January 17, 2018

Stolen Secrets Blog Tour: Tens List + Giveaway


Stolen Secrets
Author: L.B. Schulman
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press


After an abrupt move across the country to San Francisco, sixteen-year-old Livvy discovers a grandmother who she believed was dead. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Adelle shouts out startling details, mistakes her own name, and seems to relive moments that may have taken place in a concentration camp. When Livvy and her new friend Franklin D. find journal entries from the Holocaust in Adelle’s home, Livvy begins to suspect that her grandmother may have a shocking link to a notable figure Anne Frank.


“The author captures the desperate uncertainty of life with an alcoholic and having to parent a parent. Whip-smart Franklin has a uniquely drawn personality and his dialogue with Livvy sparkles…VERDICT An engaging coming-of-age novel recommended for libraries looking to highlight issues of alcoholism, Alzheimer’s, and family estrangement.' ―School Library Journal

“Stolen Secrets is a solid mystery with family drama and teen angst. Livvy is a likable character who is smart and perceptive at times, yet, like most teens, naive and clueless at others. The novel is easy to read and would be a good companion read for students reading Anne Frank’s diary. Stolen Secrets will need some hand-selling to teens, but once they pick it up they will not be disappointed.” ―VOYA

“This is a well-written book that sympathetically examines the roles of Holocaust survivors on both sides of the war as well as guilt and forgiveness. The main and supporting characters are funny and engaging…a good addition to those who want to read more books with a Holocaust theme. Recommended.” ―School Library Connection

“A…contemporary story with a Holocaust secret at its core….a jam-packed narrative with a full complement of tropes and topical elements: new girl; friend issues; alcoholism; family secrets, neo-Nazis; predatory elder care; armed robbery—and a romance. The grandmother’s mysterious past intrigues…” ―Kirkus Reviews

You can purchase Stolen Secrets at the following Retailers:

Top 10 Things About Stolen Secrets You Might Not Know

1. I had the idea for this book 22 years ago and didn’t write it until five years ago, because I felt like the idea was too challenging for my writing abilities.

2. While I was writing a scene involving Anne Frank’s favorite chestnut tree, I was invited to a planting of a sapling from that same tree in a memorial Holocaust grove at a local college.

3. I interviewed a Holocaust survivor who has since died. He had no children. The interview is amazing. Maybe I should put it up on my website.

4. The United States Holocaust Museum liked the book so much that they are selling it in their store. A few others have joined them.

5. Livvy, my protagonist, has a photographic memory. This is the opposite of me. I have a terrible memory. I was actually jealous of my own character more than once as I wrote the book.

6. I wrote a large part of the first draft during NANOWRIMO.

7. The book is oddly prescient on many levels. There’s a part at the end that I considered not writing because it didn’t feel “real” but has since happened in the USA several times.

8. Mysteries were much harder to write than I expected. Sprinkling in the right clues at the right time without giving away too much was a huge challenge.

9. I’m so tired of the sexy, mysterious, misunderstood love interests that I made mine 100 percent the opposite.

10. Few teen books deal with Alzheimer’s and yet teens often have to deal with dementia in older relatives. I’m proud of the way I handled it.


STOLEN SECRETS is L.B. Schulman’s second young adult novel. Her debut, LEAGUE OF STRAYS, was published in 2012. She grew up in Maryland and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two daughters, and a pair of loveable mutts. When she isn’t writing, she’s visiting genealogy sites, trying to find famous people she’s related to. You can visit her online at LBSchulman.com.


(1) Winner will receive a STOLEN SECRETS Swag (Signed Copy, Bookmark, Pen & More) by L.B. Schulman.
Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

Cover Reveal: Unbound by Kimberly Derting


Unbound (The Men of West Beach #2)
Author: Kimberly Derting

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: February 11, 2018


Emerson Monroe McLean is a true Texan through and through. But she’s never wanted to be like the other girls she grew up with, the ones who view debutante balls and sororities as stepping-stones to landing the perfect husband.

Yet everyone underestimates Em. When they look at the leggy blonde, all they see is a serial-dater who leaves a string of broken hearts in her wake. What people don’t realize is that keeping guys at arms length is more than just about having a good time; it’s a deep-rooted defense mechanism.

Lucas Harper is California born and bred. The product of his wealthy upbringing and an overbearing mother, Lucas has always been told where to be and when to be there. But after his older brother’s death, Lucas is tired of being a puppet.

Taking a break to figure out what he wants out of life, he moves to West Beach to spend the summer surfing. It’s there that he meets Emerson McLean, the free-spirited beauty who lures him into her bed. Refusing to be tied down, she’s unlike any girl he’s every known.

Their chemistry is undeniable. There’s only one hitch: Lucas already has a fiancĂ©e. And when she lands on his doorstep, Emerson realizes that for the first time in her life, she has genuine feelings for a guy.

With her heart on the line, Emerson discovers that, win or lose, she isn’t the kind of girl to play by the rules.

Book 1 in the series:

Kimberly has been in love with LOVE since the first grade, when she would make “boyfriends” hold her hand during recess . . . whether they wanted to or not. In high school, she discovered romance novels and she’s been hooked ever since!

She is the author of the award-winning THE BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE trilogy, THE TAKING trilogy, and UNDRESSED (her first book in The Men Of West Beach series). She's also co-written the soon-to-be-released picture books about a girl who loves science! Her books have been translated into 15 languages, and both THE BODY FINDER and THE PLEDGE were YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selections.

These days, she spends entirely too much time ordering stuff off the Internet, binge-watching Netflix, and holding hands with a guy who doesn’t have to be forced (her husband).


Cover Reveal: Covet by Micalea Smeltzer


Covet (Enchanted #2)
Author: Micalea Smeltzer

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: TBA


On the run from the Iniquitous, Mara feels lost and helpless. Without Theo by her side she’s left bare and vulnerable, but she’s a fighter and, with blood boiling in her veins, she vows to avenge him.

The Iniquitous have already taken so much from her, and she refuses to sit back and let them take anything else. She trains harder, preparing herself physically and mentally to take them on. As her magic grows stronger, so does the voice speaking to her from beyond the grave.

She wants to believe it’s real, to give in to what feels right, but if she does, her mind might be lost forever.

Sequel to:
Hi. I’m Micalea. Ma-call-e-uh. Weird name, I know. My mom must’ve known I was going to be odd even in the womb. I’ve written a lot of books. Like a lot. Don’t ask me how many, I don’t remember at this point. I have an unhealthy addiction to Diet Coke but I can’t seem to break the habit. I listen to way too much music and hedgehogs have taken over my life. Crazy is the word that best sums up my life, but it’s the good kind of crazy and I wouldn’t change it for anything.


January 16, 2018

The Vanishing Spark of Dusk Blog Tour: Review, Excerpt + Giveaway

The Vanishing Spark of Dusk
Author: Sara Baysinger
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Release Date: January 8th, 2018
 Published by Entangled Teen  


 Stand up.  

When Lark is stolen from Earth to be a slave on the planet Tavdora, she’s determined to find her way back home to her family, no matter the cost. Placed in the household of a notorious slave trader, Lark quickly learns her best assets are her eyes and ears. And if she’s brave enough, her voice.    

Be heard.  

Kalen is the Tavdorian son of a slave trader and in line to inherit his father’s business. But his growing feelings for Lark, the new house slave who dares to speak of freedom, compel him to reveal his new plan for the slave ships returning to Earth—escape. Together, they just might spark a change that flares across the universe.    

Fight back.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36606220-the-vanishing-spark-of-dusk 
Buy Link: https://entangledpublishing.com/the-vanishing-spark-of-dusk.html

“What have we here. A runaway?” 

I can’t think. In my panic I can hardly breathe— 

“Easy there.” His voice is lucid and smooth, not rough and unkind like I imagined it would be. He releases me. “I’m not going to hurt you.” 

The first scattered thought that crosses my mind when I look at him is, he’s not really too different from Humans. I mean, apart from being exceptionally tall, he really could pass for a Human. His tanned face is clean-shaven, and when he smiles, dimples appear. Dark feathery hair the color of molasses curls around two pointed ears. Amusement flickers in his eyes—and for the first time I notice the strange color of them. They’re not crazy at all, the way Johnson described. They have a purple hue, soft and deep like lilacs. Never look them in the eye. One of Johnson’s many lessons. I avert my gaze. 

“What are you doing outside the plantation?” His voice is not accusing but slightly curious. “You shouldn’t be out here unless you have a death wish. Correct?” 

My stomach drops. Yes. He thinks I’m a slave. This could be good. 

Or really bad. 

I glance at the sky, think of something to say, but every Tavdorian word I’ve ever learned has decided to take a vacation. 

“The sunset,” I finally say in his language. “You can get the best view from here.” It’s the weakest excuse ever, but it’ll buy me some time. 

“The sunset?” He crosses his arms, and I notice how strong he is, his forearms corded in muscle.“You risked your life leaving the plantation…for a sunset?” 

One swallow. Two blinks. “It’s worth it, don’t you think?” I gesture toward the sky, now turning a deep shade of crimson. 

He swivels his eyes toward the sunset, then back at me. A confused smile forms on his two perfect lips, and I briefly wonder if all Tavdorians are this good-looking or if I’ve officially lost my mind. 

“Alno must be lenient. Not many slaves get the privilege of enjoying a sunset.” 

My heartbeat spikes. Look away. Johnson told me Tavdorians never speak civilly to Humans. It’s all orders and reprimands. So why is this one speaking to me? Why isn’t he reacting in anger at my “privilege”? 

“But you don’t have to worry about a lashing from me.” The Tavdorian steps closer, and my shoulders stiffen. He’s so tall my head barely reaches his chest. If he thought I was a runaway, he could easily swing me over his shoulder and carry me to the plantation himself. 

“What do you want with me?” The question comes out in a breathless whisper. I allow myself to peek up at him. He stares back, his eyes sparking with curiosity. 

“Simple conversation would be enough.” 

A conversation. With a Tavdorian. There’s nothing simple about that. 

“You don’t need to tremble so much. I’m not going to harm you.” He waves his hand in the air. “Or tell on you for running away.” 

“Thank you,” I manage to whisper, realizing after I speak the words that I just confirmed his suspicion. 

“I would suggest you run with more resources, though. Food. Water.” His eyes drift over my threadbare tunic, and he frowns. “Layers of clothing, perhaps.” 

“I’m fine, really.” 

“Do you know how to hunt?” 

I’m starting to wonder if this is an interrogation. He narrows his eyes and lowers his voice a notch. “Or are you meeting with other runaways? I heard there were two who ran from the plantation. Alno must have a terrible time keeping his fence intact.” 

I can’t speak. My mouth has been bolted shut, my fear threatening to choke me. 

He sighs and drags his hand through his hair. “This conversation is seriously getting boring. You can either speak to me like a civil…being. Or you can walk away and leave me hanging, wondering who the mysterious copper-haired runaway was that I met on the riverbank.” 

My brain screams at me to walk away, but this Tavdorian isn’t the only curious one here.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I read the description for this book. I like science fiction, but I don't normally read many alien-related novels - so I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive and on the fence to begin with. Gladly, I was quickly and easily sucked into Lark's world and ended up really liking the book. There were a couple aspects that I didn't really care for much - the majority of the story line was about slavery, inequality, social injustice, freeing slaves, escaping, etc. I knew this before starting due to the description, but I found myself getting bored some of the time with it. I'm not exactly sure what didn't grab my attention - sometimes it felt dry and boring, and the pace felt like it was dragging along. On top of that, it felt kind of overplayed - like it was almost over the top with all of it. I'm not sure that even makes sense to anyone, but it's the best I can describe it. There were quite a few secondary characters that made the story interesting, but also confusing at times because these characters were different species and had different ranks in the society, and so on. That was another part that brought me down a bit.

On the positive side, I really loved Lark and her story. She really changes and grows into her own throughout the book, and we get to see that as it happens. I found her character easy to identify with, very likeable, and realistic. She was a great main character that I found myself invested in from the beginning and rooting for the entire length of the story. Of course, I also loved Kalen and getting to know him. He's supposed to be one of the bad guys, but Lark manages to make him open up and we see him for who he is and wants to become. I adored seeing them meet and then watching as their relationship grew and bloomed during the story. The last thing I want to mention that stood out for me was the author's writing style. She wrote from the first person point of view, with Lark as the narrator. This is by far my favorite style of writing and I think it worked perfectly for this story. We got to really know Lark throughout the book and it felt like I was going through everything right beside her. That's one trait I believe only the first person POV style can give to the reader and it always makes a huge difference for me and my reading experience. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to fans of YA science fiction and readers who especially like sci-fi romance and alien fiction.

My name is Sara Baysinger and I write books. I was born in the heart of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador where I spent my early life exploring uncharted lands on horseback and raising chickens. I now make my home among the endless cornfields of Indiana with my husband and two children…and I still raise chickens. My dystopian novel BLACK TIGER was self-published in 2016, with books 2 & 3 published in 2017. When not getting lost in a book, I can be found gardening, devouring chocolate, and running off the sugar-high from said chocolate. I’m currently working on an upcoming science fiction romance novel that will release with Entangled Teen, an imprint of Entangled Publishing.   
Website: https://sarabaysinger.com/ 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarambaysinger    


January 15, 2018

Book Blitz + Giveaway: The Shadow Weave by Annette Marie


The Shadow Weave (Spell Weaver #2)
Author: Annette Marie
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: January 12, 2018


Clio might be a nymph living in exile among humans. And she might possess the rare ability to mimic any magic she sees. And she might have just seriously ticked off the most powerful family of spell weavers in the Underworld.

But she is not in love with an incubus.

Lyre is the rebellious black sheep of said weaver family, and he’s the only reason she survived her recent Underworld “vacation.” He’s also the sexiest thing she’s ever seen. Together, they have to track down a catastrophically dangerous magic—a magic he created, she sort of stole, and they both lost—before his family gets their hands on it. And that means fighting alongside him in a desperate attempt to avert complete disaster.

But she is definitely not in love with him. At least, she’s pretty sure she’s not.

Mostly sure. Maybe sure? …Crap.

As though summoned by her thoughts, the sex fiend himself breezed into the room. Hair damp and tousled, the kind of face that made women’s hearts skip, broad shoulders that tapered to a toned torso. His tattered clothes should have ruined the look, but they added an extra edge—dangerous and exotic.
The others in the kitchen noticed his arrival, but they dismissed him just as quickly. Unlike most daemons, incubi were easy to recognize even in glamour. No other caste possessed that stunning combination of golds—white-gold hair, warm golden skin, vibrant irises like a dark patina over rich yellow gold.
Yes, they recognized him as an incubus—and they didn’t bother to hide their curling lips and wrinkling noses. Lyre either didn’t notice or didn’t care as he swept over to her, his expression brightening for the first time in two days.
“Clio,” he purred, voice too low for even keen-eared strangers to hear, “your powers of seduction would put any succubus to shame.”
She blinked at him, the bowl of whisked eggs in her hands and a hot pan sizzling in front of her. His mood was so different from earlier that she couldn’t quite grasp it.
“Huh?” she managed. How articulate.
“This is entirely unfair. I have no power to resist such tactics.” He waited a beat. “Are you planning to do something with those eggs?”
She blinked again, trying to unscramble her brain. Scramble. Right, the eggs. She dumped the mixture into the hot pan. “What are you going on about, Lyre?”
“Bacon,” he sighed dreamily. “Pancakes. Scrambled eggs. You slay me, my love.”
On the words “my love,” her heart screeched to a stop so fast it might have left skid marks on her ribs. It kicked back into gear at three times its previous speed and she concentrated so hard on the spatula that she almost went cross-eyed. “You—you can’t be that excited about my cooking. You don’t even know if it’s any good.”
“I can tell already. It’ll be delicious.”
She shivered. The way he said that word should be illegal. As she hurriedly stirred the eggs with a spatula, he stood so close he was almost touching her, his body angled toward her as though she held his entire attention. But his gaze, sliding coolly from one watching daemon to another, was distinctly unfriendly.
She scraped the eggs off the pan, then rescued the bacon from the oven—triggering a stir among the waiting daemons. With her bottom lip caught between her teeth, she pulled a plate from the cupboard, loaded it with food, and held it out to Lyre. She’d cooked an elaborate late-night breakfast to cheer him up, but now second thoughts were crowding her brain. Too late to change her plan now.
His smile only fueled her blush as he fished a fork out of a nearby drawer, loaded it with eggs, and scooped them into his mouth. She held her breath. The entire room went silent.
His eyes rolled back in ecstasy. “So good,” he moaned.
She jerked around. The female daemon had dropped her heavy book on the floor. As everyone looked over at her, pink tinged the woman’s cheeks. She snatched up her book and beat a hasty retreat out of the room.
Clio swallowed hard, envious of the woman’s ability to flee. Lyre’s moan had been so sensual it had been downright scandalous, and if Clio didn’t put space between them soon, she was going to start swooning like a complete fool.
Annette Marie is the author of the Amazon best-selling Steel & Stone series, which includes Goodreads Choice Award nominee Yield the Night, and fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced adventures and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it's not quite that bad) with her comparatively sensible husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat— Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.


January 14, 2018

Author Interview + Giveaway: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin: A Novel
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers


Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in DEAR MARTIN. In this stunning and unforgettable debut novel, readers will follow high school senior Justyce McAllister on an emotional journey that will leave him questioning everything he knows.

Justyce is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has left Justyce contemplative and on edge. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up (way up), much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

DEAR MARTIN is the novel that everyone needs to read, regardless of one’s race, nationality, age, or gender. Nic Stone’s powerful words are captured in this important, emotional story that generations of readers will surely embrace for years to come. Stone says, “I hope [Justyce’s] journey will give readers a way to identify their own questions. And answers.”


“Raw and gripping.” —Jason Reynolds, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller All American Boys

“Incredible, honest, gut-wrenching... A must-read!” —Angie Thomas, author of the New York Times bestseller The Hate U Give

«  “Vivid and powerful.” – Booklist, starred review

Q: DEAR MARTIN is your debut novel. How did you get the idea to write this book, and did you always think you would write for a YA audience?
The idea for this book came to me while I was at breakfast with my father—a retired police officer. I’d been grappling with the untimely death of Jordan Davis, a kid who ultimately lost his life over loud music. That particular case, combined with some of the “Dr. King would never!” responses I saw to protests engendered by the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked a question in me: What would Dr. King say/think/feel/do if he were alive today? And since the individuals gunned down in real life were teen boys, that’s the perspective I felt I had to take on to explore my question. I started writing pretty recently—four years ago—and all the manuscripts I’ve written so far (DEAR MARTIN is actually the third) have been YA-aimed, likely because in my head, I haven’t aged past seventeen. ;)
Q: Justyce McAllister is a seventeen-year-old student with a bright future, but he experiences racial profiling that makes him question how things seem to operate today for young black men. How did the character of Justyce come to life, and is he based on anyone from your own life?
Justyce was more or less fully formed when he came into my head, but he’s an amalgamation of a number of African American boys I know: my suburbs-bred little brother, my *hood*-bred cousin, the only other black kid I ever had in my classes, a couple of my friends who sold drugs at some point, with some of my own black-girl experiences tossed in there to spice things up. My goal was for his humanity to be the focus of the story so he’d be universally relatable, but for there to also be culturally specific things about the way he moves through the world that just about any African American reader could identify with.
Q: How did Justyce’s attendance at a private high school in Atlanta shape the story?
Atlanta is a very interesting place with a rich history—it was significant in both the Civil War and the civil rights movement. As such, the city is very diverse . . . but it’s still the South. Most of the private schools have a handful of students of color, but these kids often find themselves in classes with kids who are both very rich and very proud of their “Confederate heritage,” which can be confusing since people typically associate this particular form of bigotry with white people who are “working class” and uneducated.
Less extreme, but just as insidious, are the kids (such as Jared Christensen in the book) who, fully aware of the segregated history of the South, see diversity in their personal spheres and take it to mean racial equitability is a widespread reality. As such, these kids are generally unwilling to acknowledge their prejudices or check their subconscious biases when they come to light—racism is a “thing of the past” to them, so why would they?
I grew up dealing with both of these types of people in my public schools, but using a private school for the book added a socioeconomic factor that made the waters a bit muddier. And what can I say: muddier waters tend to make for a better (read: more complex) story.
Q: Justyce writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the novel, which is where the story title comes from. Can you tell us a little bit about how this idea came about? What do you think Dr. King would say about the state of race relations today?
Part A of this question is easy (and I touched on it a bit in the first question, but will go more in-depth here). On November 23, 2012—Black Friday, as we refer to the day after Thanksgiving in America—a seventeen-year-old African American boy named Jordan Davis was murdered in the parking lot of a gas station after a brief dispute with an older white man over loud music coming from the car Davis occupied. The incident shook me to my core, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
A couple of months later, George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin (also age seventeen at the time of his death), and the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was born on social media in response. Then Eric Garner (forty-three years old) and Michael Brown (eighteen years old) were killed within three weeks of each other, and the protests now equated with the Black Lives Matter movement began in earnest. This is when I started to see people using quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to oppose the protestors.
Which didn’t make sense to me. To be honest, it made me angry. There was even a point when the mayor of my city begged protestors not to “take the highway” because “Dr. King would never take a highway.” This statement isn’t just questionable: it’s historically inaccurate. Dr. King and the people he led took many highways in pursuit of equal rights for African Americans in this country. One of the central tenets of the American civil rights movement was civil disobedience: an active refusal to obey certain laws as a form of peaceful protest. So the notion that Dr. King would be opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement and the nonviolent protests connected to it was galling to me. So much so, it made me want to explore current events in light of Dr. King’s teachings, recorded activities, and accomplishments.
Which brings us to the second part of the question: what do I think Dr. King would say about the state of race relations today? The truth is: I genuinely don’t know. In a campaign video with Jon Ossoff recently, Congressman John Lewis said of the times we’re living in, “I’ve never seen anything like this. . . . I’ve never ever seen anything so difficult.” This is a powerful statement from a man who was on the front line of the civil rights movement, who has been beaten and jailed for his fervent pursuit of equal rights for all. After allllllllll that, he says this time we’re living in now is the hardest thing he’s ever seen. That’s pretty telling.
What I can say: I do think Dr. King would be disappointed. While many of the things he fought for became legal realities shortly after (and I daresay, in response to?) his death, it’s clear many of his ideas—his sentiments regarding the way we view and treat one another—have yet to get down into people’s hearts. And that’s unfortunate.
Q: What is your favorite moment from the book?
There’s a scene where Justyce is in a mood after being snubbed by the girl he likes, and his best friend, Manny, shows up at Justyce’s dorm room to cheer him up by dragging him to a party Justyce has zero interest in attending. Manny has come straight from basketball practice and is in serious need of a shower, but he uses his body odor to coerce Justyce into going.
Justyce eventually succumbs, and unfortunately, things do not go well at the party. But I love the encounter in the dorm room because we see two teenage black boys just being teenage boys. It’s this humorous and (hopefully) heartwarming point of contact with their humanity, and a moment where their race (both are African American) is genuinely a nonissue. This is the kind of stuff that gets erased when a police officer sees an African American kid and—consciously or unconsciously—puts his hand on his gun. I wanted to capture as many moments like this as I could, but the “release of the full force of (Manny’s) funk onto the room” is by far my favorite.
Q: Do you have a favorite character from the book? If so, who is it and why?
Definitely Justyce. I love him because he’s not perfect. He messes up. Often. Many of his decisions have pretty hefty repercussions (like there’s an incident he’s involved in at the party Manny drags him to, and the details of said incident come up in a courtroom later on in the story).
But to me, that’s what makes him real. Relatable. He messes up. Yes, he owns his mistakes and takes strides to correct what he’s able, but he messes up. And I adore him for it.
Q: Where do you write, and are you working on a new book?
Wherever I can? Lol! I have a little one who is with me all day, so if I can pull off Starbucks or the library, I prefer to work there because I stay awake. Otherwise, I’m in a big recliner or in my bed—which is my favorite place to write, but is also the least productive place because I’m super prone to falling asleep with my laptop open (oops).
And yes, I am working on a new book! My second YA will be out in fall 2018. And it’s a FUN book, my friends. Spoiler alert: nobody dies! It’s a totally different genre. Top secret! Muahahaha!
Q: What is something that readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I was my high school mascot. It was this very buff, very masculine—goatee and everything—blue devil, and if I had a dollar for every time I almost got my ass kicked by dudebros from the opposing schools because they assumed the person taunting them and gesticulating from inside the male mascot suit was a boy, I’d be able to buy a replica of the suit to wear now. Fun times!
Q: What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?
Besides reading (duh, right?), I really love playing with makeup. I have an Instagram account (@booklookz) where I post pictures of makeup looks inspired by book covers. It’s an alternative creative outlet for me.
I also really love sleeping.
Q: There is much discussion in today’s literary world about the need for more diverse books. What is your response to this, and how do you hope DEAR MARTIN will fit into the conversation?
The need for more diverse books, to me, is a no-brainer. Reading lost its appeal for me for a bit in high school because the only black characters I saw in the books assigned to us were either slaves or were stupid. Not seeing people who looked like me as the heroes/heroines of the stories I read was detrimental not only because of the message it sent about the (im)possibility of someone like me being the hero, but also because when I finally worked up the courage to try to write a book of my own, I was wary of writing an African American main character. Not seeing black kids in books translated to “Nobody would read a book about a black kid.”
Which brings me to what I think is a vital piece of this discussion: we need diverse books, and we need them from diverse authors. Everyone should be able to tell their own story as authentically as they can, not only so readers can see themselves (and be encouraged to tell their stories), but also so that people who are not like these “diverse” characters will be able to see that people they thought they had very little in common with actually aren’t all that different. There’s plenty of evidence that reading builds empathy and has the power to connect people. Who better to get connect to than someone you’re typically separated from?
With regard to DEAR MARTIN, my hope is that people will pick it up and go, “Huh! I guess diverse books DO work and ARE necessary.” If that happens, I’ve done my job.
Q: What do you hope readers take away with them after reading this book?
First and foremost: that the black boys they see—whether checking out a book from the library or shooting dice on a street corner—are people. They love and they feel and they hurt, and they have rights. The exact same rights every other citizen of this country is entitled to. That’s something I feel often gets buried because there’s so much societal fear of this particular demographic. Bottom line: automatically assuming the worst about young black males says more about us than it does about them.
Second, I really hope readers come away more willing to examine their own prejudices and check their biases (because we ALL have them). To actually think about what they fear and why they fear it. Acknowledge that our current societal constructs are not equitable for everyone. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “The first step is admitting you have a problem.”
And last, I hope people—teens especially—come away from the book with language for these difficult conversations. I’ve had early readers come to me and say, “I didn’t really know how to put what I was feeling into words, and this book was so helpful!” I take that as the highest compliment.
Nic Stone is a native of Atlanta and a Spelman College graduate. After working extensively in teen mentoring and living in Israel for a few years, she returned to the United States to write full-time. Dear Martin, her first novel, is loosely based on a series of true events involving the shooting deaths of unarmed African American teenagers. Shaken by the various responses to these incidents—and to the pro-justice movement that sprang up as a result—Stone began the project in an attempt to examine current affairs through the lens of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings. You can find her fangirling over her husband and sons on Twitter and Instagram at @getnicced or on her website, nicstone.info
(1) Hardcover copy of Dear Martin - Open to US only!