12 Lessons from MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME

While everyone is planning their Halloween costume and picking out what candy they want to hand out to trick or treaters, I’m the person who is impatiently staring at the calendar, giddily awaiting the start of the holiday season. Heck, I heard two commercials for holiday music stations on Spotify this week and I almost had a heart attack. (The good kind. I felt all fluttery and spacey.) I swear I’m not a fan of the seasonal creep but it’s Christmas and it’s happy and there are twinkly lights! How can you not look forward to that time of year… just about every single day of your life?

Anyway…

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories (edited by Stephanie Perkins), which features an amazing lineup of young adult writers, was released on the 14th of October (St. Martin’s Press). A little early, I know, but these books must come out so people can prepare their holidays lists with all the good stuff!

My True Love Gave To Me Edited by Stephanie Perkins

 

This is my official review:

MY TRUE LOVE GAME TO ME never feels like 12 authors set off to write 12 holiday-themed stories; instead, they created very realistic, dimensional stories that took on a life of their own with a sprinkle of holiday magic thrown in. Sure, there were a few I loved more than others but all in all it’s the quintessential holiday short story collection I’ve been waiting for and I’m about ready to buy it for everyone I know. – Estelle a.k.a. Santa (Sometimes)/Perpetual Elf, Rather Be Reading Holidaying

Understandably, there are major life lessons that come along with a story collection that boasts romance, Christmas trees, holiday meals, dysfunctional families, holiday plays, and more. Because it’s (almost) Christmas and I like to think of myself as a generous individual minus the bowl of jelly tummy (I do have rosy cheeks) I am going to share a few of those with you today. Enjoy! (Santa is watching you…)

12 Lessons from MY TRUE LOVE GAME TO ME↔

Have I convinced you?

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Tip: The UK version is just as beautiful as the United States release. I need both. (Santa, are you listening?)

Book Report: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Hey there, friends! So it kind of seemed like our joint reviews/book reports fell by the wayside, huh? We took a hiatus from them for a little while, but we’re excited to be reviving this feature because we just miss talking about books together. There’s just something delightful and wonderful and exhilarating about reading the book at the same time as your BFF. Am I right?

Today we’re discussing the latest release by Stephanie Perkins, Isla and the Happily Ever After. Just a little note: we don’t reveal any specific spoilers, but be warned that things could be alluded to.

Joint Book Review for Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (website | twitter)
Other Books Reviewed: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Publication Date: August 14, 2014
Publisher:  Dutton
Pages: 339
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: Paris, New York, boy/girl best friendship, senior year
Format Read: We both purchased copies!

Summary (from Goodreads): Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Just in case you need a visual reminder of who we are:

Magan Magan
Estelle Estelle

♥ ♥ ♥

 

Magan Well, hello, Estelle! Ready to talk about Isla?
Estelle So very ready! (And happy to be back for our first joint review in awhile. Hooray!)
Magan I know! I feel pretty emotional about this one. I’m so excited for more work from Stephanie Perkins, but I think the anticipation of Isla really carried me through after Lola came out. And now that there’s no more in this little companion series, I’m SO sad.
Estelle I’m a little sad too. It reminds me of graduating high school and all your friends dispersing to different schools for the first time. You’re excited but there’s also a little hole there.
Magan Exactly! Especially with how the characters appeared in Isla, it felt like a giant group hug, and then ended with a sob-fest as we waved goodbye. I think one thing that stood out to me most about Isla was that this relationship with Josh was very different, and maybe because we did the readalong, it was very apparent that Stephanie told their story differently. In the past, Lola and Anna had a lot of buildup and anticipation. In Isla, we see she and Josh connect and then there’s a lot of discord and growth and pain.
Estelle It’s funny we are talking about this tonight (a day after I saw Stephanie at a reading in NYC) because she talked about that and I found her answer very fascinating.
Magan Oh, please share. This is one thing I would love to have a on-on-one conversation with her about.
Estelle She did that on purpose and said so many of Isla’s feelings were parallels with her own and how she felt about being successful or believing people could enjoy her work.
Magan So Isla is ultimately more of a reflection of Stephanie? I wondered while I was reading.
Estelle I think in some part all of the leading ladies were a part of her but (I think I’m remembering this right) Isla was the one who healed her. I thought that was so lovely, and made me love this character so much more.
Magan Oh gosh. Why is that making me tear up? I’m such a girl.
Estelle It’s an emotional story! I have so much respect for Stephanie and how open she was about the rough times she had personally. On top of all of that, she could have published an okay book but was not okay with doing so. That’s some strong work ethic, and this is why she is loved by so many. You can see all of the effort and emotion she puts into her stories.
Magan I’m so glad that Stephanie pushed herself to change things up in her writing-style. It showed a completely different side to what she’s capable of doing. It stretched me as a reader to relate to Isla and really taught me a lot about feeling so much for Josh and not really knowing much of his story.
Estelle This love fest is so much fun.
Magan Oh, man! YES! I loved all the guy hugs and the bromance.
Estelle ME too. (Stephanie has created a lot of opportunities where she could write novellas for us sometime. Wink wink.) Were you worried because we saw him in a relationship in ANNA that ISLA wouldn’t feel legit?
Magan No, because I think that Stephanie gave us enough subtle clues that his relationship with Rashmi wasn’t a healthy one. I liked that we got to see a little pre-Isla with him, actually. It felt more authentic, I think, because many times YA books depict relationships as perfect and we imagine the characters running off into the sunset for their happily ever after… and the truth is that the person they’re with might not be their forever person. I say that.. and I married the guy I dated in high school.;)
Estelle Haha. I actually liked that we got more insight into that relationship because for so long I just thought of Josh as that guy who was always making out with that girl in front of people.
Magan Hahah! Me too! It was so nice to see the larger picture. How did you relate to Isla? Were you understanding of her character and the decisions she made?
Estelle This might have been my only complaint with the book. I bought how she wanted him and the euphoria she felt when it all fell into place, and even her insecurity. I did. But I think we needed a little more background? I wanted to see more of her sisters. There could have been a little bit more depth to all the time we see her alone. Does that make sense?
Magan It does. And it’s what I was hoping you would say because I felt the same. I think a wee bit more of her pre-Josh might have been the answer for me. I think those insecurities would have been realized much sooner as a reader to make more sense when the tension really escalates.
Estelle Same. She just seemed like such a NICE person that there were some characteristics that didn’t seem very Isla to me (not asking her sister about her breakup is one). A little more interference from the outside world of the school would have been the ticket. Though part of me is like Stephanie did achieve something here because she really took her readers out of their comfort zone. The settings of the book changed so much.
Magan Gosh, they did. Their school became so much more to me. I thought about Paris in such a different way.
Estelle It wasn’t exactly the close knit school it was in book 1. It was almost like… it’s definitely time to say goodbye.
Magan Definitely! Partially because Isla was so isolated. Anna’s world opened up with all the friends she made, but Isla really didn’t make Paris her home in the same way. I think a lot of that had to do with her best friend, Kurt. That relationship was so wonderful AND so heart-breaking.
Estelle I agree. I really enjoyed him. I have to redo my list of books of guys and girl best friends because that one really worked for me. But it also made me frustrated with her! I wanted her to be a better friend. (But, friends, please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. All of us are dismissive at times and don’t realize what we are doing and it didn’t change how I felt about Isla but still!!!!)
Magan On the other hand, part of me realized what it can be to depend on a friend so heavily that you don’t open yourself up to other possibilities. Isla, in many ways, was so loyal to him that she didn’t make any other friends.
Estelle Ah. Great point. I can’t top that, Magan. You win. Well, actually, I was proud of Kurt for going out and doing what was best for him.
Magan Yes! I was proud of him, too. But part of me wonders if Isla was holding him back too. Being so protective over him that they BOTH weren’t able to blossom.
Estelle This was one of those occasions where distance is good for both people. They needed to find their own way so they could be better friends to each other.
Magan Absolutely! I love that! I think friendships can be depicted as either perfect or incredibly destructive, and in this instance, it was such a strong representation of how there can be some turmoil, but growth and maturity and a stronger friendship prevail in the end.
Estelle YES. I mean, even Josh was dealing with a lot of change at school with most of his friends away. We see him dealing (or not) dealing with long distance friendships and also starting fresh in his last year.
Magan Gosh, just thinking about his storyline makes my heart pitter-patter. It was so great to experience him longing for his friends. Not that he hurt, but seeing his vulnerability. And getting to learn the WHY behind being such a slacker, what exactly he was working on with his drawings (OMG – loved that part), and his family dynamics, crappy as they were.
Estelle I’m going to be corny but it felt like a meant-to-be moment. Him and Isla striking up this relationship. Like all the signs were pointing to this possibility.
Magan Oh for sure. It was just so delightful. Imperfectly delightful.
Estelle How did you feel about their time apart? Did it do something to the pacing for you or did it build up the tension?
Magan That feels like such a hard question to answer. It made me feel really sad. I felt like there was such a heavy weight on my chest. Because I noticed that Stephanie changed things up in her approach to telling their story, I wondered if Isla wasn’t going to have the outcome I was hoping for. I wondered if Isla’s big happily ever after was going to be accepting herself, believing she had worth, etc., and maybe not getting the boy. Does that even make sense? Sort of like female-empowerment.
Estelle No, it really makes sense. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen either and I so got that lonely, empty feeling when Isla and Josh were apart. But I also felt like… c’mon girl, this is YOUR time. It’s time to get your shit together. This is probably because I’m older than her but I couldn’t help but think of how much she would regret sitting around moping when she looked back a few years down the line. (I was that girl once, and I still get upset I acted that way.)
Magan Oh, absolutely. I felt so sad that she thought so little of herself. I know that is a very valid feeling and often feel like that, too, but she took it to extremes before understanding how they could affect her.
Estelle Is Josh your new favorite?
Magan Oh, dang. You’ve got me there. I loved every single one of Stephanie’s boys. St. Clair’s personality was amazing. His charm! And Cricket’s wisdom and height and great style! And Josh’s artistic eye and sensitivity. Wrap those up for me, please.
Estelle hahaha. I don’t LIKE to choose favorites but I felt like Josh would have been the best match for me. If that makes sense. Like a realistic, that could happen match. So maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for him. Plus he was from NYC so at some point our love story could come true!
Magan Hahah! Is Josh your James? Do you see similarities between them?
Estelle Oh god. I don’t know. I mean they are both artistic and were slackers in high school/college. It’s possible.
Magan Hahaha!
Estelle We’ve said so much tonight. Anything else you wanted to mention? Something we missed?
Magan Hmm. I feel like this has been so therapeutic. It’s helping me accept and find closure. I will forever want there to be more to read from Stephanie Perkins.
Estelle I agree. I’m a fan of hers for life, no matter what she does next. It does feel like the end of an era, especially because I feel SP’s work had such a hand in the birth of RBR.
Magan I think that’s a HUGE part of my sadness. Anna is one of the first books we ever gushed over together.
Estelle BUT it does mean we can spread the love to others FOREVER and reread whenever we want to relive all these feelings. I know they look like silly contemporary YAs but, especially in YA, Stephanie has created some amazing books about young women confronting change, sex, bravery, and more. She’s constantly remembered for the hot guys she brings to the tables but she does just as many fantastic things for the ladies in young adult books. MIC DROP
Magan HAHAHAH! Perfect ending! You’ve said it so well. We’ve seen three very different girls who were all struggling to find their way and their boys. Stephanie gave us three girls we could all find pieces of ourselves in and I think her work will inspire girls to take risks, be bold, make friends, and push the limits. *slow clap for Stephanie Perkins*
Estelle THE END

♥

How did you feel about Isla and the Happily Ever After?
Tell us why you’ll miss this series the most…

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A Glimpse Inside Lola’s Bedroom (#IslaIsComing)

IslaIsComing for Isla and the Happily Ever After

You can learn a lot about someone by their room. Don’t you think?

It’s been really fun to take the time to read Anna + Lola back-to-back for the first time in forever. Did you remember how super neat Anna was? (She can give Danny Tanner a run for his money.) Or how all-over-the-place messy Lola was? It’s the discoveries of these small details that make a re-read-along so much fun. We are granted the opportunity to get to know our favorite characters all over again.

So welcome to Rather Be Reading and our stop on the #IslaIsComing tour (huge hugs to Andi ABCs, Cuddlebuggery, Perpetual Page Turner, IDEK_Linz, and Paper Riot for throwing this stellar celebration!), and most importantly, welcome to the colorful, energetic, artsy place that is Lola’s San Francisco sanctuary. (Guys, it’s where the magic happens!)

lola and the boy next door bedroom guide

Purple Wig | Blue Wig | Red Wig | Anthropologie Glace Crackle Shelf | White Mannequins

Red Sari Bedroom Inspiration

Goodnight Moon Print | Marie Antoinette Print | Elle Floral Area Rug

Pink Desk Inspiration | My Fair Lady Poster | Fred Astaire + Ginger Rogers Poster

♥

We’re practically fawning over that desk and the canopy. Aren’t you?

Another fabulous Lola discovery (otherwise excluded in the above graphic) is the great friendship between our main girl and her best friend, Lindsey. They have Nancy Drew nicknames! They dress up like the other on Halloween, and they accept each other as they are. Why are they so underrated on gal pals? We must promise to remember them more!

Anyway… It’s no secret that Stephanie Perkins’ books hold a special place in Rather Be Reading’s heart. Way way back, when the two of us had just met once, one of our earlier Twitter conversations was about how much we loved Anna and just like that, magic happened once again.

Anna Lola Isla

Because we want you to share the wonderfulness of this series with your best friends (or someone you haven’t met yet?), we want to give you a chance to win a full set of these gorgeous books. Whether you keep them for yourself or surprise someone special, we hope you cherish them as much as we have. To win: leave a comment below.  That’s it. Open internationally. Must be 13 years old to enter. Giveaway will conclude on Friday, 8/15 at 11:59pm EST.

Thanks so much for stopping by to celebrate LOLA with us, as well as
the fabulous release of Isla and the Happily Ever After. xoxo

Top 10 Tuesday: Happy Recommendations + Requirements

top ten tuesday hosted by the broke and the bookish

Happy Tuesday all! I am so in love with today’s Top 10 Tuesday topic from the Broke and the Bookish. As book bloggers and book lovers, I’m sure so many of us are also “book pushers”. It is all too frequent that I’m talking to someone and a book recommendation pops in my head. Or when my friends come to visit my apartment and I don’t let them leave without taking a few books from my shelves to read.

I had some much fun compiling my list — a list that could really go on forever. In almost two years of blogging, and maybe three years of reading book blogs, my to-read list has been utterly out of control. Here are a few stand outs from my own reading adventures. If you know that’s good for you, you’ll pick up all of these titles soon… or else. 😉

Paying it Forward Books I Was Forced to Read

Freefall + Live Through This by Mindi Scott: Quite possibly the best recommendations that Ginger from GReadsBooks has ever given to me. She was nice enough to send these both my way, and I was utterly blown away by Scott’s realistic writing (in unfortunate situations) and vibrant characters that I wanted to care for.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: I love so many things about Magan but I love how she challenges to reach outside my comfort zone with my reading. Summers is a beautiful writer, even when she is telling a story about zombies. I couldn’t get over how much I connected to the story.

Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble: This one wasn’t much of a FORCED read but I felt forced to read it because of Book Chic Club’s amazing review back from December 2011. Since then I have read all of Trumble’s books, and I have Book Chic to thank. This book in particular is about a long distance relationship between two men, dealing with changes and homophobia and relationships and families. I couldn’t take my eyes away from this one.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Why is this on my list? Are you going to disown me? My oh my. Back when Harry Potter came out, I was just not interested. I saw one of the movies in the theater and I fell asleep. My sister never got into them. But I took a Children’s Literature class back at my first college and well, I had to do it for a grade and then I got obsessed. That class was memorable for so many reasons but a big part of it was introducing me to Harry, Ron, and Hermoine.

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter: This title is a new development; I actually have a review coming up later this week. I’ve had it for a few months and I’m sure I would have kept passing it by if it wasn’t for Book Rock Betty and her enthusiasm for this story. Not exactly an Alice retelling but a unique interpretation of zombies, a bubbling hot relationship, and great voices for her characters. It was super fun and I’m so so glad I picked it up.

One Day by David Nicholls: An oldie but goodie. Rachel from Hello Chelly recommended this to me before we had blogs so I bought it for my honeymoon and absolutely devoured it. A grown up book about two young people through the span of many years, heartbreak, hardships, and love. It’s not a super fast-paced story but it’s completely well-written and I felt for these characters so much.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: Funny story but the gal who married James and I actually recommended this to me before anyone else. I was really turned off by the name and the original cover but I gave it a whirl anyway and fell madly in love with Stephanie’s writing and Anna’s story. I am so so thankful for my officiant (for many reasons) but bringing Anna into my life is definitely in the top 2. (I think you can guess what 1 is.)

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer: I hope you all know Cassie from Books with Cass. Not only is she one of the sweetest people you will ever meet but um, she is kind of bossy and sort of pushy and when she really loves a book, she wants the whole world to love it too. I have no idea how many people she got to buy Liza’s book but I was one of them. I’m so glad I carved out the time to read this and got to text with her about it as I did. Nowhere but Home is a beautiful book about second chances and learning to be happy. It’s very Hart of Dixie-esque and the writing is gorgeous. (Plus there’s a lot of cooking and football and a cute man or two!)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: Man on man. I had to read this for a Non-Fiction writing class at my second school, and it just blew me away. You want scary for Halloween? Try this because it was true. A whole family shot in their home. Terrible, terrible. I have a wild imagination and anytime I think about this story, I can freak myself out. Capote is a gorgeous writer (I love him to bits) and he crafts this horrific incident in such a way that you will be very surprised to see who you are feeling bad for. This book is classic and will forever be one of my favorites. (Plus you will not be able to stop researching the crime, and that opens a whole new can of worms.)

↔

I’m so excited to read everyone else’s Top 10 Tuesday this week!

Be sure to add some of these to your TBR. I’ll be watching…

roz from monsters inc.

Always watching.

On a Personal Note: Magan in High School

Magan and Her High School Best Friends

My high school best friends and me before my senior prom. I’m in the maroon dress on the right.

There have been a few books that have really hit home for me or elements of them that I’ve related to so, so well. Just last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about Eleanor and Park because so many of Eleanor’s thoughts felt like I lived them. They felt real to me. This made me start thinking about what kind of character I would be if I pieced together all those different aspects of me.

So, hello from high school Magan. (With more pictures included, I promise.)

If you’ve been a Rather Be Reading follower for a while, you might remember the post I wrote about meeting my husband in honor of our 8th wedding anniversary. I met Dustyn when I was 16 years old. Before dating him, I had this touch and go relationship with my best guy friend. I would like him. He would think we should just be friends. I would move on. He’d want to date me. Things were complicated. (HA! If Facebook were around then, I wonder what my status would have said?)

why i related to the summer i turned pretty by jenny han

I think maybe because of that boy (who shall remain nameless), I related to Belly so well in The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. I met this boy when I was in fourth grade. I went to a tiny, tiny school where my high school graduating class was all of 23 people. We saw each other all the time. I loved his mom. I knew he had kind of a wild side, but I liked him in spite of it. I would go so far as to say that sometimes he knew more about me than anyone else did.

There was this strong push and pull of — how is this ever going to work? There’s so much chemistry, but is it right?

I remember these aching moments of seeing him with other girls and feeling so helpless. (Conrad kind of made Belly feel the same way, yeah?) For us, the stars never did align, but all of those emotions are so relevant when I read YA. So many nerves and so much anxiety can be wrapped up in relationships, and it felt all-consuming.

relating to catching jordan on a personal levelSometime during my fall semester of my junior year of high school, I decided I would quit fretting about making that relationship work. If it was meant to be, it would work out. I spent more time focusing on my girlfriends, school, and sports. I was pretty actively involved in sports. I mean, when you’re in such a small school, you can’t help but participate in everything — even if you’re not the best at it. All tightly wrapped up in one book, Miranda Kenneally captured the tension and unease of loving your best friend in Catching Jordan as well as what it’s like to be a sporty girl. Now I wasn’t, by ANY means, as kick ass or awesome as Jordan. What I did relate to was the sense of belonging and community. My sports teams were always filled with much more drama and cattiness over playing time, but the bus rides home singing music at the top of our lungs always pulled us back together.

magan's high school sports banquet

Leslie (one of my BFFs, even today) and me at a Sports Banquet

book cover of My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Given that our school was so small and we all played on every team, it was only natural that my best friends also played with me. And even better than that…

Two of my best friends were sisters.

They came from a family of five kids. Going over to their house was always so much fun — an older brother that teased them, older sibling drama, having a sister super close in age, etc. I didn’t really know how that felt because I was the oldest and my younger brother and sister were 4 and 6 years younger than me. I soaked up every bit of time I could with them because I love, loved the dynamics of their family. While My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick was definitely more dramatic than Leslie and Anne’s house, it did make me reminisce about those days together at their house.

Fast forward to Christmas of my junior year and that’s where Dustyn comes in.

You can read all about how we met in my anniversary post, but I’ll just simply state that young love can be lasting love. I was super young when I met him (16) and super young when we got married (almost 19 – the summer after my freshman year of college). People were super worried I was making a big ol’ regrettable mistake, but I can honestly say, I’ve never made a better decision before. I don’t know how I had the backbone to stand up and do what I wanted at that age, but I did. And here we are.

Dustyn and Me: On a Trolley in San Francisco

Dustyn told me very early in our relationship (um, second date) that he loved me.

He was very aware of how he felt about me, but my mom was telling me, “You’re too young to say I love you!” For a long while, I told Dustyn I loved him in Spanish (“Te amo.”). He knew how I felt, but I needed some time to develop more than just a physical “hey, he’s cute” response to him. The lady who I think writes about this so, so well is the one and only Stephanie Perkins.

In Anna and the French Kiss, Anna and St. Clair obviously have an attraction. The conversation is great and their interests are so similar. He’s better for her than that d-bag she left back in the States. (See where I’m going here?) I related to the slow build of Anna and St. Clair’s relationship. I always said I wanted to marry my best friend. It took time to learn all those details about Dustyn, but just like St. Clair and Anna — we stayed up later than we ever should have talking, went to movies together, toured cities together, etc. (Above: We were on a vacation with Dustyn’s family that took us road trippin’ all over California that summer.)

Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door

And guys, much like Lola (in Lola and the Boy Next Door), I was pretty experimental with my hair. (Maybe you guys have picked up on that? I still am. For the majority of my life I was a blonde. Now I’ve played with my hair so much I have zero idea what color it naturally is anymore.) I remember dying my hair in my parent’s bathroom (when they weren’t home, mind you) and having no idea how it was going to look. Also: Lola is much more fashionable than I was, but um, I really tried to rock the bohemian look a lot back in high school. (Was that a “thing” back in the early 2000s or was I just really unfashionable?) I cringed a lot at some of the photographs I just looked at of myself, guys.

 

The Glass Castle and Eleanor and ParkFor much of high school, I wasn’t allowed to have a lot of friends over. We grew up in not the nicest house and we didn’t have a lot of room or money to feed tons of extra people. That’s definitely not a highlight of this period of my life, but it has made me very appreciative for everything I’ve got now. And even more appreciative for Dustyn. He came into our home and would help me cook and clean. I’m pretty sure every Friday started with him helping me tidy something up even though there were other more fun things we would have wanted to do. He never judged. He never said a word. It just was.

Looking through my entire list of read books, I don’t feel like many stick out as having gone deep into these nitty gritty details of a low-income family in a way that really hit me hard. But The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell certainly stand out from the crowd. I cried big, fat tears through some parts of these because of how well I understood. (Oh, and yes — The Glass Castle IS a grown up book! Also! It’s a memoir … and really, really good if you haven’t read it.)

For the most part, I was a really big nerd. I knew I had to study hard to get into college. (Meeting Dustyn who is … SUPERSMART … was a challenge because I always had to prove that I didn’t need his help with my calculus even though inside I was going “PLEASE DO THIS FOR ME.”) I was that girl who didn’t need much punishment other than being told someone was disappointed in me. That phrase right there, “I’m disappointed in you” did. me. in. It killed me. I walked a straight line and hated getting in trouble. I tried to be in every club and participate in every sport and make perfect grades. To be honest, I’m not sure how I survived putting all that pressure on myself. All of these girls had mountains of pressure on them, too, so I was very much like, “Yeeeeaaaah, girl. I understand!” (Pictured below: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, and Golden by Jessi Kirby)

Meant to Be, Just One Day, and Golden

So, that kind of wraps up who I was back then. I was a girl who had a close group of friends that didn’t have the nicest house or the coolest gadgets, who fawned over a boy who she never dated (probably because she was just too nerdy and studied too much), but fell in love at 16 with the boy she’d marry.

Oh, but I promised you more pictures. Fine. Here you go:

High School Magan

Left: Dustyn and I on vacation with D’s family (again), Right: Dustyn and I dancing at my senior prom.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and seeing me in high school.

Tell me a few books that reminded you of pieces of your high school self!

New York City Teen Author Festival Recap: Part 2

Hi! I’m back with the final installment about my time checking out the NYCTAF festival. Unfortunately, due to work, I couldn’t attend any of the awesome-sounding panels that were going on the Friday of the festival. (For details on who attended, check this out.) Luckily, I didn’t miss out on all Friday events:

Friday, March 30th: Reading/Signing at Barnes & Noble in Union Square:

Who was there:

David Levithan (Every You, Every Me)
Andrea Cremer (Nightshade)
Emily Danforth (The Miseducation of Cameron Post)
Lucas Klauss (Everything You Need to Survive the Apocolypse)
Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss)
Siobhan Vivian (The List)
John Corey Whaley (Where Things Come Back)

What happened:

This particular events ranks number 1 for anything I attended for NYCTAF. Each author got to have a chapter of one of their books acted out. It was pretty hysterical and a great way to experience new work. I even took some semi-crappy pictures! Enjoy!

Highlights:

  • The authors opened by reading various one liners from different YA books including Sweet Valley High and good old Judy Blume. (It was funny to see which lines you could identify.)
  • David Levithan and Andrea Cremer tangoed.
  • After weeks of staring at the cover of The Miseducation of Cameron Post at Barnes & Noble, the scene performed from this book made me finally buy it.
  • Lucas Klauss played St. Clair in the “performance” from Anna and the French Kiss and it was beyond hilarious. His British accent was a cross between a butler and a vampire? Neither of which was sexy and just sort of the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
  • Afterwards, I totally forgot how to speak when I met Siobhan Vivian, told Emily Danforth how much I loved the cover of her book, and told Stephanie Perkins that her hair reminded me of Ariel. (Clearly, I am horrible at speaking at authors. But not so much the people on line with me. How weird that I meet a girl (hi Laura!) who grew up a town over from where I did?)

Saturday, March 31, 2012: New York Public Library

A full day of panels while it was gray and dreary outside! One thing about Saturday is that it ran 5 hours with one 10 minute break. I was fully expecting to go grab a snack during the “Killer Instincts:  Death, Murder, and the YA Novel” (not my thing) but all the of panels started right after the other. By the end, I was pretty much starving. (A suggestion for next time… longer break? Granola bars, something? I should have been more prepared but I thought I’d have more time to step out.)

Rising to the Challenge: YA Characters Facing Down What Life Throws Them

Who was there:

Tara Altebrando (Dreamland Social Club)
Matt Blackstone (A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie)
Susane Colasanti (Something Like Fate)
Kody Keplinger (Shut Out)
Siobhan Vivian (The List)
K.M. Walton (Cracked)

Highlights:

  • Three of the authors on this panel were teachers — Susane, Matt, and K.M. Both K.M. and Matt talked about how experiences in school helped them to write their books.
  •  Susane is a Jersey girl! Many of the experiences that happened in her newest book, Keep Holding On, are based on real bullying she experienced as a kid.
  • Kody says her writing doesn’t tell her own story, instead she writes about what she saw and what she wanted to read when she was in school.
  • K.M. was very delighted she could use the “f-bomb” in her novel.
  • Tara wanted to write a book about Coney Island and high school as a freak show. First draft didn’t work out and her editor suggested something more emotional had to happen. She went back to writing about the loss of a mom. “I’ve said all I need to say about dead mothers.”
  • David Levithan was Siobhan’s editor. She first pitched The List coming from one girl’s perspective. David asked about the others girls and writing about them actually made the whole thing more of an intimate experience. “The line between feeling pretty and unpretty is fragile.” She was able to put a piece of herself in all the girls.

Moments of Truth: Characters at a Crossroads

Who was there:

Natasha Friend (For Keeps)
Margie Gelbwasser (Pieces of Us)
Jennifer Hubbard (The Secret Year)
Stewart Lewis (You Have 7 Messages)
Sarah Darer Littman (Want to Go Private?)
Jess Rothenberg (The Catastrophic History of You and Me)
Daisy Whitney (The Mockingbirds)
Moderator: E. Lockhart (The Boyfriend List)

This panel flew by! Everyone read a bit from their books (which took up some time), Stewart Lewis brought his guitar and sang a song, and they all answered some questions. I didn’t take a lot of notes on this one but here are a few highlights:

  • Littman talked about writing Want to Go Private? and how she didn’t want to face what happens to her character. As a victim of sexual abuse, Littman had nightmares while writing this and she couldn’t sleep. “Hardest thing ever.”
  • Whitney says The Rivals was the only book she outlined. There also wouldn’t be a third book in the series and this second book is all about choices.
  • Rothenberg used the 5 stages of grief as an outline for her book: The Catastrophic History of You and Me.

Looking Forward to Fall

In the final panel of the day, authors went up and read a bit from their books that will be released later in the year.

David Levithan, Every Day
Brian Meehl, Suck It Up and Die
Marie Rutkoski, The Shadow Society
Alyssa Scheinmel, The Stone Girl
Eliot Schrefer, Endangered

One comment… while all of these sounded amazing, Endangered probably intrigued me the most. It’s not a book I would normally pick up but I was very very moved by the reading,

And there we have it! I’m so glad I was able to take part in these events and I hope to attend more in the future! Thanks to all those involved for making it a great week!