Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Marisa Kanter

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 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 Marisa Kanter

Marisa Kanter writes young adult novels featuring ambitious girls, soft boys, and all the feels. She grew up surrounded by books near Boston, MA. Her love for books took her to New York City, where she graduated from New York University with a B.S. in Media, Culture, and Communications and a Creative Writing minor. She has worked in publicity for major publishers and covered YA books for MTV. Currently, she works in sales, on the distribution side of the publishing industry. She can often be found searching for the best iced chai in NYC, or reading on the 3 train. Marisa’s debut novel, What I Like About You will release from Simon & Schuster BFYR in 2020. She is represented by Taylor Haggerty of Root Literary.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

I was twenty-one the first time I met Molly Peskin-Suso. It was winter break, so I was home, back in my childhood bedroom with its polka dot décor and stacks of books lining mint walls. In this room, sitting on the bed where I consumed hundreds of YA books throughout my adolescence, in the exact spot where I started writing stories of my own, I read The Upside of Unrequited.  

It was here, as an adult, where I discovered the book I desperately needed when I was a teenager.

Molly is a hopeless romantic who’s had twenty-six secret crushes. She’s obsessed with Pinterest and has an epic recipe for making cookie dough in mason jars. She has the coolest sister in Cassie and a tight-knit group of friends who encourage her to put herself out there and finally turn one of her unrequited crushes into something real. But Molly is comfortable pining from afar, because it’s safer to protect her heart than face the potential of rejection. She’s anxious and insecure, overanalyzing every conversation and picking apart the smallest moments, worried that she’s said or done something wrong. Also, Molly is Jewish.  

I love that last sentence. Also, Molly is Jewish. I love that Upside centers a creative, complicated, anxious teen…who also happens to be Jewish. It’s a huge part of Molly’s identity, and she never lets us forget it. There is a painful, hilarious anecdote about her bat mitzvah. She works at a store called Bissel, Yiddish for “a little bit.” She’s delightfully surprised that Reid, the (also Jewish!) love interest, hyphenates G-d in his text messages. Judaism isn’t the focal point of Molly’s story — it’s very much a romcom! But with every Yiddish phrase and reference to Jewish customs, I felt seen in a way I had never experienced before.

Growing up, the Jewish characters I encountered in literature were either a) the friend who couldn’t hang out on Friday nights because of Shabbat or b) victims of the Holocaust. Truthfully, they were overwhelmingly the latter. Desperate for any Jewish rep, I went through a period where I consumed Holocaust stories — and internalized that these are the only narratives where Jewish people had a place, ones mired in tragedy.

Then came Molly, with her laugh-out-loud funny voice and her heart of gold. Molly, who’s insecure about her body, who can be so oblivious you just want to shake her, who is flawed and relatable. It is literally a joy to be inside her head. She’s just a teenage girl, wrapped up in crushes and thought-spiraling about everything from the mechanics of hand holding to how to lean in for a kiss.

She’s just a teenage girl.

As a teen, I obsessively read YA romance novels. I never read about a Jewish girl falling in love. I never saw myself as the protagonist.

Honestly? Molly’s story was a revelation. She showed me that Jewish teens have a place in contemporary YA. She gave me the confidence to write my own romcoms starring Jewish characters. Before Upside, I’d never seen Jewish representation so close to my own cultural upbringing on the page. I’d never read a Jewish book that was so sweet and cute and just all around happy-making.

So thank you, Molly Peskin-Suso. Thank you for being a Jewish character who is associated with fluff and joy, for validating that Jewish teens deserve to have unrequited crushes, to fight with their siblings, to make mistakes, to fall in love, to have happily ever after, to exist.

Title What I Like About You
Author Marisa Kanter
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Publication Date April 7th 2020 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can…but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson, Marisa Kanter hilariously and poignantly explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.

Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle — she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes — in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.

One response to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Marisa Kanter”

  1. This is so heartwarming and touching. I love reading about people who find books they needed younger but still found. Thank you so much for sharing, both Marisa and Jen!

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