Almost 5 years ago, Estelle & Magan met at a wedding — where M was the photographer and E was a bridesmaid for her best friend's big day. We talked about books for under five minutes, and a friendship was born.
Since then, we’ve shared our love of books, Zac Efron, and shopping on this blog, changed jobs, had babies, moved, visited DC and Disney World together, and constantly stayed connected -- despite the miles between us. RBR has been the our own version of a coffee date, our way to mark the time before we can hang out and gab in person again. Thanks for spending time with us. xoxo
I’m not going to be the person to ask you what your sign is, but something about horoscopes really fascinates me. I’m sitting here reading about Aquarius (who said Pub Date wasn’t educational), and I’m wondering how people decide which advice to trust, which traits really fall under the umbrella of this horoscope. I read something today that said Aquarians were near geniuses and another that said we were always searching for the meaning of life. I don’t think I’m anything close to a near genius but I am an over thinker, I like to understand things. But the real holy shit moment was this:
To Aquarius, compassion is not an emotion, but a conclusion. You have ideals and you cherish them, because you know they lead to a better world for all. Therefore, Aquarius tends to be altruistic even at great personal costs. Others admire that, but to Aquarius it’s self-explanatory: We must be benevolent to our fellow human beings for the benefit of all of us. That makes sense.
Now that my mind is blown, I’ll share my beer. As the ‘water bearer’, I went for Heavy Seas Smooth Sail Summer Ale (the website rightfully calls it a ‘pool beer’). I’m hanging on to the last few weeks of summer, and this is the perfect accomplice. It’s light, comes in a can, and goes down so easy. (Unfortunately, you might have to put this on your wish list for next year because if your grocery store is anything like mine, it’s full of pumpkin beer already.)
I’m not sure if my book relates to the beer at all. In fact, I think it relates more to Aquarius and how we like to understand even the most difficult things in life. The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell about a high school student named Sora dealing with an ALS diagnosis. He can’t go back to school (he loves literature and dreams of being a professor) and he’s slowly losing his motor skills. Throughout the book (which is so quietly written), he’s trying to come to terms with death and what happens after. It’s a beautiful (though heartbreaking) book with a wonderful mom, surprising new friends (from the internet!), and lovely grandparents. I completely loved it. I hope you’ll check it out.
That’s it for me, and this #PubDate. Hope you have a great month, and some wonderful brews and books! xoxo
You know an author did their job when you want to protect a character from all the evils of their world, right? Tyler in NOT AFTER EVERYTHING — a debut from Michelle Levy — is one of those characters who I connected with immediately — his voice was so vivid — and I so badly want to save from his grief and awful home life. His life is pretty bleak, friends. But there are bright spots — his loyal pup, an old friend, and an after school job that brings him all kinds of light. I was so engaged with Tyler’s story throughout and since I finished, he’s been on my mind. This is why I’m so happy to chat with Michelle about her writing, musicals, and more about Tyler. Enjoy!
Michelle, thanks SO much for answering these questions for Rather Be Reading. I was hooked on Not After Everything from the very first page and I’m so excited to be talking to you about your debut novel today.
Suicide, abuse, etc. There are so many tough circumstances throughout Not After Everything. I wanted to kidnap Tyler and take him far, far away from his pain. What was more difficult to write about, and how did you cope whenever you had to step away from the story?
Michelle: The abuse scenes and the scenes where Tyler’s depression is getting the better of him were definitely the hardest scenes to write. I sort of become the character while I’m writing, like how a method actor becomes the character, so those scenes really got to me. But unlike a method actor, at the end of the day, I can shut it off. I allowed myself to feel all the things Tyler was feeling as I typed, but I was able let it go the second I stepped away from the computer. And then I tried to watch something fun just to make sure those feelings didn’t creep back in. I find that CW and MTV shows are most helpful with these things.
I love the makeshift family Tyler finds with Jordyn and her family. And the safe place of the photography studio. I adored his relationship with Jordyn’s stepdad most because all this kid desperately needed was someone to be nice to him and there it was. What was your favorite part about writing these supporting characters?
Michelle: I love Henry and Dr. Dave the most! I knew Tyler needed a positive adult figure in his life or he was going to go down a very dark path. I always knew Dr. Dave would be this for Tyler, but I didn’t expect Henry. I also knew Jordyn and Tyler would have to work together, but, again, I never expected that Jordyn’s stepdad would be the boss. Henry was a very happy surprise for me. And those happy surprises are the best. It’s almost like the characters are writing the story and I’m just along for the ride.
I recently read Jessica Verdi’s What You Left Behind (which was a fantastic yet difficult book about Ryder, a senior in high school who is a young father) and reading them so closely together, I wished he and Tyler were friends. I think they could have really helped each other through the shitty times without hiding behind this “everything is going to be okay” facade. Are there any other characters from other books that you think would have made a good friend for Tyler?
Michelle: Ooh, great question! First things first . . . *adds What You Left Behind to TBR pile* Okay, now what was the question? Oh, right. I think Tyler could be friends with Ezra Faulkner from The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. They have quite a bit in common. And probably Adam from Gayle Forman’s Where She Went. I could see them hanging out.
From your website I noticed you are a musical theater fan (me too!!), which musical/song, songs, etc. do you think sum up Not After Everything?
Michelle: OMG I love this question!!! “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods!
Sometimes people leave you,
Halfway through the wood.
Others may deceive you.
You decide what’s good.
You decide alone.
But no one is alone.
Without getting spoilery (although I wish we could), did you always know how you were going to end Tyler’s story?
Michelle: Always. I knew it absolutely had to end that way or it wouldn’t feel right.
Eee! Are you intrigued yet? Please read this one; I want to discuss it with someone pronto!
Great news: The lovely people at Penguin/Dial have offered up a finished copy of MORE THAN ANYTHING by the wonderful Michelle Levy for one of you. This giveaway is open to those in the United States and Canada. Good luck!
Can someone please tell me how we are in the second week of August? Already? I’m not sure how this is happening. Is this real life? Either way, we are here for the eighth check-in for our #DiversityDive challenge. How’s it going? Read anything great lately? (I’m highly recommending: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi — how often do we see a single teenage dad in a book — and also Not After Everything by Michelle Levy — which is so heartbreaking but also has a character dealing with some economic diversity, in addition to many other challenges.) Now on to today’s post…
Big thanks to authors/bloggers/Twitter goddesses Dahlia Adler (Under the Lights) and Katherine Locke (Second Position) for being so game for today’s post. Rather Be Reading is rooted in a great friendship story, and, of course, books, so these two ladies cover both those topics as they chat about their own friendship (they met at BEA for the first time in 2014 and have hung out twice IRL), reading each other’s books, diversity, and, unsurprisingly, kissing. (Their characters, not each other… although Dahlia admitted to working on this in a hotel bed wearing underwear so this is pretty up-close and personal stuff.) There’s nothing I like more than candid and smart talk between two ladies who obviously have a lot of respect for each other and each other’s own work. I hope you enjoy their banter, their thoughtfulness, and their dedication to honesty in their books.
on internet & friendships:
Dahlia Adler: I feel like there are layers to internet friends, because there are some you really talk to 98% publicly and only on the rarest of occasions maybe via DM and then there are those you talk to at least as much as you would anyone in person, thanks to gchat and texting.
Katherine Locke: And then the ones that you switch to text when they leave their computers so they can’t gchat. haha exactly. Yeah, there are definitely layers.
Dahlia: Yes, those 😉
Katherine: And also, like, we talk about things other than publishing and books. Most of my internet friendships stay in the same sphere where I met the person (fandom/animal rescue/publishing), but then there are a few that just become *friendships* without the modifier of “my editor friend” or “my animal rescue friend”.
Dahlia: Ohhh that is insightful! Very true. I love talking books/publishing and there are definitely people with whom that’s the only conversation we ever have.Which is great! But far rarer is the friend you meet on the internet who supersedes that original commonality.
Katherine: Exactly. and honestly, I think those are the ones that last too.
Dahlia: Ditto. Especially if/when you burn out on your common issue, like, then what?
Katherine: The friendship fizzles too. So yes, it doesn’t always happen but when it does, it’s awesome.
on authoring & characters & a splash of diversity:
Katherine: You were more worried about me reading Under the Lights than I was. And then I got sidelined and didn’t read it for a few weeks and you thought I hated it but actually I loved it. Hashtag oops.
Dahlia: Oh GOD, yes, I was so nervous about that one, but more because I thought it was a You book so being wrong about that would’ve been doubly bad.
Katherine: You’re usually right when you say a book is a Katie book so. yeah. but it’s strange and terrifying to have friends reading your books? Like strangers are much easier. Strangers I don’t mind if they don’t like it. But friends.
Dahlia: Exactly. But it was the BEST thing how much I loved Second Position. Like, it encompassed stuff I knew you were passionate about, obviously, but still wasn’t quite what I thought it would be.
It didn’t strike me until I was reading it how rare character-driven NA is, so I think just seeing that at all was such a big deal. Hahaha yes, THANK YOU.
Katherine: YOU’RE WELCOME.
Dahlia: Like, your name on it or not, the character-driven aspect would’ve been surprising to see in NA. But it makes such a world of difference in a book where you’re talking about neurodiversity and physical disability.
Katherine: This is strange we’re talking about me too much I don’t know what to do… When people ask me what my process is, I say it’s a lot of listening. And I think SP reflects that?
Dahlia: I feel like therapy and trauma are so often so halfass in NA – and I say this as someone who often gets about LWaT that Lizzie wasn’t sad enough, so I’m not excepting myself from this – so it was very cool to see not only therapy done really well but done well in a story where the characters and how their brains work is the center.
Katherine: Yes, that was really important. And one of Aly’s sessions with her therapist in Finding Center kind of touched on that again, that sometimes it’s hard to feel better when you’ve suffered a mental illness? That mental illness itself causes a trauma and that affects you.
When you wrote UtL, did that factor in? Because it felt like it did…that Van denying herself to herself for so long had affected all these other parts of her life, that the ripple effect of closeting touched ALL of her life, not just her work, not just her relationship. It’s one of the things I liked about the handling of that. Because I feel like sometimes in books where a character struggles with how or if to come out, they only think about it when they’re with their significant other, or when they’re wondering how their friends will handle it. You don’t see the exhaustion, the fear, the worry, the secrets affecting job performance and life and their ability to hold onto their image etc.
Dahlia: Definitely – a big part of UtL is Vanessa’s using Hollywood as a way to confuse her emotions so she doesn’t have to deal with them. Like, oh, it’s Hollywood, of course I find women beautiful – I find everyone beautiful! Of course they fake relationships are fine – everything we do is about manufacturing connections and putting on a show! And she doesn’t let herself see how it hurts her, or what she isn’t letting herself think. That’s why I found the idea of writing about Hollywood teens so compelling – I can’t imagine being a teen and not feeling EVERYTHING in an organic way. But it’s their job not to.
Katherine: Exactly. And then everything doesn’t feel real. Which is why I think she and Josh do so well together because his ‘real’ is actually his ‘fake’, just like hers. P.S. I’m pretty sure you still owe me fanfic btw. Pls do not forget. My birthday is in February. Okay.
Dahlia: Yup. It’s funny because I get a lot of reviews that say they don’t think the dual-POV worked, and don’t think Josh and Van should’ve shared a book, and that is a total valid opinion I was very prepared for and had myself often when I was writing it. But the more I’ve thought about the book since, the more I personally disagree with it and think of all the ways I think it was important to show their parallel experiences.
Katherine: Yes yes yes. I will forever crow about the awesomeness of that friendship. It was fantastic. I loved it.
Dahlia: It’s like, as a reader, reading strictly for entertainment, I totally see it. But as someone who used these books to view and discuss Hollywood and representation in media across different genders, sexual orientations, and races? I am so, so happy both POVs are there.
on diversity & (of course) sex…
Dahlia: Do you feel like people “got” the way you were presenting diversity aspects in your books?
Katherine: I really WANTED to show positive therapy. So even though those chapters didn’t work for some people, it was important. Hmm, most people were 100% with Aly and her mental health issues. But Zed gets coded as non-white, which is really interesting? and awkward.
Dahlia: Oh, right! I’ve seen you mention that. I’m so curious why that happens.
Katherine: Because a) then yes, I have to be like “yeahhhh I wrote a super white cast” and b) I think it’s interesting to notice who is coding him as Black, and why. And largely they’re doing it because he grew up religious, poor, and his name. Which is some internalized stereotyping I didn’t expect to happen but I had a slew of messages right after release demanding to know why it was a white character on the cover if Zed was Black and I had to be like “uhhh he’s not?”
Dahlia: That’s so interesting, especially considering the really high-profile ways we’ve seen it work in the other direction, e.g. Rue.
Katherine: It really is! I’ve been wanting to write about it but then I’m kind of scared of the backlash so *whistles*
Dahlia: (Meanwhile, I have also gotten the “Why are both girls on your cover white if Van is Korean?” I still never know how to answer that, because Van’s face is from an Asian model; it’s just photoshopped onto a white girl because diverse stock photo options are horrible.)
Katherine: I guess we’re friends because you write really good kissing scenes.
Dahlia: Hahahahaha if that’s not the literal best reason for friendship I don’t even know what is. Do you have a favorite kissing or sex scene from your books?
Katherine Locke: New criteria for friendship. Please email 1 kissing scene for consideration. haha, uh, chapter 2 of Finding Center.
Dahlia: Uhhhhhhhhhhhh good choice.
Katherine: That one had me blushing when I was writing it and I write in Starbucks soooo.
Dahlia: That makes me so happy. Man, Finding Center had soooo much more sex.
Katherine: I am sorrynotsorry about that?
Dahlia: So would you say you’ve come to enjoy writing sex?
Katherine: hahaha I don’t know if I’d go that far? It’s easier to write now. But I still dread editing it. The only thing worse than writing sex is editing a sex scene. I have to bribe myself to scroll down to my editor’s comments. It’s painful.
Dahlia: Hahaha I wouldn’t mind viewing that, personally.
Katherine: Of course you wouldn’t.
Dahlia: Well I never. Oh I think we’re supposed to be talking about diversity more than banging. So, diversity! Do you feel like you want to continually focus on the neurodiversity and disability aspects – like, those will be your Thing – or do you see yourself integrating other areas into your writing?
on diversity and reader’s reactions and tough stuff:
Katherine: Good question re: diversity. I think that neurodiversity and disability are comfortable areas for me because I have personal experience with some of those. But I’m challenging myself so the next two NAs I’m drafting both have POC main characters, and every YA I’ve written has a POC MC (and thus has been beta read by someone from that respective ethnicity/race). And you? You’ve written two female POC characters now. What’s that like? What’s the response been?
Dahlia: Ooh, very cool! I love how different all your books sound. You’re very multifaceted in this way I am so very not.
Katherine: My brain is a dark and terrible place.
Dahlia: The response has been mostly really good from readers! More for Van than for Lizzie, I think partly because there are no Filipina MCs in American NA so some readers really loved her portrayal but some wanted a lot more from it and wanted to see more of the Philippines in it.
With Van, I’ve only seen positive response, 100%, and I definitely attribute that in large part to my Korean-American beta, who picked out little cultural things I think make a big difference.
Katherine: Right, I remember that. I think there’s sometimes (always?) a higher standard for books with diversity? because there’s only ONE book with this particular thing in it, it has to do all these things for all these different types of people, which is a lot of weight and expectation.
Dahlia: But also, it’s a book discussing race and lack of representation, so in UtL it dominates the story, whereas in LWaT it’s much more incidental. Yes, exactly, and that’s something I didn’t think enough about when I wrote LWaT for sure.
Katherine: It’s REALLY awesome when a reader does connect to your diverse characters though? it makes it worth it, all the doubt you had along the way.
Dahlia: YES, that part is really awesome. Getting letters about it, or seeing someone say it felt like solid representation they were glad to see – that means the world. Especially when a queer Asian woman says it about UtL, that is the best thing.
Katherine: Yeah, I had an amputee reader reach out (and she ended up beta reading certain important parts of FC for me) and another reader whose spouse is an alcoholic and she was SO WORRIED that Zed would relapse in SP? And when he didn’t, she realized how badly she needed to read that, that they could be OK too.
Dahlia: Ohhh that is awesome. It really is fascinating how fiction can provide a confirmation of sorts that things are possible.
Katherine: There’s a queer Asian girl out there who wants to be an actress who is reading Van and going “me too!”
Dahlia: Relapsing is not a given and tragedy in your coming out is not a given and sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough sources making that clear.
Katherine: Exactly. Or that things can go wrong, and you can still be OK. It’s not clear sailing OR tragedy. There’s a middle ground and most of us live there, and hey, we made it. Look at me. Being optimistic.
Dahlia: Yup. I think that’s part of why contemporary is sort of always “in,” even when trends go in waves – because there are certain stories people always need to see happening as realistically as possible.
Katherine: It’s also why I think contemporary is harder. You have to stay closer to people’s real experiences and emotions haha
Dahlia: Yeah, it’s scary, but if you can make characters feel real, I think you’re effectively creating a genuine and possible experience.
Katherine: That’s the goal!
Ah, so so fun. Thanks for letting us eavesdrop on your conversation, ladies. Can’t wait for your new work! (Katherine releases FINDING CENTER on August 17th while we have to be a bit patient for Dahlia’s JUST VISITING — out in November.) Be sure to be following @MissDahlElama & @Bibliogato on Twitter so you never miss anything they say. (Seriously, it’s good stuff.)
Until next month… diversify your bookshelf and reading list, will ya? #DiversityDive
How did Ryder’s senior year shift from dreaming of soccer scholarships to deciphering the cries of a newborn baby — his newborn baby? In her latest, What You Left Behind, Jessica Verdi shows no mercy when she blows the Ryder’s world way open — a baby on his hip, the love-of-his-life girlfriend dead, disappearing friends, and a whole lot of guilt on his shoulders. Pretty outrageous, right? But Verdi tells this story with thoughtfulness and thoroughness, making me forget time and time again just how much shit Ryder was thrown at the same time. He may be a struggling single dad, obsessed with answers Meg may have left in her journals, but he’s also a guy working at Whole Foods, trying to make it to soccer practice on time, and finding a new friend in the vivacious Joni. It’s the introduction of the mundane and Ryder’s hope he can reclaim his old self that nicely counterbalances all the heavy stuff and made this book practically impossible to put down.
WHAT YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jessica Verdi is about a single teenager father and what happens next. Sourcebooks; 8/4/15; 320 Pages.
There’s so much to love in this book but Ryder’s relationship with his mother was the absolute soul of this story. His mom had him young too so maybe this made her more understanding and supportive but I’d like to think any person would take her stance. She also doesn’t let him forget that his life can’t just settle back in the plan he’s had for years. Hope must be his main priority. What I respected so much was how she never forced any realizations on him. She gave Ryder space to breathe and mess up, and I’m convinced this is why he is able to grow so much as a character throughout the novel. (Verdi also taps into Baby Hope’s senses too. Her unsettledness with Ryder was so reflected in her behavior.)
The struggle to bridge his expectations with reality leads Ryder pretty astray at times. He finds solace in his new friendship with Joni but doesn’t necessarily let her know that he has a bouncing baby at home. This is one of the spots where Verdi really challenges her readers. We’re all waiting for the next shoe to drop; it’s inevitable and we have to patiently wait for Ryder to get there. The other part is Meg. Because we only know her from Ryder’s memories of them together and her journal entries, it seems like a no-brainer that we would feel sad for her. She died before she could graduate high school, before she could meet her daughter. But Verdi doesn’t make that emotion so cut and dry, especially as Ryder, Meg’s sister, and her best friend make discoveries of their own. All of them have so much to come to terms with. (They make a great little team too; I liked that this was the start of a new friendship for all of them.)
Compelling and heartbreaking, What You Left Behind is the reading experience dreams are made of. I was invested, completely wrapped up in this character’s voice, and holding my breath as all the pieces slowly and smartly began to gel together. Uncovering secrets, understanding sacrifice, and granting yourself permission to move forward? It’s all here, it’s so discussion worthy, and it’s good. Really, really good.
I’ll always prefer a REAL book to a digital one. (eReaders just don’t have the same smell.) And even though I always manage to compile a collection of books before I’ve packed anything important for upcoming travels, I do realize that eBooks are easier to bring along. I do realize you can bring AS MANY AS YOU WANT without sacrificing that extra pair of shoes or saving room for your souvenirs. So on recent trips to Austin and Massachusetts, I was armed and ready with three books that made all the un-fun parts of travel (for an impatient person like me) move very quickly.
Hope you’ll consider these for your next weekend getaway! Happy (happ-e?) travels!
Second Position by Katherine Locke (Carina Press/April 13, 2015): This book had me at page one. I love second chance stories and here we have Zed and Aly — in the same room together for the first time in four years after a car accident totally wrecked their relationship and altered their futures. Their chemistry is palpable from their first cup of coffee/tea and watching them reconnect was equally exciting and heartbreaking. Both are forced to face some tough truths about their past, and come to the conclusion if they are even compatible when their shared love of dance just isn’t the same anymore. Locke is such a clean writer who keeps the drama at bay (even when things get super, super dicey) and witty! The exchanges Aly has with her therapist were some of my favorite in the book. There was no way I was going to fall asleep until I finished this one… so keep that in mind, friends. I can’t wait for Locke’s next book; she’s a new favorite for me. (Plus I felt really inspired to watch Centerstage for the first time in years.)
Pixelated by L.S. Murphy (Bloomsbury Spark/June 30, 2015): The standout of this book for me was Piper’s passion for photography and the (cool) fact that her mom and stepdad are running small town newspapers. I was on the newspaper in high school and college, and started my own in elementary school (yes you read that right) so it was a great little detail for me. Photography is Piper’s main distraction as she settles into a new town that’s so different from where she came from. How do you make new friends when everyone’s had their own group for years? How do you stay away from the hunky football player that apparently has a girlfriend that you’ve never seen? Drama is high but I had a really great time with this one. Murphy does a fantastic job of describing Piper’s work and I wish I could have seen it myself.
Focus on Me by Megan Erickson (Intermix/July 24, 2015): Megan Erickson is a machine. She’s released so many books this year, and none of them lack in quality. Focus on Me is part of the In Focus series (but you can read them out of order) and was the perfect companion for a 3-hour flight to Texas. Colin picks up Riley on his road trip back home. Okay, this could be totally risky. We shouldn’t pick up strangers and drive them anywhere but I’m so glad Colin did so because the road trip is full of attraction and lots of moments to confide in one other. They are both at the point where they need it. Colin is leaving college without graduating, and Riley has escaped the modeling biz. What’s next for both — separately and together? I’ll never tell but Erickson manages to weave in the heavy (depression, eating disorders) among the lighter, falling in love moments.
A country star + budding musician/high school student + one awesome day. Sourcebooks Fire; 7/7/15; 304 Pages.
What can I say about the Hundred Oaks series? When Catching Jordan first released, my love for YA was gradually building and it holds a special place in my heart. With six of her books tucked in my bookshelf, I’ve come to depend on Kenneally for a strong female leads, sweet and sexy romance, and standout friends and family. Despite these bright spots, she’s not afraid to explore the complexities of these relationships, have her characters question faith and sex and themselves, have them sometimes fail.
Jesse’s Girl is just more of what I love about these books. Maya, a genius musician with stage fright, meets Jesse Scott, a young, massive country music star. He’s supposed to be teaching her about the music industry but the original plan takes a Ferris Bueller-like turn. In the course of a day, they totally butt heads but Maya also offers him her friendship — something he could really use — but nothing goes according to plan. (I love this: “I decide to take Mom’s advice this time: if Jesse really wants me, he’ll let me know.”)
The extra special treat (for someone who wants to be an honorary resident of Franklin, TN) is each book comes with a Hundred Oaks reunion of some kind. Folding Jordan and Sam into the Jesse’s Girl mix added so many comedic elements to the book, and I loved seeing Sam as this big, scary protective big brother (even though he’s kind of a sap).
So pencil in a date night with Jesse’s Girl. Not only can you expect the whole Miranda Kenneally package (special shout out to Dave, Maya’s awesome BFF) but it’s an ode to everything fun in the 80s and a reminder to keep working for what you want.
Why in 5 — country music style (Sorry, Maya!):
“Live a Little” (Kenny Chesney): I need to live a little, have some fun / Take some time, waste it on number one / Find a girl that brings my whole world to a stop / Live a little
I don’t want to call Jesse a “poor little celebrity” but he’s been burned before and he’d rather hang out alone with his cat (Casper!) than actually talk to other people when he has time off. Plus — imagine working so hard all the time and barely being able to go in public on an off day. I always liked a boy who was a challenge so I like that Maya (who plays it so cool) wants him to confide in her — even if it’s a one time only thing.
“New Strings” (Miranda Lambert): I’ve worried about life and / If it’s arriving right on time / I guess if you don’t jump / You’ll never know if you can fly
Maya is gutsy and she knows what she wants. That’s more than we can say about a lot of 17 year olds but, more than anything, I love how nothing has stopped her from getting closer to her passion. Lack of money, crappy band members, her age — none of these factors matter. When the going gets tough, Maya just grows to be tougher and I admired her for it.
“I Don’t Want This Night to End” (Luke Bryan): I’m so glad you trusted me / To slide up on this dusty seat / And let your hair down / Get out of town / Got the stars coming out over my hood/ And all I know now is it’s going good
I’m obsessed with the concept of two people spending one magical, amazing day together. What happens next? Jesse can ditch his entourage for a day, and Maya’s parents have no idea what her Career Day (arranged by her principal, no less) has turned into. Our main characters reach a certain level of intimacy, hanging out in this bubble all day, and, as the reader, you want so badly for nothing to disturb that.
“Tumble and Fall” (Little Big Town): “It’s a reach out, it’s a white flag, it’s a forfeit of the game / It’s a let go of the ego, and the whisper of your name / It’s a fight for, not a defend, it’s a stay out in the rain”
It’s not like Maya goes into Career Day thinking she’s going to nab the GREAT Jesse Scott. Spoilers aside: this is a Miranda Kenneally book so we know we have some high-charged chemistry to look forward to. But he’s a celebrity! She’s in high school! How would this even work if either of them were willing to admit they liked each other? It’s all about taking that risk.
“Maps Out the Window” (Caitlyn Shadbolt): Woahhh feels good just letting go / Woahhh roll it down, let the wind blow
This song embodies the fun and fancy free feeling that Jesse’s Girl is all about. Just like you want to be listening to this song with the top down and sun shining on your face, there’s no way this book won’t boost your mood and make you smile.