New Kids On The Block 2019 with Kristina Forest

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 2019? 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 [email protected]. I would love to collaborate with you!


About Kristina Forest

Kristina Forest loves to dance and thought one day she’d be a choreographer. But then she decided she loved writing more. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children at The New School and works in children’s books publishing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with two huge bookshelves. I Wanna Be Where You Are is her first novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads


In my earliest childhood memories, I’m sitting on my mom’s bed, watching her curl her hair as she sings along to Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton and/or Mariah Carey. My mom had, and still has, a beautiful singing voice. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass that skill to me. I’m a terrible singer, and I’m not a musician. In the first grade, I tried and failed to play the piano and that’s pretty much where my musician career started and ended. But as a former dancer, music has always played a very important role in my life.

When I moved to New York City for grad school five years ago, I was lonely and broke. The few friends I made all lived in Brooklyn while I stayed in the grad dorms on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I lacked a social connection, and I filled that empty space with music. I listened to Beyoncé’s self titled album and Drake’s mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, more times than I can count. Music became a lifeline for me.

Oddly enough, I can’t listen to music while writing. For the most part, I need complete silence. Sometimes if I’m writing with friends at a coffee shop, I will play the same song on a loop over and over, mostly to drown out the noise. However, I do make playlists for each character and for the overall aesthetic of whatever story I’m writing. I listen to these playlists while riding the subway or going for walks. That way I can be thinking about the story even when I’m not writing.

Music plays a big part in I Wanna Be Where You Are. Chloe is a ballerina, so she already has a relationship with music through dance. But she also makes playlists for everything, particularly for the drive she plans to take all the way to Washington D.C. to audition for the dance conservatory of her dreams. There’s even a special playlist included at the end of the book (but you’ll have to read it in order to see what those songs are).

Here is a short list of songs that I listened to while drafting and revising this story.

It’s no secret that I Wanna Be Where You Are features a hate-to-love romance between my protagonist Chloe and her neighbor, Eli. The two grew up together, and while they never became the best of friends (they bickered too much), they respected each other. As teenagers, Chloe begins to develop a crush on Eli, and then he does something that causes Chloe to hold the world’s most intense grudge. When the song begins, Jorja sings, “I’ve been hurt so many times/ It got to a point when I decided/ I can’t do this anymore/ I need someone to hold me/ I need someone that needs me/ I need someone that loves me.” I think this song really captures how these two are at odds with each other when the story starts. Chloe wants Eli to apologize, and Eli doesn’t think he needs to.


This song is on my IWBWYA playlist specifically because the lyrics on the bridge remind me so much of Chloe:

“Stars in her eyes/she fights for the power, keeping time/she grinds day and night/she grinds from Monday to Friday/works from Friday to Sunday”

And later:

“Stars in her eyes/she fights and she sweet those sleepless nights/but she don’t mind/she loves the grind/she grinds from Monday to Friday/ works from Friday to Sunday”

Chloe has her eye on the prize. She wants to be a ballerina, and she’ll do anything to achieve that goal (including lying to her mom!). She’s sacrificed so much for ballet, and I think these lyrics really reflect how she feels.


Prince is one of my favorite artists of all time. I started writing this story a few months after he passed away, so a lot of Prince songs were being played on a loop. In an early draft, there’s even a scene when Chloe encounters a Prince covers band in Virginia. Without giving too much away, school dances play an important role in this story, and when I play this song, I always imagine Chloe and Eli slow dancing to this song in their high school gym.


All Night is a song about forgiveness. While on this trip with Eli, Chloe learns a lot about why Eli has such a chip on his shoulder, and more importantly why he inadvertently hurt her in the past. As her feeling for him return, she has to make a decision as to whether or not she is willing to forgive his past transgressions and start over again.

All Night is also a love song, and this is a love story. A love story between a boy and a girl, a love story between a girl and ballet, and a love story between a girl and her dream.


“Happiness hit her like a train on a track,” is the perfect way to describe how happiness comes to Chloe in this story. She takes this road trip expecting and anticipating one thing, and it turns into so much more. It’s no surprise that this story has a happily ever after of sorts. It is a rom-com after all!

Title I Wanna Be Where You Are
Author Kristina Forest
Pages 269 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Publication Date June 4th 2019 by Roaring Brook Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast — two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

Filled with roadside hijinks, heart-stirring romance, and a few broken rules, I Wanna Be Where You Are is a YA debut perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.

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