Friday, December 18, 2015

Deja vu Blogfest - Why I Write Teens Who Act Like Teens

Happy Deja vu Blogfest Weekend!

The post I've chosen to rehash for #dejavu2015 was originally posted in February, and is called An Open Letter to My Readers: Why I Write Teens Who Act Like Teens.

It's an honest, heartfelt post that rings true about my published novel (LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE) as well as my unpublished and soon-to-be-published books (BUSTED, coming from Sourcebooks, and a second YA contemporary from Simon Pulse). How do *you* feel about the depiction of teens in YA novels?

This post has been brewing for some time, but now that there are ARCs of LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE out in the world, a story that I'm very attached to and very proud of, I feel the need to finally say this out loud.

Look! A stack of LYM ARCs as seen in Chicago
at the ALA 2015  Mid-Winter Conference!

Let me start by saying this: I don't just write about teenagers. I also write for them.

Yes, I'm an adult who devours YA novels. Yes, I know a large percentage of the people who read YA novels are actually adults. But when I sit down to pour a story from my brain to the page, I'm not thinking about the other adults who will read it.

I bring this up because, as someone who does read a lot of YA, I also read a lot of reviews, blog posts, and tweets about YA novels.

And it's become increasingly bothersome to me that there are so many people who choose to read books about teenagers... and then complain when the characters act like teenagers.

Photo credit: movie-addicted
When I decided to write a novel set in high school, I wanted to draw on my own experience. In doing so:

I'm thinking about a girl who experienced total culture shock going from 8 years of city Catholic school to a public high school in a swanky small town where she didn't fit in. I'm recalling the cliques, the jocks, the "popular" kids and the "losers," - things that many are so quick to deem stereotypes, even though they existed and still do. I'm recalling the pain of being teased and called names. I'm thinking about how one look from a particular person could make my day. Or the way it would crush me when the one person I wished and hoped would notice me never even knew I was alive.

I'm remembering falling in love for the first time.

I'm thinking about new friendships being formed, old friendships falling apart.

About words I wish I'd said, words I wish I could take back.

I'm remembering having my heart broken.

In short, I'm thinking about the me that I used to be. And I'm thinking about the girls who are in high school now, living through all of it for the first time.


When I was a teenager, one of my favorite shows was My So-Called Life. There's a Twitter account, @MSCLQuotes, that tweets some of the shows best quotes. Like this one:

"Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes. Even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

Photo credit: towonderland
To me, this quote is the embodiment of a high school crush. Angsty, dramatic, all-consuming. She takes something commonplace, and puts it on the same level as something huge.

I would've fainted on the spot if Jared Leto looked at me like that when I was a teenager, and I'm only exaggerating a little.

Because when you're a teenager, you tend to feel everything, as Kelsey says in LYM, magnified in clear, sharp focus. (I touched on this subject once before, in a post titled The Big Impact of Smaller Things)

And it's natural that when you're driven by hormones and emotion, you're not always thinking straight. You tend to do and say stupid things. Make decisions you wouldn't necessarily make again. Let your passion get the better of you. Break the rules, or at least wonder what it's like to. Feel like you know everything and absolutely nothing, all at the same time. Test your limits. Cry. Say things you don't mean. Say things you *do* mean, but still regret. Try things you end up loving. Try things you end up hating. Pretend to love things you don't. Experiment with your appearance, among other things. Make snap judgments. Fall hard and fast. Get hurt.

Most important? YOU LEARN FROM ALL OF IT. Because you're figuring out who you are.

Later on, it might all seem silly. But in that moment, it's everything.

These are the things I strive to capture when I write a young adult book. So it boggles my mind when I see people citing immaturity or melodrama or "dumb teenage stuff" as the reason they didn't like a YA novel.

These are, by definition, books about teenagers. YOUNG adults, not actual adults. People who don't yet know that hindsight is twenty-twenty, because they're just learning how to adjust rear view mirrors - not analyzing their lives through them.

So, to me, reading a YA novel and then trashing it when the characters act their age is like ordering a banana milkshake and complaining that it tastes like banana.

If there are people out there who managed to get through high school avoiding all the drama, who were treated fairly by all and were a ray of sunshine to everyone in return, who never made a bad choice or let emotions or inexperience get the better of them, then I applaud you. Everyone has their own reality.

But that's not the high school I remember.

And so, dear readers and critics who've either read or are thinking about reading my novels, I sum up my post with this:

If you are looking for books about people who always make the best decisions, featuring sage adult brains in teenage bodies and teenage bodies in adult predicaments, then my novels are probably not for you. My characters are flawed, they make mistakes, they feel things with their whole, bleeding hearts. And I like them that way. I celebrate the "young" in "young adult." Many of my favorite authors do the same. And I think that if my novels make you feel something - even if it's annoyance at people who don't have it all figured out - then it means I've done something right.

If you agree, then I encourage you to read LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE. Review it. Share your thoughts with me. I'd love to hear from you. To those who already have - thank you, from the bottom of my still-seventeen heart.

Happy reading, everyone.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

In Which I Have NEWS! ...And Celebrate With a Giveaway!

Hey, bloggy peeps!

It's been over a month since I've posted anything, and a good part of the reason for that is because I've been hard at work on my second book for Simon Pulse.

But while I was sitting in my office watching my word count on that manuscript slowly (PAINFULLY slowly) climb, something pretty awesome happened...


Yay! My YA Contemporary, BUSTED, has been acquired by Annette Pollert at Sourcebooks, and I am thrilled.

I started drafting this novel while LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE was on sub, and it was ridiculous amounts of fun to write. I had a big smile on my face when I finished, and I hope you'll feel the same way if you read it.

At any rate, I am super grateful to be giving LYM a sibling. So grateful, in fact, that I've decided to run a Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway to celebrate. As you know, reviews are important to authors in so many ways, but I think these graphics break it down best:

So - here are the rules:

- Between now and 12/9/15 (which is LYM's half-birthday) read LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE (if you haven't already). Then post a review on Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble. 

- Leave the link to your review in the comments section of this post. Be sure to also leave your email address or Twitter handle, so I can notify you if you win.

The review does not have to be long - a few succinct, insightful sentences is fine. And it can definitely be a copied and pasted review that was previously only posted to Goodreads or your blog or website (as long as it's yours. No plagiarizing, obvs.)

YES - this contest is international! 

**An extra entry will be given to anyone who posts a review AND tweets about the contest. I'll even provide some pre-made tweets to make it easy**

Enter 's Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway to win awesome titles from  and !  

I entered 's Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway to celebrate her new deal with ! Details here: 

One winner will be announced on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 9th, and will receive:
- Any one Simon Teen title of your choice
- Any one Sourcebooks Fire title of your choice
- Saltwater taffy (in honor of one of my favorite scenes in LYM)

Thanks in advance for helping me celebrate, and I can't wait to share BUSTED with you!

*** CONGRATS TO NATALIE BLITT, WINNER OF THE CONTEST! The Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway is now closed, but new reviews are ALWAYS appreciated! ***

Thursday, September 10, 2015

LYM's Homecoming Launch Party!

Hi Everyone,

My last post talked about my July trip to Connecticut, and the death of my grandmother. It was a bittersweet thing to write, and I've been meaning to post a happier follow up, because the trip did have a highlight:

I had a "homecoming" launch party for Last Year's Mistake with friends, family, former co-workers, and even some new fans at the Fairfield University Book Store.

It was a great success, but I haven't had time to tell you about it, because of this little thing called Book 2 (not its real name) that's been taking up lots of my time. And then there's this other thing:

Which, of course, is not a "thing" at all. My little guy recently turned two, and I swear he has enough energy and to light a small country. So now that I actually have 5 minutes where I'm not writing and not wrangling a toddler, I thought I'd share some photos from Launch Number Two (Recap of LYM's release week and photos from Launch Number one can be found HERE).

*** Special shout out to my husband and party planner extraordinaire,*** who organized the refreshments, and surprised me by hiring a photographer to snap pictures of the event. It's something I never would've thought to do, but I'm so glad he did, because the night was a big blur.

And, as always, a huge thank you to everyone who came out to Fairfield that night, to everyone who has bought and/or read, and/or reviewed LYM, to everyone who took the time to cook or bake, and to everyone who continues to show love and support to me and my books.

You are so very appreciated.

If you want proof of how happy you make me, just take a look at the smile on my face in these pictures.


He has plans for that Sharpie. None of them good.

My parents rocked their "My Daughter Wrote" t-shirts....

And some of you might recognize the fabulous
Dahlia Adler, who came all the way from NYC <3 td="">

"Never be ashamed to be yourself" is how I signed this book,
and many others. Kelsey's been there, so have I. We're all good enough.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Saying Goodbye

I spent last week in my home state of Connecticut, and it was a bittersweet trip, to say the least.

Originally, my husband and I had planned this vacation for two reasons: 1) To meet our nephew, my sister's first baby, due July 7th,  and 2) to have a homecoming launch for LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE with my family and friends.

The launch went on, but sadly, I never got to meet my nephew. Mason Tod was stillborn at 22 weeks, and our family was devastated.

Unfortunately, that was only our first loss associated with this trip. Two years ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. In the weeks preceding our trip, her condition went downhill fast. We learned that the cancer had spread to her brain and spine. Every time I spoke to my mother, the news wasn't good. Until one night, it kind of was:

The evening my mother sent me this text, my grandmother had spent the morning not talking, not eating, not swallowing. But then, somehow, she got a second wind. And used it to ask my mom to read LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE to her. My mom and sister tried to Face Time me so Gram could tell me how proud she was of me, the same way she kept telling them. But the call wouldn't go through.

That happened a lot in the next few days. There was never service, and if the call did connect, it would freeze and I couldn't see anything.

The day before we flew to CT, my sister tried again. And this time, the call went through without a problem. Although my grandmother couldn't move, she could see me, and I could see her. She looked right at me and said hello, then told me she loved me. Her speech was strangled, but she still had a smile on her face. She watched my son play, and smiled when he said, "Nonna," the name her great-grandchildren called her. When she started to have trouble keeping her eyes open, I told her I'd see her tomorrow, and we ended the call.

By the time I got to her bedside the next afternoon, her breathing was labored. Her eyebrows moved when I spoke to her, but she couldn't open her eyes. Still, I know that she knew I was there. When I left her, I kissed her cheek and wished her sweet dreams.

Three hours later, my mother called to tell me Gram had passed away.

I didn't think that she was waiting for me, but now I believe it wholeheartedly. Anyone who knew my grandmother knows that it makes perfect sense. She never wanted to serve a meal until the entire family was together, and she wanted to take her last breath the same way.

It was my job to write a eulogy on behalf of the grandchildren, and I wanted to share it here as a tribute to my grandmother. Rest in peace, Gram. It means everything to me that I made you proud.

Grandma, teaching me how to make homemade gnocchi for Christmas dinner
We're here today to celebrate the life of our grandmother, Luisa Astolfi. It's hard to find the right words, because her passing is not just the end of her life. It's the end of an era.

For as long as any of us can remember, Grandma's house was our family headquarters. She loved nothing more than having her children and grandchildren gathered at her table every Sunday afternoon - a family that grew so often, the table had to be custom made to fit everyone around it. She made feeding an army look easy – even as she insisted on cooking at a tiny oven in her cramped basement kitchen, while the full-size, fully functional stove in her real kitchen sat collecting dust on its avocado-green surface.

Her food was famous and her door was always open. When she sold the house in Bridgeport to move in with Uncle Pat and Aunt Linda, nothing changed. That big, round table went with her. And no matter how many of us were squeezed into her apartment, she could always find room for more. When her grandkids asked if we could bring friends for lunch to show off our grandma and her awesome cooking, she'd say in her Italian accent, "The more the merry!"  She ended up acquiring a few honorary grandchildren because of it. Because everyone who met her fell in love with her, and if you weren’t her grandchild, you wanted to be.

Family was our grandmother’s pride and joy, and she was ours. She was the center of everything, the person we all adored and looked up to. She would’ve done anything for her grandkids – her babies, as she called us – and we would’ve done anything for her. It’s so hard to picture Grandma missing from that table, but even more difficult to imagine her missing from our lives. Sundays will never be the same, but one thing will never change – we are so proud to have known her, loved her, and been part of her family.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy Book Birthday to UNDER THE LIGHTS by Dahlia Adler!

Good Morning!

It's a glorious Tuesday! Know why? Because today is the official release day for my CP Dahlia Adler's newest book, UNDER THE LIGHTS!

Photo Credit: threehundredlittleducklings

You might remember last June, when I spewed gifs all over the internet in celebration of Dahlia's first book, BEHIND THE SCENES.

Well, Dahlia has done it again. And this time, as that awesome cover leaves no room for doubt, she's done it with really cute lesbians. (Yep, totally aware of how that sentence sounds, and pretty sure Dahl would want it no other way, and so I'm leaving it.)

Photo credit: justanotherbadfish

Photo credit: lezgirlblog

So, done what again, you ask? (*snaps fingers* HEY! Ogle the girl-on-girl gif later, I'm still talking!)

I've found that I have three main reactions to Dahlia's novels. First, there's this:

Hysterical, face-contorting laughter, in case I have to spell it out
Photo credit: isabelleadjanis
Then she has to go and throw in a few of these moments:

Because it's totally normal to sob over people you don't
know and won't ever meet. And also don't exist.
Photo credit: powerofdean

Mixed in with a good amount of these:

Self explanatory
Photo credit: mariahpapaya2
If this isn't you during the sex scene, I fear your pulse is nonexistent
Photo credit: tenpointstogifindor
And this book absolutely does not disappoint in any department. If you like funny, honest, heartfelt stories with diverse, realistic characters, then go pick this one up right now. I promise, you will be happy you did.

Happy Release Day, Dahlia!!!!
Photo Credit: bornthisday1995