Tuesday, 26 May 2015

REVIEW: Stunned by Sarah Noffke

Bookish Details:
Series: The Lucidites #2
Pages: 312
Publisher: One-Twenty-Six Press
Release Date: 21st November 2014
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK

Synopsis:

Roya desperately wishes she was above ground, on a sunny patio, watching the lake lap up on the shore. Instead, she finds herself trapped with the Lucidites. Her brother is mysteriously wasting away, and at every turn she finds a new betrayal. Just when she thinks she’s finally escaping the Institute, a new danger unveils itself. A secret society of Dream Travelers has declared war on the Lucidites by abducting a head official. It’s up to Roya to figure out who’s behind it and how to save everyone she cares about most. More action packed than its predecessor, Stunned is captivating and will leave audiences squirming from the tension and also begging for more.

My Review:
Stunned picks up after the events of Awoken. Zhuang has been defeated, and the Lucidites are attempting to get things back to how they were. Roya’s friends and her brother, Joseph, have all been given assignments to work on over summer and are settling in at the institute. Roya, however, doesn’t quite know what to do. She has nothing to work on, and left feeling like a spare part

Her feelings for Aiden are complicated and she finds it difficult to accept that anything between the two of them must be kept secret to protect Aiden’s career. Her strained relationship with George isn’t making her situation any easier. This leads to her deciding that she wants to leave and move in with her faux parents, Bob and Steve. 

The plot, just like in the first book, was exciting from start to finish. Just when you think you have things figured out, another new twist is thrown into the mix to keep the characters constantly on their toes.

As always, the characters were fantastic. I loved Roya’s strength and her natural wit. I was pleased to see some more interaction between her, Bob, and Steve. It’s great that she has their constant reassurance and support. They are like the calm amongst the raging storm.

I felt sorry for poor Joseph. He gets messed up in something he shouldn’t, and takes it out on the people around him. But seeing Roya’s determination to help him overcome whatever he’s working on is touching and shows the development between the two of them.

I was happy to get to know George a little better this time. In the first book, his relationship with Roya wasn’t appealing to me, but now I understand the connection between the two of them a little better. I’d like to learn more about him away from his relationship with Roya.

With that being said, I still prefer Roya with Aiden. I adore Aiden. He’s geeky, and cute, and can sometimes be a little foolish. And that’s what makes him a great character. I wanted to give him a good talking to myself at certain points in the story because of the poor way he was handling certain situations. But he learns from his mistakes and grows from them. Again, he is a character whose backstory I would love to learn more about. 

The secondary characters in this story are just as fantastic. Trent shared a wonderful little moment with Roya towards the end that I really enjoyed, and it left me curious to see how his story unfolds in the last instalment. I also love Ren. I seem to have a particular interest in angry, snarky, pessimistic characters, and he definitely fits that bill. 

The Grotte was a creepy addition to this series, and one I highly enjoyed getting to read about. The new characters we meet through the Grotte are disturbing and a dangerous threat. I’m so curious to see what the overall plan is.

I need to mention the end of this book because holy mother of plot twists. I did not see the twist coming, so when it happened, it was glorious. I had one of those ‘oh, snap’ moments, and then wanted to go back through the books to see if I’d missed the clues. It was a fantastic ending that definitely left me desperate to read the fallout.

This series is always full of action and excitement. I’m eager to see what wild adventures the characters will be sent on in the final book, and how they’ll face whatever situations are thrown at them next.  

Royal Rating:



Thursday, 21 May 2015

REVIEW: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Bookish Details:
Pages: 437 Hardcover
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 21st May 2015
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK - Waterstones

Synopsis:
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia - all the things Agnieszka isn't - and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.

My Review:
There are four major issues I have with this book:

1. When I sat down to start reading the other morning, I only intended to read for a little while. I had other things I needed to be doing. However, when I next looked at the clock, I realised that the ‘little while’ had turned into hours. It left me wanting to scold my bladder for needing a toilet break, and glare down at my growling stomach for needing me to put the book down for lunch.

2. My heart says I love this book, but my eyes, stinging from lack of sleep, would hugely disagree. They really didn’t appreciate being forced to stay open until 3am when they needed to reopen at 7am that morning.  

3. I am now suffering from the nightmare we call ‘book hangover’. Do I have other books in my ‘to-read’ pile? Yes. Do I want to pick them up right now? No. Why is that, you ask? Because their pages do not contain the beautiful world within Uprooted, and Agnieszka and the Dragon are nowhere to be seen. AND I MISS THEM SO MUCH ALREADY.

4. This book is one of those books. You know the ones, a book that is so awesome you actually struggle to summarise the awesomeness into a review. Now I have to try and find something to say that’s a little more informative than just ASDFGHJKL;

But I’ll try.

This is enchanting fantasy at its best. It takes fairy-tale elements that we know, and twists them into something new and exciting. The writing  is truly gorgeous. The characters emotions are demonstrated beautifully and the action scenes are captivating. There is a creepy darkness to this story in the form of the Wood. I was completely sucked into the horror within it, desperate to know why it was there, and what it was doing.

What I also loved was the fact that it’s a stand-alone novel. Fantasy so often comes in the shape of a trilogy or more, so it was refreshing to read a book that gives a complete story with a satisfying conclusion.

What else do I need to mention? THE CHARACTERS. Seriously, the characters in this book are just so brilliant. Agnieszka was feisty when she needed to be, and I loved her coming-of-age journey. Her friendship with Kasia is touching, and the scenes that the pair shared were packed with emotion.

The Dragon was a fascinating character. The idea of him coming to the valley every ten years to take a young girl away intrigued me from the start. I loved how mysterious and cold-hearted he was in the beginning. He made me want to reach into the book and shout at him myself a lot of the time. But then I enjoyed getting to know more about his life, and understanding why he acts in the way that he does. I also loved how Agnieszka comes to challenge him rather than fear him. There was humour in the way he clearly didn’t know how to react to her attitudes and stubbornness.

The relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon was well developed. Sometimes I find myself a little disappointed in the romantic elements of fantasy, because it can easily take away from the story itself. But the romance in this book adds to the story beautifully. There were no cringe-worthy moments. The tension between the two of them was unbearable at times, leaving you eager for further scenes between them. And there was just the right amount of *ahem* steaminess.

Everything from the Prince, the politics, the Wood, and the corruption is compelling to read about. It's a world that is well built for getting completely drawn in to. This is no Disney-style fairy-tale. It’s dark, it’s violent, and it will drag you through the wars within it. But it’s also beautiful, and magical, and thought-provoking, and everything you want from a fantasy story.

It is so difficult to not spoil anything here because I’m desperate to talk about all of it. It consumed my life for the couple of days I was reading, and by the end it felt like I had returned home from the same epic journey as the characters. I just hope I've said enough to ensure that you read this book for yourself, so you can fall in love with it as I have. 

*gently nudges you in the direction of the bookstore*

Royal Rating:



Tuesday, 19 May 2015

REVIEW: Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess by Meg Cabot

Bookish Details:
Pages: 192 Paperback
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Release Date: May 21st 2015
Source: NetGalley
Buy it From: Amazon - Waterstones

Synopsis:
The first in a brand-new, funny, heart-warming illustrated Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot.

Olivia Grace is completely average. Or so she thinks . . . until Her Royal Highness, Princess Mia Thermopolis turns up at her school one day and whisks Olivia away to New York City! In a limo, no less! Where you can eat all the cookies you want and the ceiling lights up pink and purple - like a disco! But discovering that your father is actually the Prince of Genovia is quite a shock. Especially since it means you're a descendent of the Kingdom of Genovia, and a princess. Olivia's got a lot to learn about her long-lost family - and everyone's got a lot to learn about her!

Olivia chronicles her transformation from ordinary girl to princess in her notebook, with illustrations from Meg Cabot, who studied Fine Arts as an undergraduate.

My Review:
I usually only post reviews for books that are specifically YA, but of course, Meg Cabot is always an exception.

This story follows Olivia as she discovers that she is the half-sister of Princess Mia, and is a Princess of Genovia herself. After living with her aunt’s family since her mother’s death, she feels like she doesn’t have a true family of her own to be a part of.

After word gets out about her being a princess, courtesy of her jealous classmate, the infuriating Annabelle Jenkins, she discovers the truth about her life. After years of having only letters as her source of communication with him, Olivia finally gets to meet her father, Prince Phillippe.

This is a spinoff series of The Princess Diaries for the younger generation, and it will hopefully introduce a whole new batch of readers to Meg Cabot’s wonderful work. Since I spent my own teenage years reading The Princess Diaries, I adored getting to hear from some of my favourite characters again in this new series. The tone of the book and Olivia's voice reminded me why I fell in love with the original series.

It was also great to see the discovery of being a princess from a twelve-year-old’s perspective. Everything is exciting and dramatic. I loved the texts between Olivia and her best friend, Nishi. They are realistic voices for children growing up in the smartphone generation. That’s another reason why kids are going to adore this story, it’s filled with modern references that they’ll be able to recognise and relate to.

Olivia is such a cute protagonist, and her journey throughout this story is one filled with innocence and the beauty of finally finding a place to belong. Her narration of the story is believable and captures attention from the very beginning. And the sketches throughout the book are also super adorable!

This is a fast paced read that’s filled with fun, and I think younger readers are really going to love Olivia. Fans of The Princess Diaries will also enjoy getting the chance to have a little catch-up with Princess Mia before the release of the first adult addition to the original series. I look forward to what the future has in store for Genovia’s latest little princess.  

Royal Rating:




Thursday, 14 May 2015

REVIEW: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Bookish Details:
Series: Shades of London #3
Pages: 374 Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books (UK)
Release Date: February 5th 2015

Synopsis:
Grieving, shaken, and feeling very much alone, Rory's life as a member of the Shades of London has changed irrevocably. It's only been a matter of hours since Stephen was taken from her, possibly for ever. Her classmate Charlotte is still missing, kidnapped by the same people who tried to take Rory. Rory is no longer a schoolgirl haplessly involved in the dealings of a secret government unit. She is their weapon in a matter of life and death.

With hardly a moment to think for herself, Rory is back to work. Charlotte must be found -- as must Stephen, if he is even out there. Lines must be drawn and forces rallied. Something is brewing under London, something bigger and much more dangerous than what has come before. The Shadow Cabinet holds the key to everything, and it is up to Rory to unravel its mysteries before time runs out...

My Review:
*This review contains spoilers for the previous book in this series. Do not read on if you haven’t yet read them*

After the torturous cliff-hanger that occurred at the end of The Madness Underneath, it has been an extremely long and even more torturous wait for this sequel.

The Shadow Cabinet picks up immediately where the last book left us. Rory is still in the hospital after Stephen’s death, and is struggling to come to terms with the events that have happened. A grieving Rory is immediately faced with the task of tracking down Stephen’s ghost, whilst also searching for her missing classmate, Charlotte.

Charlotte has been taken by Jane, and while the team try to find her, they uncover facts about a disturbing cult dating back forty years. I highly enjoyed getting to learn about events of the past, and it certainly made putting the book down extremely difficult.

The story is fast paced from the start, and the second half of the book is nail-bitingly tense. Some of the scenes were downright creepy, especially the ones that looked back on the cult. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but when Jane finally catches up with Rory, I could not stop reading.

Sid and Sadie are chilling characters. Everything from their mannerisms to their appearance is disturbing. I get the feeling they are going to become a central part of this series, and I’m eager to find out whatever is it that they’re plotting. They’ve definitely added a much higher element of danger to Rory’s overall story.  

Once again, I loved the relationship between Rory and Stephen. We’re shown just the right amount of it to keep us wanting more. I like stories that don’t throw romance in your face from the very beginning, because that often leads to that aspect of the story getting pretty boring, pretty quickly. With this series, Johnson has paced out the development of the relationship between the two characters perfectly, making us keep on rooting for them.

I enjoyed this book being set outside of the school for the first time. It shows the dramatic changes that have happened in Rory’s life. Her being a student in the school seems like a whole different world away from the life she has now.

I adore this series. The characters are fantastic, the plot is always full of twists, and there is never a dull moment to be found. Once again, the ending has me begging for more, and it looks like I’m going to have yet another torturous wait.

Royal Rating:






Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Adaptation talk: Shadowhunters

You probably already know this, but I'm a huge fan of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. And you may or may not already know that there is going to be a TV show, Shadowhunters, based on the books. I filmed a video about my thoughts on the upcoming show and it's new cast members!



So, what are your thoughts on the cast? Let me know!



Thursday, 23 April 2015

REVIEW: Starborn by Lucy Hounsom

Bookish Details:
Series: The Worldmaker Trilogy #1
Pages: 400 Hardcover
Publisher: Tor UK
Release Date: April 23rd 2015
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK - Waterstones

Synopsis:
Death and destruction will bar her way...

Kyndra's fate holds betrayal and salvation, but the journey starts in her small village. On the day she comes of age, she accidentally disrupts an ancient ceremony, ending centuries of tradition. So when an unnatural storm targets her superstitious community, Kyndra is blamed. She fears for her life until two strangers save her, by wielding powers not seen for an age - powers fuelled by the sun and the moon.

Together, they flee to the hidden citadel of Naris. And here, Kyndra experiences disturbing visions of the past, showing war and one man's terrifying response. She'll learn more in the city's subterranean chambers, amongst fanatics and rebels. But first Kyndra will be brutally tested in a bid to unlock her own magic.

If she survives the ordeal, she'll discover a force greater than she could ever have imagined. But could it create as well as destroy? And can she control it, to right an ancient wrong?

My Review:
Starborn follows Kyndra as she is taken away after the Breaking destroys her hometown. On her journey, Kyndra is left questioning her what is happening to her, where she is going, and who the strangers whom have taken her might be.

The strangers in question are Brégenne and Nediah, two Wielders from Naris. We learn more about them and the land they come from as the story progresses. They were the most fascinating characters for me throughout the story.

I adored learning more about BrĂ©genne. At the beginning, she seemed so cold and I was unsure whether to trust her or not, but the more I read of her, the more I began to appreciate her. I think the relationship between her and Nediah is complex and well written. There was a scene between the two of them that occurred at the very end of the book that shocked me, and I’m eager to find out what the repercussions will be. I’d also like to discover more of Nediah’s backstory further in the trilogy.

Kyndra was character who became stronger throughout the story, and I admired her determination. I still think she has a lot more to offer, so I’m excited to see how she develops because I think she could totally kick some ass in the future.

There’s a great variety of characters from start to finish, and they’re all interesting, whether they’re good or bad. However, one character that left me confused was Gareth. When Gareth is first introduced, the only word I can use to describe him is vile. He treats Kyndra horribly. However, later on in the book, Kyndra seems to befriend him and he is shown as a completely different person. That may be because of the world he lives in and his upbringing, but because the reader doesn’t know anything about that, it is very hard to forgive his initial actions. I’m still interested to see what part he plays in the future of this series.

The plot was exciting and fast paced. I’ll admit, I was confused during the first couple of chapters because I didn’t really understand what was happening, but I was still completely drawn into the story.


The final couple of chapters are intense and make for a fantastic ending. There are actions that will definitely have repercussions in the future, and I can’t wait to see how the characters handle the situations in the next book.

Hounsom is fantastic at world building, and the world within this story is like nothing I’ve read before. It has a unique edge to it that sets it apart from other fantasy novels. I’m eager to see more of what this world has in store for its characters.

This is a very high fantasy story, and lovers of the fantasy genre will definitely want to give this book a read. It’s a promising start to a series that has huge potential. 

Royal Rating:






Monday, 20 April 2015

INTERVIEW: Jo Ramsey

I'm excited to share with you this awesome interview with author Jo Ramsey!

What made you want to write for a YA audience?
I've been writing stories for and about teenagers since I was one. About 30 years now. I sometimes say I never really outgrew my own teen years, and some of my stories are written to give myself a do-over on things that happened when I was in high school.

I've also worked with teenagers as a teacher or teacher's aide, and I've known many who were discouraged, or who were making poor choices because they didn't know any other choices to make. I met a lot of teens who didn't believe in themselves, but encouragement and support went a long way. I write for the teens who wonder if they're "okay", or who think they aren't anything special, or who don't believe they'll ever do anything important. That's why my tagline is "Anyone can be a hero."

What were some of your own favourite stories to read as a teenager?
As a teen, I was really into fantasy. Susan Cooper and Madeleine L'Engle were two of my favorite authors. Pretty much anything that involved a "normal" teen being pulled into a fantastic world where they were able to save people/the universe/whatever, I would read and love.

Where do you find inspiration for the stories you write?
All over the place. My kids are teenagers right now (though the older one disputes that, since she'll be 20 this summer), and they and their friends have inspired a lot of my recent projects. Some of my older, now out-of-print, books were inspired by my own experiences as a teen.

Have you ever related to any of the characters in your books?
Very much so. My Reality Shift series (which is unfortunately among the books that are now out of print) was somewhat autobiographical, in that many of Shanna Bailey's experiences, fears, and other issues were mine, either when I was a teen or when I was an adult. I took some of my adult experiences, including my journey of healing and recovery from abuse, and aged them down to reach teenagers.

What have been the best and worst parts of the writing process for you?
The best part is seeing the finished product available to readers. The worst part is revising my first draft. Though sometimes writing the first draft isn't completely fun...I love having written, but actually writing isn't always the best.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers out there?
Write for yourself above all. If you write a story you aren't really interested in because you think other people will read it, they won't read it, because your lack of interest will show in the writing. Write what calls to YOU.

Which novel are you working on at the moment?
I just submitted the fifth novel in my Deep Secrets and Hope series, so I'm taking a bit of a break before I start writing anything else.

Thanks to Jo for taking the time to answer these questions! Be sure to read more about her stories on her website, and you check out her twitter page here.


Friday, 17 April 2015

REVIEW: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Bookish Details:
Pages: 368 Hardcover
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Release Date: January 1st 2015
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK - Waterstones

Synopsis:
Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

My Review:
This story follows David and Leo as they form an unlikely friendship after Leo transfers to Eden Park School. David was a girl born inside a boy’s body, and the only two people who know about it are his two best friends. He wants to tell his parents but doesn’t know how to. He assumes that they think he is is gay, and have been waiting for him to tell them so, but he doesn’t know how to explain to them that he’s not gay. He’s actually a straight girl.  

When the school’s bully gets hold of the notebook David uses to write about the changes happening to his body, Leo steps in to help. When the pair end up in detention together, they slowly start to get to know each other more.

Heart-warming, witty, and full of brilliant characters, I completely fell in love with The Art of Being Normal. The characters and events throughout the story are believable and beautifully written. Both protagonists had their own individual voice and personality, and the scenes between them were wonderful to read.

The character progression of both Leo and David was perfectly executed. I loved watching them grow throughout each chapter. This isn’t just a book about transgender issues; it’s about watching these characters develop and overcome their own personal problems and doubts.

I’m glad that David had his best friends, Essie and Felix, throughout the story. They were incredibly supportive of him, and it was good for him to have people to share everything with. Leo, on the other hand, is reserved to begin with and doesn’t have any desire to find close friends, so it was great seeing him slowly open up to David and finally learn that friendship isn’t a bad thing.

Leo’s story was fantastically written. Williamson has a great way of conveying the emotions that run through the minds of the characters and I feel she did this exceptionally well with Leo. When we finally find out what event happened in Leo’s past for him to have to move schools, I had to fight back the tears. It broke my heart, but it was so important to read.

There is a lot I would like to say about different parts of this book, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone! Just know that it now owns a little piece of my heart. As well as showing readers a glimpse at the struggles these characters have to face, this story is also packed with humour, hope, and beautiful moments that will stay with us long after the last page.

It’s also a fantastic example of good UKYA, and I can’t wait to see what else Lisa Williamson has in store. There was a lot of buzz online about this book before I read it, and now I see why. It’s a story that does live up to the hype. I’m excited to see more and more readers pick it up and fall in love with the characters as I did.

*I used male pronouns in regards to David in this review because they are used within the book.*

Royal Rating:





Sunday, 12 April 2015

#UKYADay: UKYA From My Teens

As you probably already know, today is UKYA Day, an event organised by the awesome Lucy from Queen of Contemporary, who has done so much to show her support for UKYA over the years.

And since we’re discussing all things UKYA, I just wanted to take a little time to reflect on why it’s been so important to me. We have so many UK authors and stories that we need to be celebrating, and over the past year, I’ve seen a lot more of them see success, and I couldn’t be happier!

But for today, I wanted to go back to a part of my bookshelf that gathers a little more dust than the rest, containing the books I’ve had for a long while. I wanted to remember some of the UKYA reads I discovered in my early teens, and why I loved them so much.

One of the first book series’ that I really remember relating to was the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson books by Louise Rennison. 

My first and final books of the series
I grew up with the series and Georgia still remains one of my all-time favourite characters today. The books perfectly captured the lives of British teenagers in a way not many other books could at the time, and I think that’s why I loved them so much. They the first stories I remember reading with my friends. Reading was normally something that I didn’t get to talk about all that much because none of my friends were readers, but this was the one series that we actually all loved. Oh, how we wanted (and tried) to be the Ace Gang, and go in search of our very own Sex Gods. This series helped me laugh my way through my awkward teenage years, and it’ll always stay close to my heart.

Also hanging around on my bookshelf was Voices by Sue Mayfield. Sue is an author whose books I remember always picking up in my high school library, but I very rarely see her books talked about now.


Voices is a contemporary story about a message in a bottle, and I completely fell in love with the idea of it. The characters and the plot are wonderful, and it’s a story I’ve gone back to read a few times over the years. It was originally published in 2003, but I’d love to see readers enjoying it now.

The other book I found whilst searching for the ghosts of UKYA past is Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning. 


Again, Sarra was an author I’d always seek out at the library, but Guitar Girl was and still is my favourite book by her. It’s a story of teens finding success in a band, but rock and roll fame it isn’t everything they pictured it to be. I remember flying through this book in a day because I couldn’t put it down. It comes with awesome characters and songs you wish were real.

So there is my nostalgic trip to UKYA times gone by. I love seeing the amount of awesome books coming out of Britain now and gaining popularity across the world. It shows just how much UKYA has managed to progress over the years. I vow to never again let some of my British books gather dust on a lonely shelf, because they really did help shape the reader I am today.

What have been your favourite UKYA reads of all time? What books do you wish more people would pick up? Let me know! Also, be sure to get involved with all the action on Twitter by using the #UKYADay hashtag!



Saturday, 11 April 2015

INTERVIEW: Jennie Wood

I'm excited to share with you this awesome interview with Jennie Wood, author of A Boy Like Me

Hi, Jennie! Your novel was touching to read.
JW: Thank you so much!

What was it that made you want to tell Peyton’s story?
JW: When I began working on A Boy Like Me, I was taking a break from writing Flutter, which is a graphic novel series about a girl who shape-shifts into a boy to get the girl. Minus the sci-fi shape-shifting element, Flutter is a story very close to my own. Growing up in a small, conservative town, I spent a lot of time imagining what my life would be like as a boy. I’d watch my guy friends and male cousins take girls on dates to the movie theater. A girl taking a girl to the movies just didn’t happen in my town and I wasn’t even out yet, not even to myself. At that point, my mind just didn’t allow itself to go there so I just imagined my life as a boy and that became the basis for Flutter.

While taking a break from Flutter, I wanted to spend some time with a story that was different from my own experience. Instead of a girl imagining life as a boy, I wanted to write from the point of view of a guy who had been assigned the wrong gender at birth. I wanted to spend some time with a guy who saw the world in very black and white terms because that’s the view, the world he’s raised in, but his own personal situation forces him beyond that mindset.  

What sort of research went into writing the book?
JW: The subject matter is something that’s extremely important to me so I did a ton of research before I began the first draft. I spent a lot of time reading nonfiction, especially first hand accounts, interviews, and anthologies. One major source was Aaron Devor’s FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society, which I reference directly in the novel. I also talked to transgender individuals directly. What I realized pretty quickly was that while some situations, feelings, and experiences were similar, everyone had their own individual way of accepting, embracing, and becoming who they were. It was very important to me to not write an issue book, to not write a character attempting to represent one definitive experience.

While writing the novel, I focused on giving Peyton his own individual experience. His behavior and his inability to express himself reflected the world he was raised in. His confusion comes from a lack of language and communication skills.

When working on final revisions, I asked Tate Fox to be the novel’s content consultant. Tate was just a little older than Peyton is in the novel and had some similar experiences. Tate gave me feedback on language, situations, reactions, and dialogue for the entire book. 

What was it that made you write for a YA audience?
JW:  A Boy Like Me being a YA novel was a happy accident. I didn’t set out to write it as YA. The first draft spanned 30 years of Peyton’s life. But the more drafts I did, I realized the most important part of Peyton’s story was around the moment when he embraces who he is and the events leading up to that moment.

For example, whatever medical interventions he decides to do - or not do - later on is less important. Because Peyton’s a teenager when he begins to realize and accept who he is, that makes it a YA novel. I’m happy that A Boy Like Me turned out to be YA. Some of my all-time favorite books are. The journey I had writing this book is an example of what happens when writers get out of the way and let the story go where it wants to go.

Did you relate to any of your characters at all?
JW: Great question! Both Peyton and Tara find solace and a way to communicate through music, which I can relate to a lot. Writing songs, playing guitar, and music in general definitely helped me get through high school and beyond. Being in bands and working in recording studios – there have been times when a recording studio has been a refuge for me.

I didn’t think about that at the time I was writing the recording studio scenes with Peyton and Tara. But afterwards, looking back, I realized they were able to express themselves there because they felt safe, which was a feeling I’ve always had in a recording studio.

Also, the way Peyton sees the world - things are all black or all white, things are either masculine or feminine, for girls or for boys - that way of looking at things is something I grew up with, too. It took me a while to see beyond it and embrace all the wonderful grey areas in life, the areas that Tara so clearly sees at a young age. Tara sees those grey areas because she’s had more exposure and experiences than Peyton.

Did you learn anything new about yourself throughout the writing
process?
JW: Another great question! I learned that I could write a novel. I learned that I am capable of patience and perseverance. I learned that I could be patience not only with the process of writing a novel and with myself during that process, but also with the people I worked with, especially the two amazing editors of A Boy Like Me, Kelly Ford and Mike Perkins.

Whenever I thought to myself – I can’t look at this book one more time, I can’t do one more revision, I can’t revise one more scene – I did. At one point, in final revisions, Kelly suggested I add some new scenes with Peyton and his mother. I wanted to scream “No! No more!”

Because with new scenes comes more revisions, more edits, more back and forth. But I added those scenes and the book is better for it. I may have wanted to scream no, but I never said no to more work, to more revision on this book.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
JW: Peyton’s story is bittersweet. It’s not all rosy. Not everyone accepts him. Not everyone gets it. And that felt true to me. But I hope that readers come away from Peyton’s story with the feeling that the struggle, hard work, and courage it takes to truly know each other and ourselves is worth it. That there is some happiness on the other side of that intense struggle to know and embrace who we are.

There will be a lot of young people who can relate to Peyton’s story; do you have any advice for readers going through similar situations?
JW: Advice is tricky because while some aspects of a situation can be similar, other aspects can be different. In most cases, what a person needs in these situations is not someone to give advice, but someone who will listen.

In the book, Peyton has Uncle RB and Tara and later on Dr. Wainwright (his therapist). Peyton’s struggle is that he has a hard time talking to them, but for many, the struggle is finding someone who will just listen, especially in these noisy, busy, distracting times. Many of us don’t always have an Uncle RB or therapist or significant other. And even when we do have someone, that person isn’t always available. So the best advice I can offer is in those moments when there’s no one to listen and you feel terribly alone, do what you need to do to endure the moment. Write in a journal or bang on some drums or guitar, reach for a favorite book or CD, whatever thing gets you through that moment. 

There are moments – still – where I can’t dig myself out of a hole on my own so I reach for the music of Florence + The Machine or Amy Winehouse. And that music is enough to get me through a bad afternoon or night until I can talk to someone about whatever the problem is. If you can find a way, an outlet to get you through those moments of extreme loneliness, you’ll be okay because beyond that moment, just around the corner, it does get better, you will find someone to listen.

Finally, any tips for aspiring writers who have a story to tell?
JW: While writing, let the story speak to you by getting out of the way of it. It might take a draft or two or six (ha) before you realize oh, this is a novel, or a YA novel, or a graphic novel or a short story. Let your stories and writing go where it wants to go.

Don’t worry about where or when it’s going to be published, especially while writing it. There are so many options out there – traditional, indie, self-publishing, crowdfunding. When the work is ready for an audience, the right path to that audience will become clear. When it’s ready, your work will find its home. 

A huge thank you to Jennie for her wonderful and insightful answers! You can read my review of A Boy Like Me here.


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