Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with London Shah

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-six authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About London Shah

London Shah is a British Muslim of South Asian descent. London has lived in Britain’s capital city for most of her life. When she’s not busy re-imagining the past, plotting an alternate present, or dreaming of an odd future — aka writing SFF stories — then she’s most likely drinking copious amounts of tea, eating all the sweets and cakes, strolling through Richmond Park or along the Thames, getting lost on an evening in the city’s older, darker alleyways — preferably just after it’s rained – listening to punk rock, or losing herself in a fab SFF book or film. London also occasionally dabbles in poetry; her poems have won contests, been published in the Young Adult Review Network and Blue Minaret, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut novel, The Light At The Bottom Of The World, the first in a planned YA sci-fi duology, is forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in Autumn, 2019. Her work is represented by Rebecca Podos of the Rees Literary Agency.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads

“I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” – Matilda by Roald Dahl

In South Asian culture, displaying respect for elders is everything. Being classed as an elder isn’t necessarily confined to the older generation, either; an elder could be older siblings and cousins. In our community, politeness is paramount in showing respect. While on the surface this seems like a great idea — how can displaying respect ever be harmful?! — in practice this can get rather tricky. Because notions of politeness are broad-ranging and can easily slip into expectations of subservience.

Many South Asian families don’t share my own personal experience — and effective education plays a major factor in that — but I have experienced the abuse of these expectations of politeness my entire life. I must specify here that I’m not referring to the elders passing on universal truths — any younger generation would be remiss to ignore such wisdom. I’m talking about the unquestionable passing on of their cultural norms as the only way to behave and think, a practice very clearly designed to maintain the individual elder/s position of power and/or status quo of that community. I’m commenting on remaining quiet, “respectful”, while those older than you are able to speak freely — even when they are unequivocally wrong and you know it. They will talk nonstop about why certain things must be done in the manner most acceptable to them, and when you finally move to politely object by way of simply stating the truth, they will be offended by your “lack of respect”.

The indisputable wisdom projected onto someone who may be older than you by a mere couple of years, and the power consequently afforded them, is not only illogical, it’s downright dangerous

Because if there’s one lesson life has taught me, it’s that age doesn’t guarantee wisdom. And if the elders always “know what’s best” and nobody may ever question them, then this not only results in never having your say, it also means no learning or growth takes place. And so the cycle of ignorance continues. Indeed, in my opinion, plenty of the elders in my then community and family alone held extremely uninformed and unIslamic views on a whole host of matters — and far too many still do. But how do you deal with this, when they’ve already anticipated objection and have devised an automatic shutdown by way of inferring etiquette? As a child especially, how could you speak up when they’re speaking over and down to you? That’s impossible without breaking the golden rule of politeness, right? As a child, I don’t think I’d ever witnessed someone stand up to their elders.

And then oh my goodness, along came little Matilda Wormwood.

I loved Matilda then, and love her still. I connected with her and her situation unlike any other literary character or story I’d previously discovered. Here was someone who did manage to stand up for herself, who pointed out when things were unfair — all without breaking those bloody rules! In five-year-old Matilda I discovered someone who was able to use her wits and genius to plot revenge against the ignorant adults who were cruel to her without resorting to “rudeness”. Holy Miss Honey, Matilda was achieving the impossible…Matilda was exceptionally polite and still got to punish anyone who really wronged her. Behold, I had found my literary heroine!

Little Matilda doesn’t throw tantrums or scream and shout. She uses her inner powers — both magical and intellectual — and gets things done:

“She [Matilda] sat there very still and white and thoughtful. She seemed to know that neither crying nor sulking ever got anyone anywhere. The only sensible thing to do when you are attacked is, as Napoleon once said, to counter-attack.”

This last line makes me laugh as much now as it did back then. I too was more apt to try and work around limitations as opposed to throwing tantrums. Alas, I did not possess Matilda’s magical powers — though given my wild imagination at the time, I can state with absolute certainty that the world was better off for it!

Back to the little girl of marvels and oh how I was hooked when she put her new resolve into motion! Matilda dislikes how her father wrongly accuses her of being “a cheat and a liar” and so plays pranks on him, and when the Trunchbull — the horrifying headmistress at Matilda’s school — also accuses her of lying, she exacts revenge by way of a certain jug of water and newt. And finally, when she can’t bear the injustices the very lovely but meek Miss Honey has suffered at the Trunchbull’s hands, Matilda teaches the crude and greedy headmistress a lesson — in a most spectacular way.

This little girl won’t be silenced.

Matilda is perceptive; it’s not just her magical powers that help her — it’s her instincts, the way she absorbs and interprets what she experiences. In this way, she already possesses ample interior means to effect change. This was eye-opening for me who’d never personally realized such agency. Matilda is curious — about everything. This is another thing we had in common. I always wanted to know more about almost everything I encountered, though obviously unlike Matilda, I was greatly limited by my brainpower. I had to create imaginative ways to feed my own inquisitiveness.

Without doubt, a creative mind is what got me through my childhood and teen years; I was hardwired to see the fantastical and/or humour in almost everything. Humour and mischief helped me to both ignore and make light of anything difficult or bewildering I experienced growing up. Matilda too is mischievous — in the most innocent and delightful ways! To amuse herself and cope with her father’s insufferable ego, she plays up to his weaknesses:

‘She also knew that he liked to boast and she would egg him on shamelessly. “You must be very clever to find a use for something that costs nothing,” she said. “I wish I could do it.”’ And of course Mr Wormwood replies as only Mr Wormwood would. ‘“You couldn’t,” the father said. “You’re too stupid.”’

When Matilda superglues his hat onto his head she goes on to make him feel even worse by telling him what happened to another person when they got superglued, and even tells him it looks like lice! Of course she does all this in her own gorgeous, childlike way. I cannot emphasise enough just how much I connected with this side of Matilda, and how it meant the absolute world to me. And I will love any story that makes me laugh! Humour has always been incredibly important to me; laughter can help you through so much and like most children, I sought it out. And it’s another trait I shared with Matilda:

‘“There aren’t many funny bits in Mr Tolkien either,” Matilda said.
“Do you think that all children’s books ought to have funny bits in them?” Miss Honey asked. “I do,” Matilda said. “Children are not so serious as grown-ups and love to laugh.”’

Even when you feel awful for her because she’s upset and trying to work through things, humour still surfaces:

“She [Matilda] decided that every time her father or her mother was beastly to her, she would get her own back in some way or another. (…) You must remember (…) it was not easy for somebody as small as that to score points against an all-powerful grown-up. But she was determined to have a go. Her father, after what had happened in front of the telly that evening, was first on her list.”

I still find this last sentence — the mischievous implication contrasted with the matter-of-fact tone of the delivery — incredibly funny! But of course it was more than humour and mischief that connected me to Matilda.

Matilda and I faced similar frustrating reactions whenever we tried to politely correct our elders. When Matilda tells her father how dishonest his illegal car-dealing antics are, he yells at her to shut up. His ego is bruised and he comes back with a demeaning retort implying she’s stupid and ignorant. Her mother adds to it:

“You’ve got a nerve talking to your father like that. Now just keep your nasty mouth shut…”

Apparently speaking the truth is being nasty and cheeky. This has also been my experience growing up — and still is oftentimes – with many who are/were older than myself. A carefully constructed idea of “respect” is wielded like a shield to protect the elders’ position of power and to manipulate and silence other voices. If your opinion differs from theirs it’s classed as answering back, impolite — even if it’s the truth. The Trunchbull, an adult, is the rudest person in Matilda’s world and delivers the most horrifying verbal abuse and as usual, Matilda has to remain unaffected and polite, while the condemnable adult can be as crude and cruel as she wants to be.

Through Miss Honey, Matilda — and consequently I — saw how staying silent out of fear wasn’t just wrong for children, but had grave consequences for adults, too. And still the culture I was brought up in greatly values a girl’s silence. Completely and utterly in denial, and ignorant of the fact they won’t allow her to speak up — that their politeness rules have ensured she can’t — they instead interpret it as a sign of obedience, and thus, virtue. The depth of ignorance at play here is astounding and most unfortunate, almost guaranteeing dire future implications for the child.

Not only did Matilda’s wonderful traits make me fall in love with her, but they also highlighted just how wrong the elders were by comparison. Both in her world and mine. If you’re not willing to learn and grow and change, you’ll remain just as ignorant as you always were. And if a child values honesty, kindness, humility, courage, and justice, then they’re the more mature ones and it’s them who deserve the respect — and yes, politeness! — that the elders so egotistically crave and demand of them.

I will always hold Matilda so dear and close to my heart — the little five-year-old girl who spoke up, took action, and held true to her uncorrupted instincts. May we none of us ever lose our inner Matilda!

Title The Light At The Bottom Of The World
Author London Shah
Pages N/A
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Science Fiction
Publication Date 2019 by Disney-Hyperion
Find It On Goodreads

In 2099, the world is submerged a thousand feet beneath the ocean’s surface, and in Great Britain an undercurrent of fear courses through everyone’s lives. Fear that must be maintained at all costs.

Sixteen-year-old British Muslim Leyla McQueen loves blasting punk rock and racing in her submersible. But when Leyla’s innocent papa is arrested, she must use her racing prowess for more than just thrills. Leyla must participate in the challenging London Submersible Marathon for the chance to win her papa’s freedom.

The submersible race takes an unexpected turn, though. Then when new information about her papa’s situation comes to light, Leyla must face her own fears, and act. If she wants to find and rescue her papa, Leyla will have to venture outside of London for the very first time. To make matters worse, the hotheaded and maddening teen, Ari, thinks he’ll be accompanying her — no bloody way.

Leyla must remain defiant and cling to hope. She will have to brave the unfathomable waters, defy the oppressive authorities, and learn to work with the ever-secretive Ari, who is slowly working his way into her heart. But as she discovers a world drowning in lies, how much longer can Leyla hold out hope for the truth? If her faith in her quest wavers, she risks capture—or worse. And her beloved Papa could be lost forever.

Cover Reveal: The Queen’s Resistance by Rebecca Ross

Our third and final exclusive cover reveal series concludes this week as I’m thrilled to welcome Rebecca Ross to Pop! Goes The Reader today as we reveal the stunning cover for her sophomore novel, The Queen’s Resistance! Coming to a bookstore and library near you March 5th 2019 from HarperTeen, The Queen’s Resistance is a sequel to Rebecca’s 2018 debut, The Queen’s Rising, and continues to follow the story of Brienna as she attempts to explore and balance her new relationships and roles as as the daughter of Davin MacQuinn and confidant of Queen Isolde Kavanagh, all while continuing to do her best to serve her country. The cover of The Queen’s Resistance was designed by Aurora Parlagreco, with the accompanying jacket image by Jonathan Barkat and jacket illustration by Virginia Allyn. Please read on to learn more about The Queen’s Resistance, including a note from the author and an opportunity for one lucky reader to win a signed hardcover edition of the novel!

About Rebecca Ross

Rebecca Ross was born and raised in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, her lively Australian Shepherd, and her endless piles of books. She loves coffee, the night sky, chalk art, maps, the mountains, and growing wildflowers in her yard. And a good story, of course. The Queen’s Rising was published February 6, 2018 from HarperTeen and was her debut.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

Second books are hard. It’s easy to tell yourself that since you wrote and published the first book, you know how to write a second one. Well, I swiftly learned that sophomore books have a mind of their own – they are unpredictable and temperamental, and so it’s best to not write them logically but write them with your heart. The Queen’s Resistance was such a book. In 2015, I sold my debut, The Queen’s Rising, plus two other books to HarperCollins, and my intention was to write two companion novels. In my mind, Brienna’s story was a standalone, but I also knew I had created a world that I wanted to continue exploring. While I was waiting for my edit letter, I began to draft my second book. Same world, new heroine. I wrote it, uncertain about it, and ended up hating it. I scrapped the entire thing and re-wrote it. And again, I felt that something was off. Where was the spark? What was this book lacking? Why was I hating everything I wrote? I knew this was not supposed to be my second book, and yet I needed to deliver something to my editor. But I also knew that I was not going to publish a book I did not love.

At the end of February 2017, I was sitting on my back porch, throwing the Frisbee to my dog, deep in my Book 2 woes. I had my journal on my lap, hoping to write some fresh ideas down. And so I was sitting there when I thought, well, what if I continued Brienna’s story? What if I wrote Book 2 as a sequel? I had never allowed myself to entertain this thought. For so long, I had assumed my debut was a standalone. But I opened my journal and I wrote a line down in Brienna’s voice, picking up right where The Queen’s Rising ended. And then that one line became two, and then three, and before I knew it, the scene was rapidly unfolding before me. I was so excited that I ran inside, opened my laptop, and began to type. What surprised me the most, perhaps, was realizing that this story was not just Brienna’s but also Cartier’s. I drafted this book in 24 days, and not once did I doubt it. It was always supposed to be my second book, I simply had to look deeper within myself to draw it forward to the page. The Queen’s Resistance is a dual narrative about family, restoration, and justice – it is the book of my heart – and I am so honored to finally be able to share this beautiful cover with you!

Title The Queen’s Resistance
Author Rebecca Ross
Pages 432 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Fantasy
To Be Published March 5th 2019 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

At long last, Brienna is a mistress of knowledge and is beginning to settle into her role as the daughter of Davin MacQuinn, a disgraced lord who returned to Maevana to reclaim his house. Though she’d just survived a revolution, one that will finally return a queen to the throne, she faces yet another challenge: proving herself trustworthy to the MacQuinns. But as Queen Isolde Kavanagh’s closest confidant, she’ll have to balance serving her father’s house as well as her country. And then there’s Cartier, a wholly separate but desirable factor in her new life.

Aodhan Morgane, formerly known as Cartier Évariste, is adjusting to the stark contrast between his pre-rebellion life in Valenia as a master of knowledge and his current one as the lord of a fallen house. During the castle’s restoration, he discovers a young boy named Tomas, whose past and parentage are a complete mystery. So when Cartier’s former pupil Brienna is as taken with Tomas as he is, he lets his mind wander — what if he doesn’t have to raise him or his house alone?

As the Lannon trial swiftly approaches, Brienna and Cartier must put their love aside and stay focused on the most vital task at hand — forging alliances, executing justice and ensuring that no man, woman or child halts the queen’s coronation. But resistance is rumbling in the old regime’s supporters, who are desperate to find a weakness in the rebels’ forces. And what makes one more vulnerable than deep-seated love?

In this follow-up to The Queen’s Rising, Rebecca Ross weaves political intrigue, complicated relationships and love to create a story that readers won’t be able to put down.

As an extra, exciting bonus, Rebecca has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win a signed, hardcover copy of The Queen’s Resistance! One winner will be chosen at random at the conclusion of the giveaway and the prize will be distributed by Rebecca when hardcovers become available. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

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Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with Katie Henry

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-six authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Katie Henry

Katie Henry is a writer living and working in New York City. She received her BFA in dramatic writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is a published playwright, specializing in theater for young audiences. Her plays have been performed by high schools and community organizations in over thirty states. Heretics Anonymous is her first novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

When I was a kid, I preferred books about boys.

Not that I didn’t read books about girls, because I did. I read everything. I read books about boys and girls and vampire rabbits. I read the backs of shampoo bottles. I read the parenting guides on my parents’ bookshelf, hoping to use the techniques inside to beat them at their own game. Seriously.

But I preferred books about boys. Then, I would have said it was because they were more “fun.” Now, I realize it was because with those books, I didn’t have to think about girlhood. Male protagonists could be funny without seeming immature, snarky without seeming angry, self-centered without seeming unlikable. Boys seemed to move through the world differently, even fictional worlds, and it fascinated me. I liked books about boys because it was the closest I could come to living like one.

In seventh grade, I picked a book off the shelf of my school library. I can’t remember why I chose it. Maybe it was the name. Catherine, Called Birdy. I was a Catherine, too, just called Katie. Or maybe, somehow I knew Birdy and I shared more than our baptismal names. The more I read, the more the more I felt like Birdy – funny, sharp, unapologetically herself – was me on my very best day. We were both Catholic girls with the same affinity for the weirdest, most violent saint stories. We were both willing to ruin just about anything for a good enough joke. And we were both, for our time and place, immensely lucky and privileged. Of course, there were differences between us, too. For one thing, Birdy lives in 1290, the year Eleanor of Castile died. I lived in 2003, the year that guy from Kindergarten Cop was elected governor of California. Birdy’s biggest concern is escaping her arranged marriage to a horrible oaf. My parents were lovely, supportive people who, as far as I knew, were not preparing to sell me to a middle-aged man.

But still, I saw myself in Birdy’s fury over her complex, vibrant soul being squashed in favor of her worth as a pretty, silent thing a man could possess. I was twelve, and all of a sudden, there were ways I shouldn’t walk, clothes I couldn’t wear, new things I had to be afraid of. All of a sudden, there was my teacher telling me my t-shirt rode up too high when I raised my hand. A man trying to coax me into his car as I waited alone at a bus stop. A boy in my math class telling me I was the “least hot” girl in seventh grade and then immediately trying to grab my least-hot-in-seventh-grade breast. Every single time, I felt that hot wash of humiliation and shame that comes from realizing your body isn’t your own.

Birdy isn’t ever ashamed. She’s forthright and preternaturally wise, able to place blame where it’s really due. She blames her father for selling her like a basket of apples, her mother for allowing it, and the world around her for treating this system as both just and inevitable. Birdy wants more for her life. She wants to be a songmaker, or a wart charmer, or a cross-dressing monk, depending on the day. “You are so much already, Little Bird,” her mother tells her. “Why not cease your fearful pounding against the bars of your cage and be content?” I nearly threw the book across the room. I was angry for Birdy, angry with her. Who wouldn’t throw themselves against something locking them in? Who wouldn’t try to escape a cage, if they knew they were in one?

In the end, Birdy decides that, “I am who I am wherever I am.” Her choices might be limited, and her life might not be the one she’d pick for herself, but she will use all her determination and courage to make it the best one she can. Her wings have been clipped by forces far beyond her control, but that doesn’t mean she won’t try to fly, anyway. Her life feels caged in, but that doesn’t mean the door won’t ever be open. It wasn’t a happy ending, I thought as I closed the book. But it was true, and that felt more important. Birdy had grown up, and made compromises, but it didn’t dampen her spirit. My problems weren’t nearly as big as hers, and my universe was far less limited. If she could channel all her anger and yearning into that fierce kind of hope, I could do it, too. 

Like Birdy, I couldn’t be anyone but myself. Like Birdy, I was born into an imperfect world. And though I sometimes fantasized about starting a one-girl/many-pets compound in the woods, I eventually realized that the hermit life wasn’t for me. Birdy helped me see that it was possible to live in an often unfair, confining world without making yourself smaller to fit it. In the fifteen years since I first read Catherine, Called Birdy, I’ve lived the kind of life that Birdy wanted, that so many of my ancestors must have wanted, one of freedom, and adventures, and possibilities. I like to think Birdy was with me, every step of the way.

Girlhood can so often be a cage. But sometimes, it can be an open blue sky.

Title Heretics Anonymous
Author Katie Henry
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date August 7th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s — a strict Catholic school — sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic…she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far — putting the other Heretics at risk — he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.

Cover Reveal: Nick and June Were Here by Shalanda Stanley

The cover reveals continue on Pop! Goes The Reader today as I’m thrilled to welcome author Shalanda Stanley to the blog as we reveal the cover of her sophomore release, Nick and June Were Here! Coming to a bookstore and library near you February 12 2019 from Knopf BFYR, Nick and June Were Here is a young adult contemporary novel that follows the story of teenagers Nick and June, who run away together after their deep but tenuous romantic connection is threatened by forces outside their control. The cover of Nick and June Were Here was designed by Casey Moses and Regina Flath. Please read on to learn more about Nick and June Were Here, including a note from the author, an exclusive excerpt from the novel, and an opportunity for one lucky reader to win an advance reader copy!

About Shalanda Stanley

Shalanda Stanley grew up in Louisiana and earned her BA in Creative Writing at Florida State University. She has an M.Ed in Special Education from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a PhD from Louisiana State University in Curriculum & Instruction, with a focus in Literacy & Reading Education. She’s an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe in the School of Education. Her debut novel, Drowning Is Inevitable, published in September 2015, from Knopf Books For Young Readers. Nick and June Were Here is her second novel, also from Knopf BFYR and will be available February 12, 2019.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

This is the book I was scared to write. I’ve always wanted to write a love story, but I didn’t expect it to become so personal. There are pieces of my life and my family’s life that have been woven into the fabric of Nick and June’s characters, that makes me equally excited and terrified to share it with readers. I understand Nick and his motivations. I understand his family and their poverty, how poverty defines his choices, the fear that you will not overcome it, that even if you do, that it will somehow find you again. I understand June’s spirit and her fear of all things she cannot control. I love her with my whole heart. It was my goal with June to present her as someone whose diagnosis is a part of her life, but show that her life is not defined by it. I hope that I achieved that.

Working on this book was my greatest writing challenge to date, as it slowly became the book of my heart. I took a lot of time, like years, to make this book the best I could make it and I’m so grateful for my publishers for giving me the chance to start over and start over and start over again. I hope readers love Nick and June as much as I do.

A year ago, things had changed between us. One day, every time I looked up, he was looking back at me, and then I caught him drawing my face in the margins of his history notebook. He drew all the time, but he’d never drawn me before. When I asked him about it, he said, “I just feel better when I’m looking at you.”

His dad had gone to prison two years earlier and Nick had been sad ever since, so I was glad something was making him feel better. We started spending more and more time together, just the two of us. He’d come over and we’d sit on my porch swing. My parents didn’t know what to think of it, so I’d bring a textbook outside with me. We could all pretend it was just homework. Nick would even ask me a question or two. At first we sat on opposite ends of the swing, but every day he’d sit a little closer, until we sat so close that our legs touched. Once he pulled a sucker from his pocket. It was root-beer-flavored, our favorite, but there was only one. We shared it, back and forth from his mouth to mine. That was how things changed between us. It was a few gained inches on a front-porch swing and that sucker. He told me things he’d never told anyone, the kinds of things you’d confess only in the dark. It was a powerful feeling, and I was addicted.

Title Nick and June Were Here
Author Shalanda Stanley
Pages N/A
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published February 12 2019 by Knopf BFYR
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Nick and June are in love.

In a small town by the Ozarks, Nick and June hang out in an abandoned barn, dreaming of the future while Nick finger-paints blackbirds all over June’s body. If only things could stay so perfect forever. Outside of the barn, they have to face their problems head on.

June has schizophrenia and is coping with the recent diagnosis while managing her symptoms, her medications, and her parents. Nick is a reluctant car thief, supporting his aunt with the money and focusing on his art whenever he can. But when June lands in the hospital and Nick might go to prison, the two decide to leave it all behind and run away together. Out on the road, trying to stay hidden while managing June’s new medication, how far can they get on love alone?

This emotionally driven story will make you think twice about what you would give up for love, even if it’s a piece of yourself.

As an extra, exciting bonus, Shalanda has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win an advance reader copy of Nick and June Were Here! One winner will be chosen at random at the conclusion of the giveaway and the prize will be distributed by Shalanda when ARCs become available. This contest is open to residents of the US and Canada. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

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New Kids On The Block 2018 with Samantha M. Clark

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.

Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2018? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at Jen@PopGoesTheReader.com. I would love to collaborate with you!

About Samantha M. Clark

Samantha M Clark is the author of The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster) and has always loved stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. After all, if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? While she looks for her real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. In a past life, Samantha was a photojournalist and managing editor for newspapers and magazines. She lives with her husband and two kooky dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the Regional Advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and explores wardrobes every chance she gets.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

When Are We Enough (Or How I Learned to Live With It)

A few weeks ago, it was my husband’s birthday and I wanted to make him a nice roast. I couldn’t find the type of roast I usually cooked, so I bought something different, found a fantastic recipe and got to work. But as the meal got closer to being finished, I realized it wasn’t coming out as I had planned. And the thoughts that always hit me when this happens — I can’t do it; I’m a failure; I’m not good enough — slammed into my brain.

Feelings of inadequacy have been part of my life as long as I can remember. I was a shy, only child who was stuffed full of fear. It didn’t stop me from trying or even achieving; it just stopped me from truly believing in myself. I had a big imagination, and if I could imagine myself winning at something, I could also imagine myself failing. The failing was the easiest to believe.

Stories were my savior, though. In books, I could imagine I was all the characters who accomplished things at the end: smart Nancy Drew who could solve any crime, the resourceful Little Women, the trusting Lucy and her siblings as they battled the White Witch in Narnia. These children were afraid, but they believed and didn’t let fear stop them. As I grew older, I held them close to my hearts and soon wanted to create similar characters of my own.

But that fear of failing plagued me, so it shouldn’t surprise me that it ended up the theme of my debut novel, The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast.

In the book, a boy wakes alone on a mysterious beach with no memory of who he is or how he got there. All he has for company is a voice in his head, an inner bully, that tells him he’s not loved and is too scared to find his way home.

I didn’t set out to write a story about fear and doubt, but when I got to the end of the first draft and the boy’s purpose made itself clear, I understood why this story had come to me.

I’m not alone in these feelings. In her TEDx Talk from 2013, UC Davis Social Psychologist Alison Ledgerwood discusses how people tend to focus on the negative. She recommends we look at the positive parts of our lives to re-train our brains. I think this is great advice, but often, my inner bully won’t allow me to see positives.

That happened a lot while I was working on The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast. The structure of the book is unusual, the characters minimal, the language deliberately paced, the novel was unlike any other I had written before, and it terrified me. Still, no matter how many times I thought I couldn’t make the story on paper as good as the one in my head, or how often I thought that no one would ever publish it, I couldn’t let the boy down. He had an inner bully as mean and horrible as mine, and I had to find a way to silence it.

Here are some of things that helped:

Hope – When my inner bully told me I couldn’t write the book, it was very easy to give up. After all, if I was going to fail, what was the point in continuing? But the story would not leave me alone, and that gave me a thread of hope. Hope is a very powerful thing. It can buoy someone through the toughest times. I believe it’s when we lose hope that we truly give up. So when my brain told me I wasn’t good enough, I held onto my hope. Even if I wasn’t good enough, perhaps I could at least be good.

Hope is like your super power; it will feed you when times are tough. No matter how bad things get, hold onto hope, even the smallest piece, and it will lead you through.

Focus – My feelings of inadequacy ruled a lot of my thinking during my journey to publication. Every rejection seemed like a stamp of approval for every time I’d thought I couldn’t do it, and I got a LOT of rejections. Eventually, though, I changed my focus. Instead of focusing on the goal of publication, I focused on the goal of writing the best book I could write. And by that, I mean the best book I could write. (Think of the “I” here in bold italics and three times as big – that’s how important it is.) Comparisons with others fuel self-doubt like oxygen to a fire, so I had to recognize that my journey was just that – my journey.

Focus on what you can control – your work – and let the lives of others be theirs, not yours.

Faith – My faith tells me I should trust that God will take care of me; I do the work and leave the rest up to God. It’s wonderful to think that I can give all my worries to God and concentrate on living, but it’s not the easiest thing to do. Worries fester, and even if I manage to push them away once, they weasel their way back in. But I’ve found that the more I do put my worries into God’s hands, the happier I am, the more I’m able to accomplish, and the less I doubt myself.

No matter whether you believe in God (or some kind of higher power) or think this life is all there is, try giving your worries to something else. Write them on a strip of paper and put them into a jar, knowing that they’ll be there if you ever need them. (Trust me, you won’t.) It’s amazing how lighter you can be with fewer worries dragging you down.

Accept – A big part of my self doubt comes from thinking I need to be a certain way: prettier, smarter, luckier, faster… But accepting who I am, flaws and all, goes a long way toward silencing my inner bully. The saying that “nobody’s perfect” is true, and there’s no use trying to be; even saints have flaws. Our imperfections and how we rise above them are what make us courageous, and more interesting.

Next time you start to doubt yourself or think you need to be more (fill in the blank), think of the good things about yourself. Sometimes this will be hard. If I fall too deep into a bout of self-doubt, my flaws loom larger and larger. Breathe, relax, take a minute to look at nature, then think again. Repeat as necessary.

In The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast, the boy must face his fears and conquer his inner bully. Writing his story, I had to learn to believe in myself too, that I was enough.

If you’ve got an inner bully, or you know a kid with one, download the Make Your Own Courage Art Therapy program for Caregivers on my website. Designed by myself and author and clinical therapist Bonnie Thomas LCSW, the Make Your Own Courage Art Therapy Project has fun thoughts and exercises to help people find comfort and confidence just like the boy in The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast.

Title The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast
Author Samantha M. Clark
Pages 256 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Fantasy
Publication Date June 26th 2018 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

The Graveyard Book meets Hatchet in this eerie novel about a boy who is stranded on a mysterious beach, from debut author Samantha M. Clark.

A boy washes up on a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited beach. Who is he? How did he get there? The boy can’t remember. When he sees a light shining over the foreboding wall of trees that surrounds the shore, he decides to follow it, in the hopes that it will lead him to answers. The boy’s journey is a struggle for survival and a search for the truth — a terrifying truth that once uncovered, will force him to face his greatest fear of all if he is to go home.

This gripping adventure will have readers hooked until its jaw-dropping and moving conclusion. Samantha M. Clark’s first novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice.