State of the Blogger: idk.

Back at the end of 2016, I posted my creative goals for 2017:

  1. Finish Salt Novel.
  2. Find the soul of Yes Novel.

So. Yeah. Life.

Salt Novel is getting closer, but it won’t be done before the end of the year. The exciting news is that my agent, my editor, and I all want another pair of eyes on the manuscript, so I’m getting to work with an editor I really admire who has worked on NYT Bestsellers in the YA world. I’ll get notes from her in mid-January, which means a 2.5 month break from my novel! It’s quite needed. I’ve been working on this since I finished Truest back in 2013– well, along with a time where I wrote out a draft of Yes Novel. Speaking of …

Yes Novel. For those of you who didn’t know what it was about, it’s about a boy named Asa with OCD. If you’re active in the YA community, you’ll know that John Green’s latest novel just came out last month. About a girl named Aza with OCD.


Yup. So Yes Novel is headed to the backburner for now.

But all this means that I have 2.5 months to brainstorm new ideas. Or, as my therapist put it, to “be playful.” I am truly, deeply excited to just explore ideas and characters and names without any stressful deadlines I have to meet. I have a handful of ideas (Fox Novel, Ivy Novel, Glass Novel, Gold Novel, Egg Novel) and a handful of characters that have been … percolating. It’ll be fun to mix and match and dream.



Review: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a book cover misrepresent the story inside so much as this one. Let’s take a look at it.noggin

What do you expect from this title and cover?

I pictured a Grasshopper Jungle type of story– weird and wild and fast and sort of hard-to-believe-but-I’ll-go-along-for-the-ride, you know?

Not at all. This story was the most emotionally exhausting book I’ve read so far this year. And maybe for ALL of last year too. In fact, I can’t remember a book putting my heart through the meat-grinder quite like this one did since I read The Fault in Our Stars. My gosh. I’m still reeling.

First of all, what’s this book about? Travis Coates is the second person to have a successful head-transplant surgery. When he died, his head was cryogenically preserved while they figured out the procedure– the medical organization he was with suspected they would have a solution within twenty years, though, secretly, neither Travis nor his friends or family thought it would ever work. So, when only five years later, it does work … well, everything is different. Most notably, Travis is still sixteen and in love with his girlfriend Cate … who is now 21 and engaged to someone else.

This book was intense. All the feels. Multiplied exponentially. While I often love to just binge-read through a great story, I couldn’t with this one. I could only handle small doses– an hour of reading here, a half-hour there. And when I finished it today, I just sobbed and sobbed and then took a nap to deaden the feelings.

Noggin was incredible. Layered characters. Meaningful story. Made my head spin and my heart break. This book was so much more than I ever anticipated.



Cold Milk

Is there anything better than a glass of cold milk?

Okay, probably. But right now it’s rocking my world.

I’ve been reading like a maniac. I just finished four books. Two reviews are up: Underwater (review) and In A World Just Right (review). The other two are forthcoming. Plus I started another book, Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios. It feels really good (and healthy!) to be reading a ton.

I’m working on my 2016 creative goalsI especially want to tackle what’s behind door #6 (a pruned TBR shelf). I think this upcoming weekend, I need to do another round of culling the shelf. Plus, of course, all the reading helps move books from my TBR shelf to my beautiful full-wall bookcase. Rock and roll.

To that end, I’m being super selective in my book purchases lately. As you know, I pre-ordered a handful right after Christmas; now that Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo is available for pre-order and MELINA MARCHETTA’S NEW BOOK (Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil) is available too, I’ll place orders for those. My gosh, I don’t think she’s put out a book since Quintana in 2012, which honestly feels like forever ago. Even though this an adult mystery (instead of her usual YA contemp or YA fantasy), it doesn’t matter to me. I’d read her grocery lists.

Just finished my glass of milk. Dang, that was good.

I want to be a better blogger. Not sure yet what that will look like.

I’ve been PLOTTING. This might come as a shock since many of you know that I abhor plotting, but this has actually been sort of fun. I think it’s mostly because I already mostly knew what was going to happen and what needed to happen and got to hammer it out in a spreadsheet, of all things. Plus, I’ve been doing lots of brainstorming and research, and I’m excited about my ideas. Nothing like spending hours on Pinterest and getting to call it work!

Now to write. I’ve been avoiding my manuscript for over a week now. That is not good, nor is it like me. But we had this exhausting weekend of work, and afterward I just needed to rest, and before you know it, my rhythm is all off and I’m terrified to dive back in. It’s like, as long as I write five or six days a week, I’m the queen of double dutch.

double dutch

But once I stop for a couple days, I’ve bounced out of the ropes and cannot figure out how to jump back in. 

jump in

Does that analogy work for you?

I know I just need to do it, no matter how sloppy it is.

I’ve been sick. I’m desperately trying to save up PTO to take a writing retreat (see 2016 creative goals, door #4), but I just had to blow it all this week. Ugh. Starting over.

In case you missed it, my next novel is not coming out till summer 2018 now. I feel GREAT about it … until I go on Twitter. I really should not go on Twitter. It is a dark place for me. I wonder if I will always, always struggle with comparing myself to other writers.

That’s the scoop from my sick-couch! Pray I am better by tomorrow morning. I have to be.


Review: In A World Just Right by Jen Brooks

I met Jen Brooks during a panel discussion we were both a part of last November, and I was fascinated by the excerpt she read from In A World Just Right. I bought a copy that very night, but I haven’t had a chance to dive in until yesterday. I started it yesterday. I finished it yesterday. I was home sick from work, so I legit just read for eight hours straight.

in a world just rightThis book.

Let me tell you.

The premise is clever: ever since Jonathan went through a traumatic accident at age eight, he’s been a world-maker, that is, he can invent worlds and come and go from them as he pleases. The one he spends the most time in is Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend, where– you guessed it– Kylie Simms is his girlfriend. In real life, that’s not even close to being true. Jonathan is a bit of an outcast, mostly invisible to his classmates.

Fascinating, right?

Things get trickier from there, once the real Kylie Simms starts paying attention to him and Jonathan starts learning the extent of his powers and has to deal with some pretty huge moral decisions. Like, fantastically huge. He really, really wrestles through things, and I loved him for it.

Then things get even trickier. Really.

Let’s just say that this is as close to a YA Inception that I’ve ever read. That’s a good thing– no, a great thing.

About halfway through, I tweeted to Jen that “I can’t figure out how in the world(s) this will end,” and she tweeted back, “Fingers crossed you like where it ends up. :)”

After my eight-hour journey of my mind being blown, I tweeted her, “PERFECT ENDING!”

Not my typical read, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. You guys know I love books that make me think. This book will make you think.


Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

It feels like a million years ago that Marisa Reichardt first contacted me– she wanted to interview me for The Sweet Sixteens (interview here). I sent her a PDF copy of Truest, since there weren’t even ARCs at that time. Since then, Marisa has become so dear to me, someone I can go to about all my writer-problems, someone who gets it and is brimming with compassion and empathy.

underwater3Now it was my turn to read her book!

Underwater is Morgan’s story– readers learn in the earliest pages that she was witness to a school shooting and has since been dealing with agoraphobia. Yes, Morgan has not left her family’s apartment in months. Then a new guy moves in next door, and things start to change.

My favorite part of this book was how much I understood what Morgan was going through– the panic, at first, then later, as she begins to venture out (starting with just the welcome mat!), the way she has to sit with so much uncertainty and fear– but how she accommodates to it! I had the distinct thought, “This is exposure therapy. This is also how you treat OCD.” Afterward, I looked it up online, to see if my guesses were right. The sites that I looked at talked specifically about exposure therapy being the best treatment for agoraphobia.

Mind. Blown.

Here I thought we with OCD had the corner on the exposure therapy market! Not so.

Some reviews I read said that the book is a little dark and heavy– but I disagree. Well, time out. Yes, it begins dark and heavy. But it should. We are dealing with PTSD here, people, not a hangnail! But what I loved most about Underwater was how it bent toward the light.

Life like a Rocket

An update on my life:

I’m reading again. I read two books this week and started a third. Loved Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea (review) and Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (review). I was lucky enough to get an ARC of my friend Addie Zierman’s new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the DarkI’ve read the first couple chapters, which are brilliant. No surprise there. Addie’s writing knocks me off my feet every time.

My writing group is amazing. It was so good to get together with them this week and really hash out my POV concerns for Salt Novel. I feel really, really good about where we landed. Plus, they are so encouraging. To be honest, in the early stages of writing a novel, I think that’s probably my biggest need: to have people say, We’re interested. We like these characters. Keep going. 

I’m making some changes to my OCD meds. This is maybe a little surprising, since I’ve said before that I don’t like to rock the boat. Problem is, I had some blood work done and the little half-milligram of Risperdal I take each night is probably affecting me in such a way that I need to get off of it long-term. That part is fine to me. I feel like these days I’m using Risperdal more as a sleep aid than as an anti-psychotic. So I suggested to my psychiatrist that maybe I could trade Risperdal in for an actual sleep aid like Trazodone. He agreed. I really can’t sleep without Risperdal (see story below for case in point), but I also know from past experience that I’m suuuuuuuuuper sensitive to Trazodone. We’re working out the kinks. My primary care doctor also recommended that I start taking NAC, an amino acid that has been helpful for people with OCD. The next day, our OCD Twin Cities group was talking about NAC. Then I asked my psychiatrist, and he gave me the thumbs up too. I’ll keep you posted. The nice thing about NAC is that you can pick it up at any old vitamin store, no need for a prescription.

Sleep evades me. I’ve had some problems (read: lots) with sleep lately. I cannot sleep without Risperdal. But I also take 10 mg of melatonin, which is all-natural. Even then, I wake up throughout the night, and in the morning, I don’t feel well-rested. Last night, I gathered up my evening meds, and I thought I felt one pill fall on the floor. I got on my hands and knees looking for it, but couldn’t find anything so I went to bed. But I couldn’t fall asleep. I was restless. I was wakeful. I was up for long periods of time around 1, 2, and 3 am (at which point I started praying for my friends– sometimes when I can’t sleep I wonder if that’s why I’m up. Interestingly, one of my friends told me today that she was up at 3 am, fitful over some things going on. I was praying for her at the same time!). Finally, at 6 am, wide awake but soooo tired, I realized the pill that probably fell was my Risperdal. So I took Risperdal at 6 am and finally got some rest. YUCKO. Thank goodness it’s the weekend!

Except I have to work this weekend. This is historically the hardest couple of days of the year for me– President’s Day and the day before– because we have a wild and crazy large-group overnight event for prospective students on these days. As my personality has shifted into full-on introversion, it’s gotten harder and harder. Think of me.

It’s pretty darn cold in MN. We’ve had it easy so far this year for the most part, but in the last couple days, it’s been downright frigid.

I’m excited about my novel. I really am. I have so many ideas and so much hope. Sometimes all the ideas and all the hope kind of flood me and I get overwhelmed, so I remind myself to put my head down and to SHOW UP and put in the work. I have a really detailed word count spreadsheet, and I’m loving it. Theoretically, if I follow the spreadsheet, I will have a draft finished soon! It’s so good to be back on the island with these characters. They are lovely and cruel and have lots of sharp edges.

One last thing: Girl Scout cookies are destroying me.

How are you, friends? Please comment. I absolutely love hearing from you. Makes me feel less alone!




Spread Some TRUEST Love Today!

Would you consider re-blogging this post, sharing a link to it, or pinning/sharing/using one of the images below in your social media? #Truest

My debut novel Truest comes out on September 1st, and I couldn’t be more excited to introduce the world to these characters who have captured my heart! The highlight of 2014 for me was when I got an email from my editor that said:

I don’t know why it took me so long to finish this version. But I just did and all I can say is WOW. I just think it’s the kind of book that will change kids and adults, too–forever. Jackie–it’s just a beautiful book. You’ve written something meaningful, deep, thought provoking, sexy and uber-romantic.

To learn more about Truest— or to pre-order your copy, click here. FINAL MEET THE CHARACTERS FINAL BLOG BANNERTruest quote storm cell Truest alacrity truest baptism with website White genuine leather classical style sofa in vintage room with desk lamp

Fresh organic oranges halves  fruits on blue wooden background with copy space

man plays the guitar on the street. retro style.


red shoe truest

The Wonder of YA Fiction

I’m not going to link to Ruth Graham’s article on Slate because it was ridiculous (adults should be embarrassed to read YA fiction … give me a break).

Nor am I going to add to the multitude of (quite excellent) rebuttals.

I just wanted to say why I love reading and writing quality young adult literature.

miskoIt’s because of the wonder.  The stories are so exploratory, so youthful, so for-the-first-time. There’s discovery, deep thought, processing, amazement.  I love the awe, the fascination, and even the acuteness of the pain. (As Cat Stevens would remind us, The first cut is the deepest.)

Don’t think I’m implying that adult literature doesn’t or can’t have these things too. My only point is that they’re pretty inherent in YA, and I love that about it.


Image credit: Misko, cropped by me

YA Junkie [& proud of it]

A few odds and ends from the Land of YA Lit …

I joined Oblong Insider because I EVEN WANT BOOKS I DON’T KNOW THAT I WANT.  Yes, it’s true.  I signed up for a YA book subscription where someone else chooses books for me because WHY NOT.  I filled out a form that asked for my favorite books and authors so they could get a feel for what I liked, and then– voila!— the other day, I got my first package!

Look at this stuff!  I got Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens (a book for which I’ve read great reviews!), an awesome “I read YA” book bag, and a matching button.  Too cute!

ya swag

Yes, of course I love buying and choosing books on my own, but this is so fun and exciting, like unwrapping a birthday present!

Also, someone muttered some fightin’ words online:

fighting back

Seriously??!  What is wrong with people?

Also, thought Teen Librarian’s Toolbox posted an interesting article about how we guide teens into a safe discussion about sex in literature.  You can read it here.

Also, my friend Mary has got me thinking and dreaming about what the cover of Truest will look like.  (Note: I will likely have no say in this.)  But an author can dream, right?

Also, Maggie Stiefvater is going to be at the SCBWI summer conference.  I thought about going, but in the end, I think I’ve decided to stay put.

Also, Buzzfeed’s 19 True Struggles of Being Addicted to YA Books as an Adult.

Also, also, also … !

I love YA lit.

5 Books for the Reluctant [YA Fiction] Reader

I promise you, young adult fiction is not only vampires and gossip and dystopian landscapes.

For the uninititate, I propose you begin here:






Related Posts:
How to Offend a Book Lover (by forgetting characters in The Book Thief)
My Review of The Scorpio Races
Five Reasons to Read Jellicoe Road
How TFiOS Inspired Me to Write YA Lit
Jandy Nelson is an Auto-Buy Author
Spotlight on Melina Marchetta

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.