Just Wanna Have Fun | Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally

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.

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This book was provided by the publisher for review.

Attention, Attention! Amy Spalding & INK

One of my RBR goals before the end of the year was to get another ATTENTION, ATTENTION post in. I’m so glad I made this a priority because it gave me a chance to 1) read one of the books that Magan really enjoyed last year 2) talk to Amy Spalding, who is one of my absolute favorite YA authors.

INK IS THICKER THAN WATER is about high schooler, Kellie, who is dealing with a ton of changes in her life. Her constant best friend, Kaitlyn, is suddenly someone she doesn’t recognize and it couldn’t have come at a worst time. Her solid older sister is occupied with getting to know her birth parents and isn’t around as much. Kellie’s relationship with her dad isn’t great; she never feels like she can please him plus she wishes her free-spirited mom would parent a bit more than she does. To make Kellie even more confused, Oliver — a boy she has a bit of a past with — comes back in her life and makes her question what she wants even more.

Whew. Sounds like a lot right? Well I am here to tell you that Amy manages to balance each of Kellie’s challenges so well. I loved the big family dynamic, the adorable little brother Finn, the “cool” parents (even if her mom was a bit frustrating at times), and how much Kellie worried about her family life changing. I liked getting to know her friends on the paper, and watching her come out of her shell and embark on her own passions and also reach out to the people she doesn’t want to be detached from. In a short book, Amy jampacks so many great details and real emotions. Spoiler alert: I totally cried.

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Amy was nice enough to chat with me about INK IS THICKER THAN WATER and also give us a small peek at her upcoming April book! Check it out:

Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy SpaldingWhat’s the last book you read that made you feel like it was the “right time / right place” kind of thing? (I had this feeling with INK, especially when Kellie was going through so many growing pains with her best friend.)

A couple weeks ago I read Leila Sales’ This Song Will Save Your Life, and it brought back so many feelings straight from my own grade school/middle school/high school years. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that so accurately nailed what it was like to be a misfit in such a similar way that I was (am?). I loved how music was used as something to get you through the worst times and also connect you to others. Music has always been such a vital part of my life, and I’m convinced it’s gotten me through tough things.

There are so many layers to INK. (For RBR readers: Parental conflicts, sex, friendship and sibling drama, etc.) What was the key to keeping the storylines balanced and making sure nothing got lost in the shuffle?

It was important to me that everything was shifting in Kellie’s life, because I feel like that’s often how real life goes. It would be a lot easier if every crisis arrived on its own, but when life changes, often life changes. I’d love to tell you I stayed crazy organized, but really I let Kellie’s emotions guide me. It was important to me that she was affected by all that was going on, and that helped steer the ship, so to speak.

I was a mega fan of The Reese Malcolm List. Do you think in some alternate universe Kellie and Devan would be friends?

Ha! I’ve actually thought about this before myself. I think that Devan would find Kellie super cool, but I think she might be too intimidated to talk to her (even though of course Kellie wouldn’t see herself as cool or intimidating). I’m not sure if Kellie could wrap her head around Devan’s musical theatre/show choir love, so I’m not sure they’re a friendship match!

What song from the High School Musical franchise best describes INK?

“We’re All in This Together”, obviously.

Not enough young adult books truly talk about the fears associated with having sex for the first time. I thought Kellie’s experience of getting wrapped up in attraction and taking a step back was so realistic. I loved all the questions she asked herself, and everything she was worried about. Did you go into INK thinking this would be part of Kellie’s story? Why do you think so many authors shy away from the realism of having sex as a teenager?

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I think that in general–not just in YA literature–young women are portrayed as sex’s gatekeepers. I feel like so many books I read growing up featured boys who wanted sex, and girls who had to say no to be “good”, or girls who said yes for either the wrong reasons or because they loved the boys. And yet the stories that I felt resonated the most for me and for girls I knew were also about desire. So I did really want to write about attraction and desire and then also how that plays out in a real world situation.

Also, when I started writing Ink, I’d just read several books where everything was just SO EASY for the girl when the boy really really REALLY liked her. And I kept thinking, what would that REALLY feel like, especially if this was your first real experience? For me I kept thinking how good things can also be scary and overwhelming, and how many things you can want and not want all at once. I also really wanted to write about a guy who wasn’t constantly the one steering that conversation or timeline; I wanted equal power in Kellie’s hands.

Will we ever meet Devan or Kellie again? (Please say yes? Or Maybe?)

I really feel like Kellie’s story is wrapped up, and I feel good where I’ve left her. I have definitely thought more about Devan and gang, so as far as they go…maybe!

Can you give us one EXCLUSIVE amazing fact about your upcoming book: Kissing Ted Callahan (and other guys)?

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) is about Riley, Reid, Lucy, Nathan; and they are in a band called the Gold Diggers!


Big thanks to Amy for taking the time to answer my questions. The post isn’t over yet.

I’m giving away eBook copies of The Reece Malcolm List and Ink is Thicker Than Water to a lucky winner.
Must be 13 years old to enter and be able to receive Kindle or Nook eBooks. Good luck!

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