Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Writer's Voice Query +250 Words


When Charlie’s brother, Ethan, commits suicide at the beginning of summer, her religious father condemns him to Hell for sinning, making Charlie question things about her own faith for the first time. With both of her parents shutting down on her, Charlie finds comfort in playing card games with her Grandpa Ned who comes to stay with them. Then a mysterious boy named Hayden shows up on the front porch with a letter from Ethan which reveals a secret: Ethan was gay. 

Adjusting to this news, Charlie begins to wonder--if her brother kept this from everyone, then what else was he hiding? She sets out to track down Hayden, hoping he’ll lead her to more clues that maybe, just maybe, will give her the real answer she needs. Why did he do it? In her search to find her brother, though, she doesn’t expect to find herself hanging out at a shady bar, dog-walking, painting an unfinished mural, and falling in love. While her family is falling apart, Charlie learns how to put herself back together.

Guide Us Home is a 77,000 word contemporary YA novel that will appeal to fans of Nina LaCour’s Hold Still, Jessi Kirby’s In Honor, and Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere

I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and am currently an editorial intern at Entangled Publishing. 

Thank you for your consideration.


I hated tuna casserole. Always had. I hated it at church potlucks when my parents forced me to have a bit of it just to be polite, and now as I stood peering into the fridge and all I could see to eat were seven of the damn things, I hated the dish even more. They’d accumulated over the last two weeks--well-intentioned neighbors and church members had been arriving at our door with their arms full pretty much every day. 
I understood they were only doing the polite thing, paying their condolences and trying to feed us because they were worried that we would be too grief stricken to feed ourselves. And by the lack of other food items in the fridge, they may have been right on that last point, but still I was starting to resent the parade of happy housewives and their plastic tupperware which we “didn’t even need to worry about returning.”
My brother was dead.
He was gone, and stuffing ourselves with disgusting food wasn’t going to bring him back. If it was, I’d gladly scarf down all seven of these monstrosities, believe me. But since it wasn’t, I’d probably have to venture out to the grocery store at some point, because of the three remaining Webbs, somehow I was maintaining the tightest grip on reality.

I was just contemplating texting Brooke for a ride, since I knew she’d be happy to feel like she was helping, when the doorbell rang. Great, another one.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Vanishing Girls
by Lauren Oliver
Pub Date: March 10, 2015

(I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.)

Synopsis from Amazon:
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

My Review:
One of the things I love about Lauren Oliver is that all of her books are so different from each other. And Vanishing Girls was definitely different.

I really enjoyed Nick working at the old amusement park. Those scenes added a fun element to the story's sadder tone. The mystery of the missing girl that Nick gets caught up in was totally intriguing, and I understood how Nick could get consumed by it at this time when she feels like her family is falling apart.

It's hard to talk about this book without giving everything away, but I'll just say that the ending was excellent. And when I finished the book, I immediately wanted to go back and start reading again from the beginning with a new perspective.

Lauren Oliver can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

Review: My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

My Best Everything
by Sarah Tomp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pub Date: March 3rd, 2015

Synopsis from Amazon:
Luisa "Lulu" Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.

Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends. Quickly realizing they're out of their depth, they turn to Mason, a local boy who's always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything?

My Best Everything is Lulu's letter to Mason--but it a love letter, an apology, or a good-bye?

My Review:
Honestly, I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did. I was intrigued by the narrative structure--that the book is written as a letter--and the small southern town setting. But I figured, how much could I really care about people making moonshine? Well, it turns out I can care a lot.

I loved Lulu's character. She was set up as the good, innocent girl, and her innocence was evident in her interactions with Mason. But then the lengths she was willing to go through, breaking the law, to get money for college made her super interesting. I loved her best friend Roni, too. And how Roni was satisfied with small town life until she became the singer for a band that was going on tour. The fact that Lulu and Roni work in a junk yard is cool too. And, of course, Mason was totally adorable. When he first meets Lulu, he lets her puke in his motorcycle helmet. The fact that he still likes her after that just makes him even more awesome.

Because the book is set up as a letter to Mason written after this summer, the whole story has a sort of foreboding tone. I was waiting for the really bad things to happen. I don't want to give anything away, but then ending was different than I expected and I loved it!

When I'm really into a story, I sometimes forget to mark the quotes I like, but here's two:

"I hated not knowing everyone that had ever known you. I wanted to know you best."

Lulu's mother talks about Lulu's dad, saying, "But we're better together than either of us on our own."
And Lulu says, "If I believed in love, it might look something like that."

Ahhh the romance! This story was just so unique and sweet and I loved it! And as a bonus for me, when I got to the acknowledgements I realized that the author is a VCFA grad too! VCFA world domination is the best.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: Joss Whedon: A Biography by Amy Pascale

Joss Whedon: A Biography
by Amy Pascale
Chicago Review Press
Pub Date: August 1, 2014

I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Do I need a synopsis for this? It's a biography on Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so many other amazing pieces of entertainment. I've been trying to figure out how to write this review, because I'm afraid it's going to come out as more of a review of Joss Whedon's life than it is a review of the author's book. I guess I've never reviewed a biography before.

Well, first let me just say that this book was pretty long, and yet I still would have happily kept reading forever. The author did an excellent job of keeping a narrative going throughout the book. She devoted separate chapters to separate projects of Joss's, while also keeping things chronological even though he hopped from one project to the next and back again. I almost felt like I was reading a fictional story, with character development, foreshadowing, conflict, tension, and resolutions. I also think the author did a great job of piecing together many different people's thoughts while working on various projects in order to give the reader a complete idea of what it was like to be there with Joss at that time.

So basically I'm saying that this biography was excellent. Excellent excellent excellent. I was fascinated the entire time…

And that, of course, is why I feel like I should be reviewing Joss the person rather than this actual book. I don't want to take away anything from the wonderful job the author has done, but I obviously wouldn't have been so invested in reading a biography if I wasn't so obsessed with its subject. Joss Whedon has been probably my biggest hero for a really long time, in the sense that I admire his work--both as a consumer of it for entertainment, and as a creator myself.

While he writes scripts and I write novels, I feel like the fundamentals of storytelling are the same. And I found so much inspiration in hearing exactly how Joss creates his stories. One tidbit I especially enjoyed was how he talks about writing episodes of Buffy. While the show is told in a very monster-of-the-week format, especially in earlier seasons, Joss was adamant about keeping the conflict of each episode grounded in the emotional conflicts of the characters. He always asked himself and his other writers, "But what's the Buffy of it?" I think I need to write this on the top of my dry-erase board when I'm making notes for a novel, perhaps substituting "Buffy" with my own MC's name. Or then again, perhaps not!

I know I'm not the first person to say this about him, but another thing I really admire about Joss is the way he cultivates his own family of creative and talented people, keeping them close around him. If you watch his shows, it's obvious that he uses a lot of the same actors for many different projects, but he also uses the same writers, etc. I can understand why he does this, and I also feel most comfortable when I'm around other creative people. While I can't cast my friends in TV shows, I appreciate how Joss does this. It is also interesting how he has created his own family, while he often talks about that idea as being a big theme in his shows. And the fact that his "family" gathers at his house to give Shakespeare readings just makes my heart swell a little bit. 

I also feel like I share so many personal beliefs with Joss, about humanity, feminism, religion…and it was great getting to read his thoughts on the subjects and about how his beliefs have shaped his work. I already knew that he was an atheist, but I found myself majorly connecting with him during moments of this book, especially whenever he takes issue with the idea that you need to have religion in order to have a sense of morality. 

There are countless other reasons I could give for why I pretty much worship Joss Whedon, but I think maybe I'll save that for a separate post. I'm just going to end this with a few Joss quotes I found in this book that really kind of hit me in the gut.

"Very often you'll be in a group and you'll discover that every single person in it feels like they're the one on the perimeter."

"…we, all of us, are alone in our own minds, and I was very much aware of that from the very beginning of my life. Loneliness and aloneness--which are different things--are very much…[among the] main things I focus on in my work."

"It made me realize…that every time somebody opens their mouth they have an opportunity to do one of two things--connect or divide. Some people inherently divide, and some people inherently connect."

"I believe the only reality is how we treat each other. The morality comes from the absence of any grander scheme, not from the presence of any grander scheme."

"The enemy of humanism is not faith. The enemy of humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every humanist, every person in the world. That is what we have to fight. Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers."

And finally, a quote from Amy Pascale that I wholeheartedly agree with:

"When I say that Joss Whedon changed my life, I'm not being hyperbolic. If anything, it seems inadequate to say that he changed it only once."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Review: The Bridge From Me To You

The Bridge From Me To You
by Lisa Schroeder
Pub Date: July 29, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Lauren has a secret. Colby has a problem. But when they find each other, everything falls into place. 

Lauren is the new girl in town with a dark secret. Colby is the football hero with a dream of something more. In alternating chapters, they come together, fall apart, and build something stronger than either of them thought possible--something to truly believe in.

My Review:
I was intrigued by this novel's format--with alternating chapters from Lauren's point of view (in verse) and Colby's point of view (in prose). I thought it was interesting how Schroeder told the story not only from two different POV's, but also in two fundamentally different ways.

I think giving Lauren's chapters in verse was a good way to capture her fractured and confused state of mind. Lauren's poetry also allowed Schroeder to slowly reveal the truth about what happened to Lauren's family and why she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle. We get hints through the thoughts Lauren expresses in her poetry, rather than being told outright from the beginning.

I enjoyed Colby's voice as well. His chapters managed to capture his sensitive and thoughtful side, even while he talked about things like football. I really liked the idea of this character being obsessed with bridges, and I thought Schroeder used this idea well metaphorically.

I appreciated how the interactions between Lauren and Colby were sweet and innocent for much of the book. The two main obstacles that kept them apart felt a bit contrived to me, but I did enjoy how they tried to be friends until they had the chance to possibly be something more. It was a refreshing change of pace from a lot of YA romances where the characters jump into heavily physical relationships pretty quickly.

However, my main critique of the book stems from the air of innocence that I liked. While I found the teens' relationship cute, the writing in the novel felt like it was aimed at a  younger audience than I expected. The plot followed similarly. Schroeder set up conflicts for the characters in their relationships with their families and friends, but then it felt to me like the situations never got as dark as they probably would have in real life. Every problem the characters faced seemed to resolve themselves easily. While there is nothing wrong with this, and I certainly don't believe that every YA novel needs to be dark, because the darker situations were set up, I was expecting something more from them than what I got. I think the book would simply be better suited for a slightly younger audience.

(I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Review: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

One Man Guy
by Michael Barakiva
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pub Date: May 27, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshman year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

My Review:
(I received a copy of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Yes! Adorable. I loved this book. 

From the very first scene, Alek pulled me into his story and made me care about him and root for him. He was adorably awkward and I loved him. I also loved his family dynamic. It was funny how his mom found fault in everything Americans do, but then pointed out how her friend does it. I liked how Alek and his brother Nik didn't seem to get along at all, but then they were totally there for each other when they needed it.

I loved Ethan. Loved, loved, loved. The one thing I could say is that I actually wanted to know more about him. I would have kept reading this book if he and Alek's story was 500 pages long. But I absolutely adored how he treated Alek. And I liked how realistic their relationship felt. They had misunderstandings and were jerks to each other at times, and then they addressed these things, instead of just magically letting everything be better. But they always forgave each other. I really appreciated that.

And finally, I really enjoyed how New York was used as a setting for the boys' developing relationship. Also, even though I haven't listened to too much Rufus Wainwright, I liked how the author used one specific musician to sort of set the tone for the story. 

So like I said, this book was sweet and adorable and fantastic. So good. Everyone should check it out when it's released May 27th!

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Second Star
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Pub Date: May 13, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

My Review
I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don't even know where to start. This is a YA retelling of Peter Pan about a girl who hangs out at an abandoned beach with two surfer boys! Just the concept is crazy awesome. I was beyond thrilled for the chance to read this early, and I loved it even more than I expected. I was so obsessed with this book while I was reading it. When I had to put it down before I was finished, I kept thinking about it and telling my friend about it. It was so so so good!

One thing I thought was great (even though it kind of drove me crazy at the same time) was how the author maintained this sort of magical tone throughout the whole story. It kept me guessing until the very end about what was real.

And, of course, what I thought was the greatest was the boys. Pete and Jas. They were both ridiculously great, but I have a tendency to root for the "bad" guy. At first I did think I'd get annoyed with Wendy sort of bouncing back and forth between two boys. But it actually felt believable and the author managed to do it without me losing any respect for Wendy. It probably had something to do with the whole magical/real-or-not-real quality of the story, too.

The last thing I want to say is slightly spoiler-y, so you might wanna skip this paragraph!

The ending. I was rooting crazy hard for a totally cheesy, ridiculously happy ending. But I started realizing way before the end that it wasn't going to be as ride-off-into-the-sunset as I wanted it to be. And I was okay with that, only because I reminded myself of Peter Pan. The story was always kind of sad to me. But also awesome.

And that's totally what Second Star was. Kind of sad, but even more awesome. I thought it was perfect. If you like fairy tale retellings, read it. Seriously. It was so creatively done.

Second Star is available Tuesday.