New Kids On The Block 2018 with Lauren Spieller

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 Lauren Spieller

Lauren Spieller is a literary agent who lives in New York with her husband. When she isn’t writing, she can be found drinking lattes, pining for every dog she sees, or visiting her native California. Your Destination Is On The Left is her debut novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads




Hi Everyone!

It is officially pub day for my debut, Your Destination Is On The Left! It’s hard to tell you how exciting and gratifying this is. I worked very hard on this novel, and it took a village to turn it into the book it is today.

Here’s a bit about the book:

Your Destination Is On The Left tells the story of Dessa Rhodes, a teen artist who travels the United States with her family in an RV caravan with two other families, including her best friend (and the guy of her dreams), Cyrus. Despite enjoying her traveler life, Dessa longs to settle down and go to art school, where she can finally learn the techniques that will turn her into a “real” artist. But when she doesn’t get into college, Dessa is forced to figure out – what do you do after you fail?

Though only part of Dessa’s journey takes place on the road, I thought I’d celebrate the release of Your Destination Is On The Left by sharing a list of my favorite road trip books. Some of these will be familiar, others might seem strange for a list of road trip books, but all of them are wonderful reads that use traveling to explore a character’s inner journey to better understanding of themselves and their place in the world. I hope you find something to love on this list, and will also consider picking up a copy of Your Destination Is On The Left!


1. Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

What it’s about: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

Why I love it: I am obsessed with Cheryl Strayed. I first discovered her through Dear Sugar, the podcast she and the delightful Steve Almond co-host, but I quickly realized that in addition to being an empathetic and lovely person, she is also an incredible writer. Wild — which was turned into a movie in 2014 — is a heartfelt and feminist story of one woman’s decision to take back control of her life, and to figure out who she is along the way. It’s brave and honest, just like Cheryl, and it’ll leave you feeling empowered and in desperate need of a nice, long hike.



2. Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

What it’s about: Reagan Forrester wants out — out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas. Victoria Reyes wants in — in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn’t go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won’t stand out for being Mexican. One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected.

Why I love it: Dahlia is the master of writing voicey, contemporary novels that will appeal to teens and adults alike. Reagan and Victoria leap off the page, and their friendship is pretty much the definition of #SquadGoals. I loved that they both have dreams that are tied to who they are and who they want to be — something I really strove to do as I created Dessa Rhodes in my own book. If you haven’t read a book by Dahlia yet, this is a great one to pick up, but honestly they’re all wonderful.



3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What it’s about: Set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

Why I love it: I know Station Eleven isn’t a traditional road trip novel, but the novel does follow a troupe of actors as they travel between settlements in a world forever altered by a pandemic that ravaged the country twenty years earlier. I think the number one reason I love it — besides the incredible writing and the finely-wrought characters and the brilliant worldbuilding — is that it imagines a world in which everything has changed, but the arts remain…and are more important than ever. It’s a hopeful book even in the darkest moments, and just writing this blog post is making me want to read it again.



4. Savvy by Ingrid Law

What it’s about: For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy” – a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity…and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day. As if waiting weren’t hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs’s birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman’s bus…only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up-and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

Why I love it: Oh gosh, let me count the ways. Savvy’s voice is off the charts wonderful, the magic system is creative and fun, and the relationship between Savvy and her family felt unique and yet entirely realistic. Though this isn’t a traditional road trip book, Savvy finds herself on a journey that requires her to be brave and smart in equal measure, and that teaches her just how special she truly is. It’s a must read for fans of middle grade and magic, but also for people who love books about unique families and heartfelt endings.



5. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

What it’s about: Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it’s Amy’s responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn’t ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip – and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar – especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory – but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.

Why I love it: You can’t have a list of road trip books and not include Morgan Matson. Amy & Roger was a huge inspiration to me as I was writing Your Destination Is On The Left, in part because it tackles the main character’s fears and her growing affection for a guy she’s known for a long time. If you’re looking for a fun summer road trip with a great romance, I encourage you to check this one out (that is, if you haven’t read it a million times already, like I have).



6. Vivian Apple At The End Of The World By Katie Coyle

What it’s about: Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

Why I love it: I am obsessed with the idea of the Rapture, and the question of what society would look like if it actually happened, so there was never a chance of me not loving this book. I also appreciate that Vivian Apple has a fantastical premise, but still feels incredibly realistic. Finally, Vivian — who is a truly wonderful character with a great voice — packs a sledgehammer for the trip, which is frankly the most badass thing I’ve ever heard.



7. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

What it’s about: Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech weaves together two tales, in which thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, proud of her country roots and the “Indian-ness in her blood,” travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents. Along the way, she tells them of the story of Phoebe Winterbottom, who received mysterious messages, who met a “potential lunatic,” and whose mother disappeared. As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe’s outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold — the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.

Why I love it: My friend Juliana L. Brant first recommended this book to me in 2012. In fact, I think she sent me a copy in the mail with the instructions that I read it immediately. I took my time — there are a lot of books to get through, okay?! — but when I finally sat down with it a few months later, I was blown away. The interwoven narratives! The lovely characters! The gorgeous writing! Full of heart and humor, this story of love and loss has won awards and been reviewed a million times so the likelihood is that it’s already on your radar, but if you haven’t had a chance to read it, do yourself a favor and grab a copy today.



8. The Lauras by Sara Taylor

What it’s about: After a fight with Alex’s father, Ma pulls Alex out of bed and onto a pilgrimage of self-discovery through her own enthralling past. Guided by a memory map of places and people from Ma’s life before motherhood, the pair travels from Virginia to California, each new destination and character revealing secrets, stories, and unfinished business.

Slowly, Alex begins to realizes that the road trip is not a string of arbitrary stops, but a journey whose destination is perhaps Ma’s biggest secret of all. Told from the perspective of Alex, a teenager who equates gender identification with unwillingly choosing a side in a war, and written with a stunningly assured lyricism, The Lauras is a fearless study of identity, set against the gorgeously rendered landscape of North America.

Why I love it: I actually haven’t read this one yet but I figure if I’m going to put together a list of great books people need to read, I might as well find a new one for myself, too! This book was shortlisted for the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award, and it also sounds like it has a much-needed take on gender identity set against the backdrop of familial secrets. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to hear what you think!


Thank you so much to Jen for hosting me on my release day, and for all of you for celebrating with me on Jen’s outrageously fabulous Pop! Goes the Reader blog. I hope you’ll considering picking up a copy of my debut YA, Your Destination Is On The Left, and that you have a fantastic summer!

Love, Lauren

Title Your Destination Is On The Left
Author Lauren Spieller
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published June 26th 2018 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Dessa Rhodes is a modern-day nomad. Her family travels in an RV, their lives defined by state lines, exit signs, and the small communal caravan they call home. Among them is Cyrus, her best friend and long-time crush, whom she knows she can never be with. When your families are perpetually linked, it’s too dangerous to take a risk on romance. Instead, Dessa looks to the future. She wants to be a real artist and going to art school is her ticket to success and a new life. There’s just one problem: she hasn’t been accepted…anywhere. Suddenly her future is wide open, and it looks like she’s going to be stuck traveling forever.

Then an unexpected opportunity presents itself: an internship working with a local artist in Santa Fe. Dessa struggles to prove to her boss — and herself — that she belongs there, but just as she finally hits her stride, her family suffers an unexpected blow. Faced with losing everything that she has worked for, Dessa has a difficult decision to make. Will she say goodbye to her nomadic lifestyle and the boy she loves? Or will she choose to never stop moving?

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