Review: Another Day by David Levithan

another daySo. Another Day. It’s the companion novel to Every Day, which I reviewed here almost two years ago.

Both tell the story of Rhiannon and A– Rhiannon, an insecure girl in an abusive relationship, and A, who wakes up in a new body every morning. The first novel was written from A’s perspective, and as you might imagine, it was fascinating to read about a character whose appearance– and even gender!– changed daily.

Now it’s Rhiannon’s turn to tell their story.

Levithan did a great job of making it into Rhiannon’s story; he’s a masterful writer, and just like with the first book, he raised so many important questions in this novel. I even thought he did a better job in this second novel of leaving those questions unanswered for the readers, whereas in Every Day, I got the impression that Levithan was trying to shoehorn his own answers into the text.

Now, here’s the thing.

This is what I wrote about the end of Every Day: “The ending was PERFECT and unexpected, but I can’t tell you how it made me feel because I want you to experience it for yourself.”

That said, Another Day ended a little bit differently.

I’m not going to drop any spoilers here, no worries. I just want to say that when I finished Another Day, my jaw dropped and I think I said aloud to the darkness of my room, “Wait– what?” It was absolutely not what I was expecting from having read the companion novel, which was difficult for me because that was my favorite part!

It was one in the morning, but I emailed my friend Alison at Hardcovers & Heroines anyway. 1) I knew she had read and reviewed it. 2) David Levithan is one of her instructors. We emailed back and forth a little bit, and she let me know that he is actually writing a third book for this series. That makes the ending of Another Day make more sense. That said, it sort of diminishes the perfection of Every Day’s ending. I’m torn.

I will just have to wait for book #3!!

 

 

Holidays are Hard for Some of Us

This time of year– i.e., “the hap-happiest season of all”– is difficult for many people, including me. It has been since I was about fifteen or sixteen years old. That’s over half of my life spent wishing that Thanksgiving and Christmas and even New Years would just hurry up and be over already.

It’s not that I don’t love family. I do.

It’s not that I don’t love what the holidays represent. I do.

It’s not that I’m some bah-humbug Scrooge who is annoyed with it all. I’m not.

I think it mostly has to do with the dark. It’s so much, so suffocating. It’s waking up in blackness and having it already be dark when you leave work.

But it also has to do with the light– that is, the cheer, the general good tidings, the comfortable coziness that seems to accompany the holidays for most people. For some of us, that sense of feeling that things are supposed to be good sometimes highlights that they’re not.

I feel so grateful for how far I’ve come– to be honest, I’ve spent Thanksgivings and Christmases of the past sobbing on the floor or feeling dead and hopeless inside. And I haven’t had a weepy or hopeless Thanksgiving or Christmas in many years, for which I’m so glad. (Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, ERP!) But even still, I get this feeling that I’m not quite feeling what I’m supposed to be feeling, and I have this strong desire inside of me to just get it all behind me for another year.

I know I’m not the only one.

So, for those of you out there who are struggling this holiday season, I want you to know that I’m thinking of you. I’ve been there. I’ve spent this hopeful, joyous time feeling hopeless and joyless, and I know how stark the contrast is in these winter months, how much it hurts, how hard it can be for others to get it. I get it. This prayer is for you:

Jesus, I celebrate You– I celebrate Your marvelous incarnation, the Word becoming flesh.  Tonight, Lord, I lift up to You all those who are burdened with heavy, laboring hearts this season– whether from depression, anxiety, mental illness, or internal crisis.  YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD US ALL.  Just as that first Christmas was the initiation of Your inexplicably great rescue plan, I pray that this Christmas will be the start of Your new rescue mission in the lives of these sufferers.  You are Love.  You are Truth.  You are the mighty redeemer.  I entrust my heart to You and ask that You would hold those for whom I’m praying– in a way that is felt.  Amen.

Wow.

So. Last night I found the first draft of Truest.

first draft of truest

It is 80 pages with the climax on page 75 and the whole shebang wraps up in just five pages. It has a non-ending. There are some SUUUUUPER cheesy parts that make my teeth hurt. There is virtually no conflict. It. is. terrible. TERRIBLE.

And it was the best thing I could have read this week.

What do I mean? Well, if that— that worthless drivel written by some talentless hack– could be made into a book that I’m proud of, then there’s great hope for Yes Novel. It’s already about ten times better than the first draft of Truest.

I’m not kidding: if someone else had handed me that first draft of Truest, I would have wanted to politely suggest to them that they should explore other careers. Yet, I remember being so proud of it back in the summer of 2012, when I wrapped up that first draft!

So– take heart! If you’re in a battle with your own manuscript, just know that there’s a possibility you BOTH might win!!

November at the Speed of Life

Where has 2015 gone? I can’t believe November is already half over. I feel like 2016 is just at the horizon, and I’m blinking at it, wondering how we got here.

I feel happy. Right now. This morning I felt anxious and even took my panic pill because I had two items on my day’s agenda that I didn’t want to face, including a phone call I’ve avoided since I first bought my house. Sometimes being a grown-up is just so hard.

It sure has been nice to have the draft of Yes Novel turned in though. I’ve been resting and reading– but still brainstorming and thinking lots about the manuscript. Yesterday I realized that I already missed writing, so I let myself write for fun (“I’ll stop if I get frustrated or stressed.”) and I loved every minute. I wrote till two in the morning and wished I could go all night.

Isn’t that crazy– how fast we can miss things? I popped in both of the Deathly Hallows films, one after the other, while I worked on a couple scenes for Yes Novel (scenes I now love, by the way). I know that I’m still in the Uncomfortable Middle. But I’ve started to dream about the Finishing Touches, imagining those days will come.

Perhaps they’ll be here before we know it. It’s already mid-November. In the words of Laurel Hart, “Seems like I only blinked and here I am. I’m spiraling toward the end of now and the start of infinity.”

Review: Persuasion by Martina Boone

persuasionThis is a very brief spoiler-free review of book #2 of the Compulsion trilogy; you can read my review of the first book, Compulsion, here.

This Southern gothic is alive with magic and romance and mystery, with gifts and curses doled out to generations of three intertwined families. Since this is a spoiler-free review, I can’t say too much about it, except that we continue to learn more about the mystery behind the Colesworth curse and the Beaufort and Watson gifts. This book also discusses victims of sexual violence, a discussion I appreciate and applaud.

And then, of course, there’s Eight.

Eight Beaufort, my favorite part of this series. This boy is magical (almost quite literally): a true Southern gentleman with charm and sweetness and a delicious frustration to him. I adore him.

I can’t wait for book #3 … which doesn’t come out till next fall. Someone hold me. Preferably Eight.

My Debut Year: What I Learned

My novel only came out two and a half months ago; for an intents and purposes, I’m just a newborn author. But I’ve had all these thoughts floating around in my head for a while, and I wanted to get them out into a blog post. I know that many of you are really interested in the publishing process, so I thought you might find this of interest. Forgive me if it’s random. I’ll be using bullet-points again.

debut year

  • I absolutely loved doing a big celebratory launch party on release day. It was so much fun and so special to have people I love from so many parts of my life come together to celebrate Truest … and to celebrate me. It was awesome. And it was great to have it on the actual release day so that there was actually a climax to the day I’d been counting down from for nearly two years. YES to release day parties.
  • I loved my street team, but I did everything too early and put too much money into it. I tried to come up with enough swag to entice readers to join the launch party, but I think the people who joined it would have joined it for less. In future, I will probably do a street team, but I will a) give them only the ARC plus some exclusive content, b) do everything within a month of the release date.
  • I would absolutely dish out the money to do a couple book tours during the release month. I’ll be doing a couple of those here in November and December, but I really wish I’d had the foresight to do them in September. Newbie!
  • At every event (except maybe the launch party), I would also promote other books that I enjoyed. I really want to give back in this way, plus I want bookstores that host these events to sell more than just my book.
  • I made a handful of promo materials. I probably should have just come up with one incredible idea, made a ton of them, and then given them out EVERYWHERE. When I busted out my promo events at a local college fair, they went like hot cakes … didn’t hurt UNW any either! It inspired lots of conversations.
  • Here’s one that might shock you: I would have been more spoiler-y in my flap copy (i.e. the text on the inside flap of the book). A story about three teens in the summer isn’t particularly compelling, but once I mention that one of them has a disorder that causes her to question whether she’s in real life or just dreaming, I see lightbulbs go on. Every time. I’ve been looking at the flap copy of other books, and theirs is open super spoilery … and it doesn’t hurt the experience of the book. I think this was a big mistake of mine.
  • I used Author Author to get copies of my books, but I’m not sure if I really got that great a deal on them. That said, it’s been so great to have plenty of copies that I’m able to sell at events. I also recommend using Flint for those sales. Also, bring a wingman to handle the sales. You don’t want to have to worry about handling money and credit cards– you should be free to just chat and sign books.
  • Don’t read the reviews. Except the five-star ones. Those are tremendous fun. Filter everything else out on Goodreads.
  • I learned that publishing a book isn’t a magical key to fulfillment. Okay, so maybe it is on launch day. There is nothing quite like seeing your book on shelves for the first time. But after that day, I was still just Jackie, full of self-doubt and wondering if anyone would like it, wondering if I could write another. I’ve shed a lot of tears since Truest came out, and most of them were not happy ones. Being published changed my life, but it didn’t take away my problems and doubts. At all.
  • Everyone says the best thing you can do for your current book is to work hard on your next book. It can be really hard to tear yourself away from the action around your debut novel to focus on writing another one, but this is the writing life.

So, do any of these surprise you? Any other writers have additional thoughts to chime in?

Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (plus some thoughts on the depiction of OCD in the book)

rest of usI’m pretty convinced Patrick Ness is a genius. I love his Chaos Walking trilogy, and A Monster Calls moved my whole heart. He pushes the limits in such brilliant ways, and The Rest of Us Just Live Here is no exception.

I loved the concept: very, very few of us can be “the Chosen One.” While Harry Potter was off saving the wizarding world, most young wizards were just trying to get good grades in double Potions. I think of Tris, of Katniss, and even of Bella … all in the center of the action. But what about the teens who were on the outskirts of it all, knowing things were going on but, for the most part, not affected by them in their daily lives?

That’s what TROUJLH is about. It’s narrated by Mikey, who has been getting into these “loops” (washing his face over and over, or his hands, or counting the corners of his textbooks, etc.), and about his sister Mel, and their friends Jared and Henna. Each chapter starts with a brief explanation of what’s going on with the “indie kids” (i.e. the Chosen Ones, the heroes), and then spends the rest of the chapter on Mikey and his friends. We see the things happening to the indie kids– but it’s very peripheral. Mikey and his friends just want to make it to graduation.

I liked it. It was such an interesting concept and very well done. It poked fun at YA tropes in ways that made me smile. I recommend you read it.

It was interesting to read about Mikey’s OCD. Sometimes I thought, “Yes, yes, yes, this is what it’s like,” especially when Mikey talked about hating himself and about this perpetual wrong feeling. So many of us OCD sufferers can relate to that. But it was a little hard for me to identify Mikey’s obsessions. There was, I suppose, a vague worry about something bad happening to him and his friends, but it wasn’t sharply tied in the text to his compulsions. For me, my obsessions always took the front seat and my compulsions were closely and obviously (even if foolishly) connected to those obsessions. But my compulsions were never really like Mikey’s (counting and washing and repeatedly doing something till it “feels right”), so I guess I shouldn’t compare too closely. I guess I worry that someone who knows nothing about OCD would read an account like this and fail to really understand why the compulsions are there, what they are doing, the faulty logic of it all. There wasn’t a huge theme of uncertainty (though there was a small one), and for those of us with OCD, uncertainty is the biggest hurdle of our lives. I am glad that OCD was never portrayed as Mikey being a neat-freak, which would have sold the disorder short. Ness did show how depressed Mikey was due to the compulsive loops.

This was a great read. Can’t wait for Ness’s next work.

Obsessive Christmas Disorder

We literally had someone come onto our OCD Twin Cities Facebook page and tell us, “If you don’t like it don’t buy it, get over it! Another thing to be politically correct about I guess” to which Alison responded magnanimously and I replied:

“Brent, educate yourself. This is the page of OCD Twin Cities, a group of people who have gone through HELL because of this disorder. You don’t get to come to our page and tell us to be less sensitive about the disorder that has devastated our lives. Would you go to a cancer victims page and tell them to be less sensitive about cancer? Would you go to a hate crimes victims page and tell them to be less sensitive about racism? I sure hope not. And if you’re the kind of person who would, then I feel sorry for you. Again, educate yourself. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about compassion. Try harder. Do better.”

Later I posted on my Facebook wall:

“So, here’s the thing with the Target “OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder” sweaters: people who don’t have OCD don’t get to tell people who DO have OCD whether it’s appropriate or not to be offended. It doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to approach a victim of mental illness (or of racism, or of abuse, etc.) and define for them what YOUR boundaries are for their complaints. What is the matter with people? I just want to crawl into a cave and hibernate. Wake me when the world learns common sense and compassion. Heck, I’d even settle just for the sun coming out again.”

Alison Dotson is the nicest, kindest woman ever. When she speaks up, it’s to educate, not to insult or shame. (I admit I am not always as kind!) To see people treat her like this is so sickening. She’s a sweetheart.

If people made light of any number of other things, it would be stopped in half a second. But there is still so much misunderstanding around OCD.

We soldier on.

Alison Dotson

By now you’ve probably heard of the controversy over a holiday sweater Target is carrying this season. It reads “OCD Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” On the surface, it’s “just a sweater.” At least that’s what people keep telling me. They’ve also told me it isn’t making fun of OCD, and that “compulsive” is a pretty key word to the whole term. Of course, I think “obsessive” and “disorder” are pretty key words as well, and they’re included on the shirt.

An alternative title to this blog post could be “When Advocacy Turns Ugly” because I’ve been getting some nasty tweets in response to the one I sent to Target on Tuesday:

Sweater

Usually when I open Twitter I’ll have somewhere between two and five notifications. The morning after I sent this tweet I had 22. What?! I soon realized why: My tweet was included in a Mashable article about the issue.

I…

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Review: Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

orbitingOrbiting Jupiter is incredible, a truly beautiful piece of work.

It’s narrated by 12-year-old Jack, whose life is changed when Joseph, his new 14-year-old foster brother, moves into his home on the family farm. Joseph has had a rough past, and– how’s this for ya?– he’s a father. At fourteen. His one wish is to track down his daughter, Jupiter. From there, the story unfolds.

It’s a very fast read. I listened to the audiobook, and it took about three hours. In just three hours, I was transfixed. A fire was lit in me. I cried like a baby.

This book was lovely and beautiful in a simple and stark and quiet sort of way. I will definitely be reading more Gary D. Schmidt books. By the way, I met Gary when I was in Chicago last month. He also gave a keynote presentation to the conference on Saturday. I should have guessed then by his gentle spirit and moving nature that this book would be the same.

Highly recommend.