New Kids On The Block 2018 with Sarah Nicole Smetana

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.

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About Sarah Nicole Smetana

Sarah Nicole Smetana grew up in Orange, California, where she wrote songs, played in a few bands, and successfully pilfered all of her parents’ best vinyl records. She received her BFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University and her MFA in Fiction from The New School. Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three-legged cat. The Midnights (HarperTeen/HarperCollins 2018) is her first novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

Love, Sex, and A Case For Not Finding ‘The One’

Some people are lucky enough to meet their soul mates in high school. But for most of us, it doesn’t work like that.

It certainly didn’t work like that for me. When I was a teenager, love struck often, and left just as easily. Each new guy seemed like my OTP, and then it would end and, regardless of who did the ending, I’d be crushed. I’d worry that I made huge mistakes — that I’d never find love again. I’d worry that the breakup meant I’d be alone for the rest of my life, because if I had learned anything from books and movies, it was that you find your true love when you’re in high school. And despite the odds, despite the setbacks and the fights, you and your destined always end up right back in each other’s arms.

Yet no matter how many times I thought I’d found the one, my destiny never seemed to linger.

Years later, when I began writing The Midnights, I reached back to those memories of all the soul mates that didn’t pan out. I wanted to write about love, of course, because the never-ending quest for it was such a huge part of my teenage experience. But I didn’t want to write a story about “true” love, or even one that centered on a single romantic relationship, because that’s not how high school worked me. As far as I could tell, it didn’t work like that for a lot of other people, either. It was less ‘finding my one true pairing,’ and more trying a number of different pairings on for size.

Similarly, I knew I didn’t want to write any idealized, perfectly-conceived sex scenes that were built up and planned for and, ultimately, life altering. Sure, sometimes sex is super meaningful and perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s just as likely to be about loneliness or curiosity as it is to be about love. And that’s okay. That doesn’t make the experience bad or lesser (as long as it’s safe and consensual!), despite the fact that we have this notion drilled into our heads about sex being special, and how we should wait for “the one.”

Because what if there is no “the one?” Or, what if you don’t find “the one” until you’re much older?

I have this memory of talking to my mom about safe sex when I was a teen. At the end of the mortifying conversation, my mom told me she didn’t want me to wait until marriage to have sex. Seriously. My mother didn’t want me to wait because she didn’t want me to end up rushing such a huge commitment just so I could experience the physical aspect. She didn’t want me to do something reckless because of hormones, and pent up sexual energy.

Marriage — deciding you’re going to share the rest of your life with someone — is a huge commitment. Sex often isn’t.

And sometimes, love can just be love, with having to be “true.”

My sixteen year old self would never believe I said this, but here it is anyway: I’m kind of glad I didn’t find my soul mate in high school. If I had, I would have missed out on a lot of experiences that now seem integral to my identity. All those years of searching for love in the wrong places helped me become this version of myself, and helped bring me toward the person I eventually married. Had I met my soul mate at sixteen, I would have had a totally different life. Maybe I wouldn’t be a writer. Surely, I wouldn’t have written The Midnights.

This isn’t true for everyone, of course. I happen to know a number of people still married to their high school sweethearts. Some people are lucky enough to get it right on the first try.

But for people like me, love is a process of trial and error — emphasis on the error — and I wanted to write a book that showed that side of it: how we try and try and sometimes still manage to get it wrong.

It’s okay if a relationship ends. There will be another. And if you’re not with your soul mate by the time you graduate high school, just remember: you still have a lot of life left in which to find them.

(PS: thanks for being so cool, Mom!)

Title The Midnights
Author Sarah Nicole Smetana
Pages 416 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date March 6th 2018 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

This voice-driven coming-of-age YA novel is perfect for fans of Katie Cotugno and Playlist For The Dead.

Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she’s more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her. But when he dies unexpectedly, her dreams – and her reality – shatter.

While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah realizes she can reinvent herself however she wants: a confident singer-songwriter, member of a hip band, embraced by an effortlessly cool best friend. But Susannah is not the only one keeping secrets, and soon, harsh revelations threaten to unravel her life once again.

Set against the scintillating landscape of Southern California, The Midnights is an evocative coming-of-age debut about loss, creativity, and finding your voice while you’re still finding yourself.

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