‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2019 with Dana Alison Levy

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?”

About Dana Alison Levy

Dana Alison Levy is the author of four acclaimed novels for elementary and middle school readers, including the Family Fletcher books and her latest, It Wasn’t Me. Her young adult debut, Above All Else, is about two high school seniors and best friends who have been training their whole lives to climb Mount Everest, but once they begin the journey they have to question their loyalty to themselves, each other, and their dream of the summit. It is coming in October 2020. Her books have garnered multiple starred reviews and spots on annual Best Of lists, are Junior Library Guild selections, and have been translated into three languages (only one of which Dana can read). Also her kids like them.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

“And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.”*

This is the first line of a poem, called The Shortest Day, written by Susan Cooper and featured in a holiday show called Christmas Revels in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I grew up. I’ve been to Revels almost every year of my life, and now my kids have been every year of theirs. The show changes, but every single year, no matter what the theme, they recite the poem The Shortest Day. It’s baked into the memory of every winter I’ve been alive. It’s about the winter solstice, about the day when there is the least daylight and the most darkness, before the earth keeps turning and brings us back toward the sun.

I should also mention that I’m Jewish. I grew up in a secular Jewish household, where we celebrated the big holidays, but weren’t Bat Mitzvah’ed and we didn’t go to synagogue. We also — every year — had a Christmas tree, which we thought was totally cool, and which our other more committed Jewish friends were jealous of.

When we asked our parents about it, they told us that Christmas, while celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, is layered on top of an older, pagan tradition of solstice. As the days shortened and the sunlight disappeared, all kinds of cultures, before Christianity and after, sought out rituals of light and evergreen to drive away the darkness. Somewhat defensively, they told us that by decorating with pine branches and lighting up the house we were celebrating these ancient traditions as much as anything else. (I won’t poke holes in their thesis by adding that we also hung stockings, ate candy canes, and watched Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t align with any pagan rituals, but hey, I wasn’t complaining!)

Anyway, we had our tree (or Solstice bush), and our stockings, and our menorah, and our dreidel, and our latkes, and our gingerbread cookies…you get the idea. It was a mishmash of candles and greenery, games and sweets. It was a way push back against the shortest days of the season and the darkness that encroaches.

Now I’m an adult, a parent, and married (to a Catholic who was raised with more formal religion than I was, but has joined in the religious free-for-all). I still live in New England, where the days shorten, and the earth freezes, and it feels for all the world like the year is curling inward, burrowing deep, dying. The winter solstice approaches, and it’s hard not to feel exhausted, worn down, not only by the darkness outside, but by the unceasing darkness of our political moment. It feels, in these dark days, like the light is far away.

So we light the candles on the menorah and say the prayers. We eat latkes in front of the Christmas tree, then rush to watch Elf. We listen to Mahalia Jackson sing Oh Holy Night and wonder at the magic of her voice. We donate money we maybe can’t afford, and try to help others, try to work for a brighter world. Under the light of the moon we hike into the woods, sometimes in the snow, to drink hot chocolate under the night sky and leave homemade birdseed and peanut butter treats for the animals. Sometimes we go to Midnight Mass and join the chorus of people singing loudly and joyously into the stillness.

These are not Christian traditions. They’re not Jewish traditions. They’re not even pagan traditions, in any strict sense. But they weave together a thread that tethers us across time and space, not only to my own childhood, but to rituals far deeper and older. We seek to drive the dark away and welcome the new year.

However you celebrate, whatever culture or religion, whatever belief system or tradition you hold dear, I hope that for you there is a light blazing against the darkness this season, reminding you that we are turning back toward the sun. Reminding you that the warmth of long summer days will return.

Happy Solstice!
xoxo Dana

*Note: This poem, originally written in 1974, has just been turned into a beautiful picture book that is on shelves now! So go forth and read!

Title It Wasn’t Me
Author Dana Alison Levy
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Publication Date November 13th 2018 by Delacorte Books For Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleIndieBound

The Breakfast Club meets middle school with a prank twist in this hilarious and heartwarming story about six very different seventh graders who are forced to band together after a vandalism incident.

When Theo’s photography project is mysteriously vandalized at school there are five suspected students who all say “it wasn’t me.”

Theo just wants to forget about the humiliating incident but his favorite teacher is determined to get to the bottom of it and has the six of them come into school over vacation to talk. She calls it “Justice Circle.” The six students — the Nerd, the Princess, the Jock, the Screw Up, the Weirdo, and the Nobody — think of it as detention. AKA their worst nightmare.

That is until they realize they might get along after all, despite their differences. But what is everyone hiding and will school ever be the same?

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‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2019 with Nicole Kronzer

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?”

About Nicole Kronzer

In addition to writing books for teenagers, her favorite people, Nicole Kronzer is a high school English teacher and former professional actor. She loves to knit and run (usually not at the same time), and has named all the plants in her classroom. She lives with her family in Minneapolis.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

Growing up with a maternity nurse for a mother who could earn double time-and-a-half on holidays, my sisters and I learned as children that Christmas was Christmas when Mom said it was — not when the calendar did.

We often celebrated with a big meal and presents on the evening of the 24th, and even though my mother has retired from hospital nursing, we’ve continued to celebrate with her on that night. I think we just got used to Christmas being dark and cozy.

A few years ago, however, a key component of our celebration changed. My mom (the cook in our family) visited my sister in New York City. They went to a fancy restaurant with small plates and many courses and Mom flipped out. “I’m going to do this for Christmas!” she squealed at me over the phone. “Like, two darling crackers with a little dollop of something on little plates. And then a tiny soup! Tiny asparagus with tiny hollandaise! It’ll go on like this for eight courses! No — ten! And wine pairings with everything! Nicole! WINE PAIRINGS!”

“We should play games between the courses,” I said, half-joking. But I should have known better. There are no jokes when my mother is planning Christmas.

“YES!” she shouted into the phone. “You’re the Games Master, Nicole!”

Games Master. I like to be in charge, so the sound of that pleased me deeply.

I sat down with a pad of legal paper (let’s be honest — I don’t mess around planning Christmas either), and made a list of goals:

1) The games would have to be funny.
2) Everyone would have a game designed just for them.
3) Jim would have to win.

Jim is my step-father. I love him dearly, but he gets a little pouty when he loses because he’s very competitive, and the rest of us aren’t. I knew rigging the whole thing so he could come out on top would make everyone happy.

I started with Mr. Competitive’s game first. Jim has a lockbox of a memory for certain things, but the funniest one is American Interstates. Once, when my husband and I narrowly escaped Hurricane Katrina by driving our rental car from New Orleans nineteen hours back home (which is a story for another blog post), Jim asked which route we’d taken – and then named two entirely separate possible ways home. Straight from his brain pan.

So that Christmas, I named two random major cities in the United States for each player (“Okay, Dan, you’ve got Albuquerque to Dayton, Ohio!”). You, a non-Jim, would have to tell me how to get between them, which is a ridiculous ask. So you, a normal, non-Jim person, would naturally lose. Jim, however, won every single round. And the grin on his face that would last all night is how we kicked off Christmas.

The next game was for my brother-in-law, Tom. “Prescription Drug or Tolkein Elf?” Tom is the calmest of us all, but this quiz isn’t messing around. It includes elves from the Silmarillion. Watching Tom get irritated probably wasn’t funny for him, but it’s such a rare sight for the rest of us. I considered that a win for goals two and three.

Another round included “What did my kid draw?” wherein I had my preschooler draw whatever she wanted before she went to bed, (because Tiny Plates/Game Master Christmas is only for adults. Remember: WINE PAIRINGS!) and then my family had to guess what she was attempting in each picture in great detail. (“Is that a cat…riding a bicycle?” “No, I’m afraid that’s Aunt Bebe in a snowsuit taking pictures of a ninja-whale!”)

Perhaps my favorite course-cleanser that first year, however, wasn’t a game at all. My sister Bethany and I are both writers, so we tag-teamed writing the script for a thirty-minute Hallmark-Christmas-style movie. I would write a scene, then email it to her, then she would write another and email it back. Our plan was to split up the parts amongst the family and read it out as the last “game” before desert.

It was, if I do say so myself, a freaking cinematic masterpiece.

Called Home for the Holidays, it stars Melanie Clearwater, a fancy New York bigwig, coming home to the backwater town in the Midwest where her whole family still lives.

Bethany has watched more of these movies than I have, so I didn’t know about the trope of an older man named “Chris” or “Nick” living next door who’s actually Santa Claus and quietly makes magic happen for the protagonist.

When Bethany wrote in this “Nick” character, I didn’t think anything of having Melanie’s sister storm into the back yard, throw her wedding ring over the fence and choke Nick to death. (Now that I type this and read it back, it’s possible I haven’t watched any of these movies. Also, that this “Games Master” thing has really gone to my head.)

Bethany flipped out. (It’s like she’s related to our mom or something.) “His name is Nick. Like, St. Nick. You killed St. Nick, Nicole! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

She freaked out so much, I had to pull a fast one and bring him back to life a scene later. Which, as it turns out, is another Hallmark Christmas movie trope. *Jazz hands*

Despite almost killing Santa Claus, I have been allowed to retain my Games Master title for many years now. My mom keeps making tiny plates with delicious things and yacks the ear off of whoever is working at the liquor store to make the wine pairings. Bethany and I keep writing something for the family to read out loud.

And most importantly, Jim keeps winning.

On the morning of the 25th, or “Christmas” as other people call it, my sisters and our families and I pack up our presents and leftovers and drive to my dad’s, where we celebrate another favorite holiday tradition: frozen pizza and Guitar Hero.

Title Unscripted
Author Nicole Kronzer
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date April 21st 2020 by Amulet Books
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A funny and timely debut YA about the toxic masculinity at a famous improv comedy camp.

Seventeen-year-old Zelda Bailey-Cho has her future all planned out: improv camp, then Second City, and finally Saturday Night Live. She’s thrilled when she lands a spot on the coveted varsity team at a prestigious improv camp, which means she’ll get to perform for professional scouts — including her hero, Nina Knightley. But even though she’s hardworking and talented, Zelda’s also the only girl on Varsity, so she’s the target for humiliation from her teammates. And her 20-year-old coach, Ben, is cruel to her at practice and way too nice to her when they’re alone. Zelda wants to fight back, but is sacrificing her best shot at her dream too heavy a price to pay? Equal parts funny and righteous, Unscripted is a moving debut novel that Printz Award winner Nina LaCour calls “a truly special book, written at exactly the right time”.

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2019 with Suzanne Park

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?”

About Suzanne Park

Suzanne Park is a Korean-American writer who was born and raised in Tennessee.

In her former life as a stand up comedian, Suzanne was a finalist in the Oxygen Network’s “Girls Behaving Badly” talent search, and appeared on BET’s “Coming to the Stage.” She found this to be the funniest thing in her comedy career because, well, she is not black. She was also the winner of the Seattle Sierra Mist Comedy Competition, and was a semi-finalist in NBC’s “Stand Up For Diversity” showcase in San Francisco.

She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, female offspring, and a sneaky rat that creeps around on her back patio. In her spare time, she procrastinates. Her YA romantic comedy debut, The Perfect Escape, releases April 7, 2020 and her adult romcom Loathe At First Sight comes out August 4, 2020.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

Because I have the worst memory, I enlisted the help of my siblings to help me remember our childhood holiday traditions.

Let me add some context now, starting with our pre-holiday bowling tradition (which I mistakenly thought was on Christmas). Every year on Thanksgiving, my mom kicked us out of the house and my dad, brother, sister and I went to the bowling alley for a few hours while my mom cooked the turkey. It was the only time we ever went bowling, just once a year as a family (sans mom), on Thanksgiving Day. When did this tradition start, and why did we go BOWLING, you might ask? I honestly have no idea, and I’ve asked everyone in my family, and no one remembers the origin story. Surprisingly, the bowling alley in the outskirts of Nashville was always a bustling venue on that holiday, with lots of other “not-helpful-in-the-kitchen” family types and a handful of truck drivers occupying half of the lanes. While this was one of the weirdest Park family traditions, unfortunately it wasn’t technically during the “holiday season,” but it’s one worth mentioning to help tee up the other bizarre holiday rituals that followed every December.

Nativity scenes were something that my parents loved and incorporated into every Christmas season. We had one set that came out every year that my mom placed with great care near the fireplace. My parents also took us on drives to see festive yard decorations, one of which was at a house two doors down from my dad’s corner market. This Christmas spectacle on Meridian Street was a sight, with colorful blinking lights, fake snow, and of course, several life-size black nativity sets with wise men, Marys, Josephs, and black baby Jesuses. Every year they’d add a new full nativity set, and each year my siblings and I would try to figure out which baby in the manger was the newest black Jesus.

Adding to the yuletide strangeness, as children, we never questioned the origins of our tree décor. My mom would add new “ornaments” every year like keychain tchotchkes or Korean decorative tassels, and I never remember buying any actual legitimate ornaments for our tree. From afar, the tree looked colorful and robust with all of the various adornments. Seeing it up close was another story. One year, my mom won a dancing Santa in a church raffle that she proudly displayed next to our tree. Santa danced as we opened presents. Another Park tradition.

For me, the holiday season can be summarized with just a few words. Family. Festivities. Fun. Dancing Santa. And black baby Jesuses.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Title The Perfect Escape
Author Suzanne Park
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Publication Date April 7th 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Love is a battlefield in this hysterically funny rom-com debut, perfect for fans of Jenny Han.

Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich, just like everyone else at the elite private school where he’s a scholarship student. When one of the wealthiest kids at school offers Nate a huge sum of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family ― and they need the money, since Nate’s dad just lost his job. But is compromising his integrity worth it?

Kate Anderson wants a fresh start. Her high-powered CEO father oppressively controls over her life, demanding she follow the life plan he’s laid out for her. She fantasizes about escaping to New York, where she can pursue her dreams of being an actress. But how can Kate get there when she can’t even buy dinner without his approval?

Nate and Kate’s worlds collide at their job at a zombie-themed escape room. As sparks fly, fate steps in: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize that could solve all their problems. And thanks to the survival skills they picked up watching hours of zombie movies, the two think they might just have a shot. But the real challenge will be making it through the weekend with their hearts intact…

Class 2K19 Books Reflect On Their Debut Year

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

Happy Monday, friends! We’ve finally made it to the final month of the year (and the decade!) and I can think of no better time for a post all about reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future. I was recently approached by members of the Class 2k19 Books debut author group and asked if I could help them share a post on their expectations, experiences, and overall feelings about their debut year and I’m so pleased I was able to help them with this. An author’s debut year can be an equally thrilling and terrifying prospect and I think it’s informative and important that authors be given the opportunity to discuss what this time was like for them, because it often illuminates both how similar and how different this experience can be from one author and one book to the next.

Class 2k19 Books is so thrilled to be wrapping up their debut year that they’re holding a MASSIVE giveaway to thank their readers. One lucky winner will get a prize pack that includes gift cards, makeup, movies, mugs, pins, notebooks, stuffed animals, treats, and of course more books! Then five more winners will win a virtual meet-and-greet with the Class 2k19 author of their choice where they can chat books, writing advice, fan fiction – whatever! The prize pack is U.S. only due to shipping costs, but the virtual meet-and-greets are open internationally.

To enter, all you have to do is pick up a Class 2k19 book (purchasing or library requesting is ok!) or review a Class 2k19 book online. With 20 great YA and MG books to choose from, that’s 40 potential entries! For an explanation of how to submit entries, please click here!

“We writers have a lot of expectations about what being a published author will feel like. Mostly, I’d say that not all that much changed in my personal life, which might sound surprising. But it’s not like people stop me on the streets asking for my autograph. Still, my dream was never to reach that kind of fame. It was simply to hold my book in my hands, to see it in a store, and to find out that a complete stranger loved it and read it in one sitting. All of those things happened for me, and honestly, those moments were kind of magical. It’s those little moments that make all the rejection, hard work, and stress worth it. So, consider this your random reminder to cherish the little moments and hold them close, because those are the things that will get you through anything. Those little moments are what really matter in the big scheme of things.”
– Tiana Smith, author of Match Me If You Can


Title Match Me If You Can
Author Tiana Smith
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date January 8th 2019 by Swoon Reads
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Mia’s best friend Robyn is known for her matchmaking skills, which is perfect, because homecoming is just around the corner. But Robyn refuses to set Mia up with the guy of her dreams, which forces Mia to take matters into her own hands. She uses Robyn’s matchmaking service to make sure popular Vince Demetrius falls for her.

Vince asks her out, but Mia doesn’t count on Logan, the persistent school newspaper photographer who seems to like her out of the blue. Now she has to choose between Vince – the guy she knows is right for her – and Logan, who insists that she give him a chance. And she needs to make sure Robyn doesn’t find out that Mia’s been matchmaking behind her back.

Mia has two weeks before homecoming. Can she fix the mess she made or will she have to kiss her perfect match goodbye forever?

“Debuting is  a wild ride. For me, it was almost surreal to have one of my biggest dreams coming true (yay!) while dealing with unexpected disappointments along the way. And on top of that, it was really difficult for me to accept that I was sometimes feeling negative emotions after thinking that I should just be grateful that I was finally published. (Life lesson: Don’t judge your own feelings. Just feel them.) But now that it’s been almost a year, I am really proud of my little book. I loved my launch party and meeting other authors at events like YA Fest in Pennsylvania and the Louisiana Book Festival. And I am just so delighted that my book is resonating with readers!”
– RuthAnne Snow, author of When The Truth Unravels


Title When The Truth Unravels
Author RuthAnne Snow
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Publication Date January 8th 2019 by Sky Pony
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Last month, Elin tried to kill herself.

She knows she’s lucky that her parents found her in time. Lucky to be going to prom with her three best friends, like any other teen. Like it never happened. And if she has anything to say about it, no one but her best friends will ever know it did.

Jenna, Rosie, and Ket will do anything to keep Elin’s secret — and to make sure it never happens again. That’s why they’re determined to make prom night feel just like it would have if this past spring hadn’t been as eventful. This could be the night that convinces Elin that life can go back to what it was.

Except, at prom, Elin goes missing.

Now it’s up to her friends to find her. But each of the girls has her own demons to face. Ket is being blackmailed by an ex. Rosie is falling in love for the first time. And Jenna…

Jenna is falling apart.

And no one, not even her best friends, knows why.

Heart-wrenching and utterly impossible to put down, When The Truth Unravels follows four friends as they confront their greatest hopes and darkest secrets during one life-changing night.

“Debut year has been wild! Somehow the longest and shortest year I can remember. If I told my 2017 self that I’d get to talk about Immoral Code at Denver Pop Culture Con or switch places and talk to booksellers about my own book instead of listening to other authors talk about their own, my mind would’ve been blown. There’ve been highs (holding my first book in my hands, hearing from readers, forging remarkable friendships) and lows (facing down the epic self-doubt that comes with writing book two while dealing with debut struggles), and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!”
– Lillian Clark, author of Immoral Code


Title Immoral Code
Author Lillian Clark
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Thriller
Publication Date February 19th 2019 by Knopf Books For Young Readers
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Ocean’s 8 meets The Breakfast Club in this fast-paced, multi-perspective story about five teens determined to hack into one billionaire absentee father’s company to steal tuition money.

For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s,” it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones,” like Google or Apple. Keagan, her sweet, sensitive boyfriend, is happy to follow her wherever she may lead. Reese is an ace/aro visual artist with plans to travel the world. Santiago is off to Stanford on a diving scholarship, with very real Olympic hopes. And Bellamy? Physics genius Bellamy is admitted to MIT – but the student loan she’d been counting on is denied when it turns out her estranged father – one Robert Foster – is loaded.

Nari isn’t about to let her friend’s dreams be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from Foster to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals. Fast-paced and banter-filled, Lillian Clark’s debut is a hilarious and thought-provoking Robin Hood story for the 21st century.

“I consider myself lucky to have debuted in February. Before Just for Clicks was released, I was an anxious mess. But once my book hit shelves, that’s when the fun started. I’ve had so many cool experiences this year, from my book launch (a dream come true) to library events to working with bloggers to unexpected emails from kind readers. The business of publishing can be brutal, but become a published author has been one of the coolest and most rewarding experiences of my life.”
– Kara McDowell, author of Just For Clicks


Title Just for Clicks
Author Kara McDowell
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date February 19, 2019 by Amberjack Publishing
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Mommy blogs are great…unless the blog happens to belong to your mom.

Twin sisters Claire & Poppy are accidental social media stars thanks to Mom going viral when they were babies. Now, as teens, they’re expected to contribute by building their own brand. Attending a NY fashion week and receiving fan mail is a blast. Fending off internet trolls and would-be kidnappers? Not so much. Poppy embraces it. Claire hates it. Will anybody accept her as “just Claire”? And what should Claire do about Mom’s old journals? The handwritten entries definitely don’t sound like Mom’s perfect blog persona. Worse, one of them divulges a secret that leaves Claire wondering what else in her life might be nothing but a sham…

“It’s really hard to pick the events that were most thrilling during this debut year—but a few days really stand out. Meeting my editor, Kathy Dawson, for the first time and touring the Penguin Random House Offices in New York City made me feel like a rock star. As did signing books at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. My book launch party at our local indie bookstore — the outpouring of love from allies, family, old acquaintances, high school friends, mentors, critique partners, and even complete strangers was unbelievably affirming. My first school visit, where kids told me I’d inspired them to grow up to be writers. A trip to North Carolina for Heck YA Fest and Nerdcamp NC, where a group of us MG and YA authors bonded like sisters and pledged lifelong friendship. And the year is not over! I still have so much to look forward to!”
–  Gail Shepherd, author of The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins


Title The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins
Author Gail Shepherd
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Historical Fiction
Publication Date March 26th 2019 by Kathy Dawson Books
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Lyndie B. Hawkins loves history, research, and getting to the truth no matter what. But when it comes to her family, her knowledge is full of holes. Like, what happened to her father in the Vietnam War? Where does he disappear to for days? And why exactly did they have to move in with her grandparents?

Determined to mold recalcitrant Lyndie into a lady even if it kills her, her fusspot grandmother starts with lesson number one: Family=Loyalty=Keeping quiet about family secrets. Especially when it comes to Lyndie’s daddy.

Then DB, a boy from the local juvenile detention center comes to stay with Lyndie’s best friend, Dawn. He’s as friendly and open as a puppy. There to shape up his act, he has an optimism that’s infectious. But when DB and Lyndie are paired for a school project about family history, it puts Lyndie in direct opposition to her grandmother’s rules.

A one-of-a-kind voice lights up this witty, heartwarming debut about the power of homespun wisdom (even when it’s wrong), the clash between appearances and secrets, the effects of PTSD, and the barriers to getting help even when it’s needed most.

“My debut year was amazing, scary, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and the beginning of a new life. It has truly been incredible to see that people I never met have enjoyed my book – some enough to call it a favorite! – and to feel that I’m starting next year off with a few more fans than I had at the beginning of this one. Some dreams I haven’t achieved yet (NYT bestseller list, I’m still coming for you), and other dreams I didn’t even realize I had until I’d achieved them (being in a book box? Best thing ever!). I can’t wait to see what next year brings.”
– Claire Eliza Bartlett, author of We Rule The Night


Title We Rule The Night
Author Claire Eliza Bartlett
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Fantasy
Publication Date April 2nd 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Two girls use forbidden magic to fly and fight – for their country and for themselves – in this riveting debut fantasy that’s part Shadow and Bone, part Code Name Verity.

Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she’s caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linné defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army. They’re both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women’s military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness. Revna and Linné can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can’t fly together, and if they can’t find a way to fly well, the enemy’s superior firepower will destroy them – if they don’t destroy each other first.

We Rule The Night is a fiercely compelling story about sacrifice, complicated friendships, and survival against impossible odds.

“Like many authors do, debut year has been something I have long dreamed about and strived for but I learned that it didn’t matter how much I thought about it or wanted it, nothing could have prepared me for the total emotional roller coaster ride I was in for. I survived a major life change, followed by a devastating job loss. I’ve said goodbye some people and hello to others. I’ve seen parts of the world I never would have imagined before. I lost myself. I found myself. I saw my book in an end cap at Barnes and Noble in Times Square, I picked it up and felt it’s pages and then I felt the indescribable feeling of a dream 15 years in the making. It’s been a whirlwind year of blessings, (even hidden ones), challenges, and dreams coming true.”
– L.D. Crichton, author of All Our Broken Pieces


Title All Our Broken Pieces
Author L.D. Crichton
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Publication Date May 7th 2019 by
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You can’t keep two people who are meant to be together apart for long…

Lennon Davis doesn’t believe in much, but she does believe in the security of the number five. If she flicks the bedroom light switch five times, maybe her new LA school won’t suck. But that doesn’t feel right, so she flicks the switch again. And again. Ten more flicks of the switch and maybe her new stepfamily will accept her. Twenty-five more flicks and maybe she won’t cause any more of her loved ones to die. Fifty more and then she can finally go to sleep.

Kyler Benton witnesses this pattern of lights from the safety of his tree house in the yard next door. It is only there, hidden from the unwanted stares of his peers, that Kyler can fill his notebooks with lyrics that reveal the true scars of the boy behind the oversize hoodies and caustic humor. But Kyler finds that descriptions of blond hair, sad eyes, and tapping fingers are beginning to fill the pages of his notebooks. Lennon, the lonely girl next door his father has warned him about, infiltrates his mind. Even though he has enough to deal with without Lennon’s rumoured tragic past in his life, Kyler can’t help but want to know the truth about his new muse.

“For me, debut year has been an exhilarating, exhausting, terrifying and dizzying roller coaster ride! Throughout the many twists and turns, one constant has been the joy of sharing Super Jake at schools, libraries and festivals – especially with children. Their attentiveness, caring and compassion have been gratifying beyond words.”
– Naomi Milliner, author of Super Jake and The King of Chaos


Title Super Jake and The King of Chaos
Author Naomi Milliner
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date May 7th 2019 by Running Press Kids
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A debut contemporary novel about 11-year-old aspiring magician Ethan, who discovers that heroes come in all sizes, and real magic can be found in the most unexpected places.

When life revolves around stressed-out parents and ER visits for his special needs little brother Jake, eleven-year-old Ethan escapes to a world of top hats, trick decks, and magic wands. When he hears of a junior magic competition where the top prize is to meet and perform with his hero, Magnus the Magnificent, Ethan is determined to do whatever he needs to get there – and to win.

His dedication and hard work pay off, and he makes it to the top five finalists: his dream really could come true! Then Jake falls dangerously ill and Ethan’s hopes and plans are in jeopardy. As he searches for any sort of magic that might save Jake, Ethan learns what is truly important…and what real magic is.

“My debut year has been a dream. This entire experience has been such an unexpected surprise, but the thing that stands out the most to me is all the new people I’ve gotten to know this year—author friends, bloggers, and readers. I feel incredibly lucky to cross paths with so many awesome people!”
–  Sarah Lyu, author of The Best Lies


Title The Best Lies
Author Sarah Lyu
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Publication Date July 2nd 2019 by
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Gone Girl meets Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls in this mesmerizing debut novel about a toxic friendship that turns deadly.

Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend — her soulmate — who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest…

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something darker than anything Remy could imagine? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

Told in alternating timelines, this twisted psychological thriller explores the dark side of obsessive friendship.

“Frankly it felt like every single week I was opening the door to an unknown room in a haunted house — so much was frightening and new — but I came away with the knowledge that I could handle so much outside my comfort zone, especially because of new friends in the book community, who held my hand and mopped up my nervous sweat.”
– Sara Faring, author of The Tenth Girl


Title The Tenth Girl
Author Sara Faring
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Publication Date September 24th 2019 by Imprint
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A haunted Argentinian mansion.
A family curse.
A twist you’ll never see coming.
Welcome to Vaccaro School.

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi ― a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother ― it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house ― despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored…and one of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence.

“Debut year has been filled with ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I’ve definitely had to make my writing more of a job and prioritize my writing in my life and with my family. I also started on some anxiety medicine that has helped me survive everything! I think it’s tricky sometimes to just relax and enjoy the moment, but I’ve been trying to soak it all in because you only debut once!”
– Erin Stewart, author of Scars Like Wings


Title Scars Like Wings
Author Erin Stewart
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date October 1st 2019 by Delacorte Press
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Relatable, heartbreaking, and real, this is a story of resilience–the perfect novel for readers of powerful contemporary fiction like Girl In Pieces and Every Last Word.

Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.

Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars…or let the people by her side help her fly.

“For me, the whole debut year has been a whirlwind, but I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for how hectic the last couple months leading up to publication would be. There were so many interviews and events — even just keeping up with social media was a blur! Honestly, the only way I’ve survived all of this is because I have incredible author friends. Chatting with them online — meeting with them in person when possible — it grounded me in a way nothing else could have. I’m so thankful for this year and for everyone who’s journeyed through it with me.”
– J. Kasper Kramer, author of The Story That Cannot Be Told


Title The Story That Cannot Be Told
Author J. Kasper Kramer
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Historical Fiction
Publication Date October 8th 2019 by Atheneum Books For Young Readers
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A powerful middle grade debut that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published — right before he went missing.

Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.

“My debut year has been amazing! I’ve loved being introduced to a new world of people who love books as much as I do. The debut groups I’ve been privileged to be part of are full of incredibly talented people that I’m learning from on a daily basis. I also had an awesome experience at my first NerdCamp in July — it was wonderful to see educators and writers working together to brainstorm ways to reach and challenge young readers.”
– Jennifer Camiccia, author of The Memory Keeper


Title The Memory Keeper
Author Jennifer Camiccia
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Publication Date October 15th 2019 by Aladdin
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Fish In A Tree meets The Thing About Jellyfish in this heartfelt middle grade debut about long-buried secrets, the power of memory, and the bond between a girl and her gram.

All Lulu Carter wants is to be seen. But her parents are lost in their own worlds, and Lulu has learned the hard way that having something as rare as HSAM — the ability to remember almost every single moment in her life — won’t make you popular in school.

At least Lulu has Gram, who knows the truth about Lulu’s memory and loves her all the more for it. But Gram has started becoming absentminded, and the more lost she gets, the more she depends on Lulu…until Lulu realizes her memory holds the very key to fixing Gram’s forgetfulness. Once Lulu learns that trauma can cause amnesia, all she needs to do to cure Gram is hunt down that one painful moment in Gram’s life.

With her friends Olivia and Max, Lulu digs into Gram’s mysterious past. But they soon realize some secrets should stay buried, and Lulu wonders if she ever knew Gram at all. It’s up to Lulu to uncover the truth before the only person who truly sees her slips away.

“This debut year has been absolutely wild. I’ve had the opportunity to do so many new things while promoting the book: I’ve made videos with Underlined, spoken to kids at a writer’s conference in Tampa about crafting fantasy worlds, and have been interviewed on podcasts like Writer Writer Pants on Fire. I’ve been blessed beyond belief with the friendships I’ve made both online and in person, and have been gifted the support by many kind people. Their kindness this year has been an absolute gift.”
– Kelly Coon, author of Gravemaidens


Title Gravemaidens
Author Kelly Coon
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Publication Date October 29th 2019 by Delacorte Press
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The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is — a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life — and heart — are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.