breakfast and cool, artsy stops along the way (even a Broadway-themed restaurant) — what could possibly go wrong?
Well…while Lana is completely gung-ho for the trip and looking forward to spending time with her grandparents, Cassie is a bit of the opposite. She’s concerned about her status with her popular friends. If she’s not available to them, how will she remain important? Her solution is to stay permanately attached to her cell phone, much to her grandmother’s chagrin. Lana does her best to stay on Cassie’s good side but it gets tough when she feels like Cassie is constantly putting her down to make her friends look better. All the while, Lana is sure her parents are keeping something from her. She’s worried something is wrong with her mom and being in a car for so many hours on end, has her imagination soaring to new heights.
It’s true some girls are just not meant to be friends — as much as one side tries, as much as it seems like it should be the case. Lana was an old soul while Cassie was concerned about parties and makeup and boys. They aren’t exactly in the same place when the trip starts. Jealousy also becomes a factor when Cassie sees how close Grandma Tess and Lana have grown to one another. Who can blame her? For the first time, her special relationship with her grandmother doesn’t feel like it’s just meant for her, and when it seems like no one else on your family is on your team, it hurts even more.
But maybe… just maybe each of the girls provide a much needed balance for the other.
It was so refreshing to read a book based on relationships with grandparents, and, like I’ve come to expect from her, Terra Elan McVoy injected her thoughtful writing into this young, wobbly friendship — complete with spot-on observations of technology and how it can take us out of the moment and how it feels as a being young and left out of the grown up stuff. The summer always feels like a time of new beginnings, and I so enjoyed watching a new family make fantastic memories and two very different girls learn to relate to each other. I sure hope they scrapbooked about it when they got home.
P.S. If you like grandparent road trip books (and a box of tissues), be sure to add Walk Two Moons to your reading lists.
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Others by Terra McVoy on RBR: In Deep ; Criminal ; The Summer of Firsts & Lasts | Being Friends with Boys
An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.