New Kids On The Block 2018 with Kit Frick

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 I would love to collaborate with you!

About Kit Frick

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. Her debut young adult novel is See All The Stars (Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, August 14, 2018), and her debut full-length poetry collection is A Small Rising Up In The Lungs (New American Press, fall 2018).

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

Ten YA Novels To Get You Through A Toxic Friendship or Best Friend Breakup

See All The Stars centers around an epic breakup between best friends. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that friendships between teen girls are rarely simple — they’re intense and vivid and consuming, and sometimes those close connections become toxic.

At its heart, See All The Stars is about best friends, Ellory and Ret — and an epic friend group split. The story takes places in two timelines that alternate between the past — leading up to the event that tore Ellory’s group of friends apart — and the aftermath. The “Now” timeline picks up on the night before senior year begins, after Ellory has been suspended from school (for her role in said event) and has spent the summer away, off social media, and otherwise disconnected from her friends and classmates. And now she has to return to high school, totally alone and consumed by guilt and regret.

If I could reach through the pages and hand Ellory a few books that offer rich, nuanced, and often dark and gritty representations of friendships between teen girls, I’d do it in a snap. Going through a friendship breakup can leave you feeling very alone. It’s a horrible feeling. But the truth is, just like romantic relationships come to an end all the time, so do friendships — we just find it harder to talk about. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I think it has something to do with shame. We feel ashamed we couldn’t make a friendship work. It’s not quite like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend — when a friendship ends, you don’t change your status on social media and declare your freedom. Your girlfriends don’t take you out dancing. There aren’t a million relatable pop songs to queue up on Spotify. (Not that romantic breakups are easy, by any stretch of the imagination. But there are some societal norms that are part of that package that just don’t exist for the end of a friendship.)

At the end of the day, though, friendship breakups are common. Very much so. And there is no shortage of reading material to prove how not alone you are. Here are seven young adult novels about toxic friendships I’d give Ellory to help her get through senior year — and three YA books about awesome friendships to remind her of what’s possible. Along with See All The Stars (of course!) I’d highly recommend every one of them to any reader dealing with an unhealthy friendship or its difficult end.

Toxic Friendships and Best Friend Breakups

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When the curtain rises on Underneath Everything, Mattie and her friend Kris have split off from their friend group, which was formerly a quartet helmed by demanding, irresistible Jolene. But as senior year unfolds, Mattie finds it almost impossible to quit Jolene — and everything they used to be — in this atmospheric, gripping story.

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Max and Sadie are inseparable. Max would do anything for her best friend, but in this duo, it’s always Sadie steering the wheel, Sadie’s needs taking center stage. When Max finds herself suddenly on her own during a summer trip to a Nebraska commune, she needs to decide who she is without Sadie — and if she wants to allow Sadie back into her life.

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Jule and Imogen are best friends forever — aren’t they? They have history—don’t they? In this Talented Mr. Ripley-inspired thriller with a timeline that unspools in reverse, we get ambitious, ruthless girls and a seriously dark friendship fallout.

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After getting frozen out from the Fearsome Fivesome, Regina is on her own to navigate senior year. Solitude soon turns to vicious bullying when rumors about Regina and her former best friend’s boyfriend start to circulate in this gritty, intense look at how cruel some girls are.

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Being the new girl isn’t so bad when you’re instantly welcomed into a group of friends. Kacey’s adjusting rather seamlessly to her new life in Broken Falls until her new besties Bailey and Jade start distancing themselves. When Bailey disappears after an epic party, Kacey finds herself at the center of the town’s scrutiny in this sinister psychological thriller.

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With echoes of the Amanda Knox case and a fictional, Aruba-set twist, Elise is found dead in her beachfront rental on a spring break trip gone horribly wrong — and her best friend Anna is accused of her murder. As she awaits trial far from home, Anna comes to swiftly realize that everyone thinks she’s lying — and dangerous.

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Keeley’s hometown is sinking. Literally. With some residents packing up before Aberdeen is enveloped in flood water and others fighting to stay, Keeley finds herself trying to keep her friendships with Morgan and Elise afloat — but things aren’t how they used to be, and the end of Aberdeen may spell much more personal endings for Keeley.

Fierce Duos

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When seventeen-year-old Audrey learns she’s pregnant, she initially keeps it a secret from her best friend Rose for reasons even Audrey can’t quite articulate. When she does choose to open up, Rose is fantastically supportive and has so much to offer Audrey as a truly stand-up friend. Here’s a solid and supportive best friendship between teen girls that is also entirely believable.

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A story centered around a toxic romantic relationship, Always Forever Maybe soars in its portrayal of an ardent, unflinching best friendship. Jo initially gives Betts space to explore her new relationship with Aiden, even though she clearly misses their closeness. But when Jo picks up on Aiden’s controlling tendencies and unhealthy possessiveness, she doubles down on her friendship with Betts, despite her friend’s distancing behavior, pushing the envelope even when she knows Betts won’t like what she has to say. Jo is in it to win it.

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Come for the page-turning mystery, stay for the charming, poignant, and absolutely fierce friendship between Claudia and Monday. When Washington D. C. middle schooler Monday Charles goes missing, Claudia won’t rest until she finds out what happened to her best friend — even when no one else takes her concerns seriously. And they should really listen.

Title See All the Stars
Author Kit Frick
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary
To Be Published August 14th 2018 by McElderry Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

It’s hard to find the truth beneath the lies you tell yourself.

They were four — Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. (Venus. Earth. Moon. Sun.) Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.

Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.

Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.

Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away — no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.

The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies — the lies Ellory has been telling herself.

Cover Reveal: Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig

Hi everyone! Here on Pop! Goes The Reader we are proud, card-carrying members of the We Heart Caleb Roehrig fan club. Caleb is no stranger to the blog, having generously lent his voice to the Raise Your Voice 2016 and ‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2017 events, and I’m no stranger to his novels, having read (and loved) both his debut, Last Seen Leaving, and his sophomore release, White Rabbit. I’m constantly recommending his work to family, friends, and strangers alike, and if you haven’t had an opportunity to read his novels yet, I strongly urge you to change that as soon as you possibly can. You can therefore imagine my excitement and delight when Caleb recently approached me to ask if I could host the exclusive cover reveal for his third, upcoming novel, Death Prefers Blondes!

Coming to a bookstore and library near you January 29th 2019 from Feiwel & Friends, Death Prefers Blondes tells the story of Margo Manning, a teenage socialite who lives a double life, dodging the paparazzi by day, and the long arm of the law by night as she stages a series of elaborate cat burglaries along with her crew of kickboxing drag queens. But when both Margo’s personal life and the crew’s latest heist take a dark turn, there’s suddenly more at stake than the success of their latest job. The cover of Death Prefers Blondes was illustrated by Rich Deas, creative director of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

About Caleb Roehrig

Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Caleb Roehrig has also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Helsinki, Los Angeles (again,) and Chicago (again.) He has worn a lot of hats, and in the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich. Death Prefers Blondes will be his third novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

As a teenager, I was hooked on classic TV reruns, and I first had the idea that would one day become Death Prefers Blondes while watching an episode of The Lucy Show (1962-1968) on Nick at Nite. Its plot was questionable, mostly just an excuse for Lucille Ball to perform zany antics in a series of outlandish costumes, but one scene really captured my imagination: Dressed in a vinyl miniskirt, oversized sunglasses, and an extravagant wig, Lucy barges into her employer’s office, pretending to be a mod interior decorator named Margo.

Immediately, I had the beginnings of a character in my mind: an heiress — daring, headstrong, and emphatically stylish.

The story of Death Prefers Blondes went through numerous iterations after that initial spark, but two things always stayed the same: Margo’s name, and the bright, bold aesthetics of mod design that informed my visual motifs. That’s why the pop art sensibility of this cover by Rich Deas is so incredibly perfect. The vibrant colors and graphic styling, the font and the cheeky wink…it could be a poster for one of the great heist comedies of the 1960s, like William Wyler’s How To Steal A Million or Blake Edwards’s The Pink Panther — both of which also influenced the novel’s current plot. I couldn’t imagine a better fit for this book, and I am so excited to share it with the world!

Title Death Prefers Blondes
Author Caleb Roehrig
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Thriller
Publication Date January 29th 2019 by Feiwel & Friends
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Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.

But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them — for good?

New Kids On The Block 2018 with Katie Henry

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 I would love to collaborate with you!

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

The first jokes I ever told were about myself.

I’m not counting knock-knock jokes or my favorite one liner I got out of a book: What do cats eat for breakfast? Mice Krispies! I mean the jokes you pull out of nowhere, the ones that come just from you, that spill out of your mouth before you can reconsider. I started telling jokes like that in seventh grade, the height of my own personal awkward phase. I had braces. I had glasses. I had a pathological need to tell my classmates they should start reading Doonesbury.

As you can probably imagine, they made fun of me. Relentlessly. I think a 13-year-old with a normal level of self-awareness would have bought herself a Von Dutch trucker hat, a pair of Uggs (it was 2003, okay?) and just tried to fit in. Instead, I started making fun of myself, spitting out the joke before they could. So when Evan R. told me I had a unibrow, I said yes, I did, and furthermore, that it looked like two sad caterpillars inching closer and closer to defend their territory. I ruined the punchline in a way that was less lighthearted, and more of a snarling kind of: “I can do anything better than you, and that includes making fun of me. You dick.”

When I was thirteen, I learned that comedy is a way to fight back.

Ten years later, I started writing Heretics Anonymous. It was July 2013: a simpler time, a gentler time, a time I didn’t worry about whether an overgrown toddler with a hair piece would start a nuclear war over Twitter. But books are a marathon, not a sprint, and by the time the book sold it was January 2017. It seemed like everything was going right in my life just as everything was going so horribly wrong in the outside world. And I started to worry — was this the wrong time for the book I’d just sold? With so much injustice and tragedy, and with so many heartbreaking, worthy books about systemic discrimination, and rape culture, and surviving trauma, did anyone really need a silly comedy about a ragtag bunch of misfit rebels?

I’ve seen a lot of articles since November 2016 about comedy as escapism. That when things are roughest, we need jokes and laughter to give us a break from what can feel like constant pain and anxiety. Comedy as a safe room, somewhere to curl up and know you’re safe. Or comedy as a portal, something to transport you somewhere far away. But when I punched up jokes in my first book or struggled to write new jokes in my second book, I didn’t feel like I’d escaped from the breaking news alerts. If I’d been transported anywhere, it was to the furious thirteen-year-old I was, hurling jokes like grenades. And it made me realize — I don’t see comedy as an escape. Not all the time, anyway, or even most of the time. It’s more like a saving grace. I think comedy saves us not because we forget what’s happening in the world, but because we remember. We remember that the universe can be unfair, and humans can be cruel, and we laugh anyway. Comedy saves us because we wrench back our happiness from a world that keeps jerking it away. Comedy helps us say, “You can’t take my joy. It’s mine to own, to hold tightly with both hands through the worst you can throw at me.”

When I was 26, and 27, and about-to-be 28, I learned that comedy was something bigger and more vital than any one joke I made, whether it was about something as small as me, or as big as religion. As far as I’m concerned, in times as dark and scary as these, comedy isn’t a retreat from the world. It’s a declaration of rebellion.

And I’ve always had a soft spot for rebels.

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.

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover Issue 93: Middle Grade (Part 26)

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I pay tribute to some of the best and brightest the publishing world has to offer in the way of book cover design. This feature is inspired by Katie’s feature Cover Love on her blog One Page At A Time. The idea is being used with her gracious permission.

Some of my favourite covers this week include Maybe A Mermaid by Josephine Cameron, Rules Of The Ruff by Heidi Lang, No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen, The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart, Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn, Wish Upon A Sleepover by Suzanne Selfors, Over The Moon by Natalie Lloyd, Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta and Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut.

Please Note: I’ve done my best to credit the designers and artists responsible for the beautiful covers below, but was unable to find this information for a number of those listed. If you know of an uncredited designer responsible for any of these book covers, please let me know and I would be happy to include proper attribution in this post. Their work is lovely and deserves to be credited.

01. Maybe A Mermaid by Josephine Cameron
02. The Crossroads by Alexandra Diaz

03. Rules Of The Ruff by Heidi Lang
04. No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (Cover design by Studio MUTI)

05. The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes (Cover art by Maike Plenzke)
06. The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

07. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart (Cover art by Celia Krampien)
08. Bone Hollow by Kim Ventrella (Cover art by Katya Longhi)

09. Just Dance by Patricia MacLachlan
10. A Drop of Hope by Keith Calabrese

11. Sprinkle Sundays: Too Many Toppings! by Coco Simon
12. Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn (Cover art by Alisa Coburn)

13. The Misfits Club by Kieran Mark Crowley (Cover design by Carol Ly)
14. Wish Upon A Sleepover by Suzanne Selfors (Book design by Heather Palisi, Cover art by Alia Ching and Mio Buono)

15. Over The Moon by Natalie Lloyd (Cover art by Gilbert Ford)
16. Arlo Finch In The Lake Of The Moon by John August (Cover art by Vivienne To)

17. Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta (Cover art by Vivienne To)
18. The Carnival Of Wishes and Dreams by Jenny Lundquist

19. Aleca Zamm Travels Through Time by Ginger Rue (Cover art by Zoe Persico)
20. Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Cover art by Risa Rodil)

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favourite Middle Grade covers? Did I list one of your favourites here or is there one I forgot that just has to be included? Let me know in the comments!

ARC August 2018: Introduction

ARC August is an annual month-long reading challenge hosted by Read. Sleep. Repeat. in which bloggers are encouraged to tackle their TBRs and read as many advance reader copies as they possibly can in a single month, all while having a whole lot of fun!

In my five years as a book blogger, I’ve heard nothing but wonderful, glowing things about the ARC August reading challenge, which is hosted every August by Read. Sleep. Repeat., and I couldn’t be more excited to finally sign-up and take part this year!

For a number of reasons, 2018 has been a bit of a difficult year for me, so it doesn’t surprise me that my reading has inevitably suffered as a result. I’m currently eight books behind in my Goodreads Challenge, and I think I’ll be lucky if I can manage to read 50 books this year, which is a relatively low figure for me. I thought ARC August might be a fun and creative way to encourage myself to to pick up a few of the recent and upcoming ARCs I’m most excited about. I’m under no illusions that I’ll be able to read all of the books I’ve chosen for my ARC August to-be-read list below, but if I can manage to read even a small selection of them, I’ll be super pleased! Wish me luck!

The books below have been listed in no particular order.

01. You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn
02. Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian
02. The Other Side Of Lost by Jessi Kirby

04. A Heart In A Body In The World by Deb Caletti
05. Sadie by Courtney Summers
06. The Loneliest Girl In The Universe by Lauren James

07. My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
08. Nothing Left To Burn by Heather Ezell
09. A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

10. Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
11. The House In Poplar Wood by K.E. Ormsbee
12. Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

Are you a blogger participating in ARC August this month? Are there any books you’re particularly excited to read? Let me know in the comments and be sure to leave a link to your own sign-up post below – I would love to hear from you!