Hi everyone, and hello 2020! It has been a whirlwind of a holiday season for me, and I was able to finish a couple books! One of the books I finished was Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning, which is out this Tuesday from Little, Brown. Thank you so much to The Novl for sending me an early copy for review!

Title: Throw Like a Girl

Author: Sarah Henning

Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR

Expected release: January 7, 2020

My rating: 3/5 Goodreads stars

Friday Night Lights meets Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything in this contemporary debut where swoonworthy romance meets underdog sports story.

When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she’ll have to convince their coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched… Every. Single. Day.

Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with amazing hair and a foolproof plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he’ll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the Spring. But it will take more than the perfect spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland’s halls, and behind that charming smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all.

With well-drawn characters and a charming quarterback love interest who’s got brains as well as brawn, Throw Like a Girl will have readers swooning from the very first page.

I’m glad to start off my new year with a review of a book! I’ll start this by saying that I really did enjoy this book, but it took me a bit to get into it.

The first chapters detail what happened to Liv and how she got herself kicked out of her prep school. It provided a nice backstory while still getting right into the action. I like how the novel began and ended in the same spot — on the softball field. It brought things full-circle.

I loved the relationship between Liv and her best friend. They were always supportive of each other and did their best to see each other’s respective games. It could have been really easy to set them as enemies in this novel, but it was refreshing to see their relationship grow and change in a positive way throughout all the conflict in the novel.

I think a big challenge with sport romances is that they can sometimes get old, but this one does not disappoint. I was excited to see a woman playing a male-dominated sport and owning it. Liv’s confidence and abilities really shined even though she sometimes couldn’t see it.

The relationship between Liv and Grey was okay. It wasn’t my favorite part of the book, honestly. I think it was a good part of the plot, however I liked the parts that focused more on Liv over the scenes between the two of them.

All in all, this is a great book to start your new year off with! Be sure to get it from shelves on January 7, this Tuesday!

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Sneak Peak Sunday: Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning

Posted in Bloggers, Reviews, Sophie

Sneak Peek Sunday: When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis

Hey y’all!!! It’s still night so I’m going to pretend it’s still Sunday, so bear with me 😉 I’m so so so excited to share this book with you! It’s one of my anticipated debuts of the year, and I could not be more in love with it! Without further ado, here is a spoiler free review of When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis. Thank you so much The Novl for selecting me to be an early reader!

Title: When the Stars Lead to You

Author: Ronni Davis

Publisher: Little, Brown BYFR

Expected release: November 12, 2019

Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things.

The stars.
And the boy she fell in love with last summer.

When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer ever, she thinks her heart will never heal again. But over the course of the following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together.

Now it’s senior year, and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it as she prepares for a future studying the galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school. Can she forgive him and open her heart again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?

From debut author, Ronni Davis, comes a stunning novel about passion, loss, and the power of first love.

Like I mentioned earlier, I absolutely loved this book! It was a really great read, and I loved the development of the characters over time.

Devon was awesome, and she was so complex. She behaved like you would probably think a teenager would in her situation, and I’m glad to say it ended in the way I wanted it to. Her pride and strength showed when she had to deal with the difficulties she faced from her own school and her relationship with Ashton.

I also really appreciated Ashton a lot. He was difficult to love sometimes, but I think Devon demonstrated nicely that patience is something to be valued in these situations. (That’s not to say that setting boundaries isn’t good, because I think they both learned a lot about boundaries in this book!)

The overall story line was executed well. The pacing of the novel fit well with the tone, and I was always turning the page to find out more! It took me some time to finish, but not because the book wasn’t amazing–school is seriously wack over here!

One aspect I really appreciated was Devon’s pride in being biracial. I feel like there isn’t enough of this representation in novels, and I was really excited to see this identity represented in this book. I believe this is an #OwnVoices novel, and I was glad to see everything so well written.

Another part that was done well was the mental health representation. One of the characters struggles deeply with depression, and Davis writes eloquently and respectfully on the subject. This story is about living with depression and what it may feel/be like to have someone in your life who struggles with depression. If you read the author’s note at the end, Davis is very candid about her own experience with depression.

Fun side story: I have gone to a few book events where Ronni Davis was there, but I was too shy to actually say hi. But I have been following her on social media for a while, and I’m legit so excited to see her book in people’s hands!

I highly recommend this novel to people looking for something similar to All the Bright Places or something that will get you in your feels.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Hey folks! Hope you’re doing well wherever you are. I’m here with a new review of one of the best books I’ve read this year. I first read Emily Lloyd-Jones’s These Hearts We Sold, which I loved. I can’t wait to talk about this amazing book! Thank you so much The Novl for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Bone Houses

Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Expected release: September 24, 2019

My rating: 5/5 Goodreads stars

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it about Ellis that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.

I have had a hard time getting into books until I picked this one up, and it got me out of my slump a little bit!

What I loved most about this book was the world building. It is set what seems like a magical version of the British Isles. I loved returning to this area right after leaving Ireland! It was nice and familiar, but the way Lloyd-Jones built the world was delicious and fantastic. I loved every single detail, and it felt like I was trekking through the forest with Ryn and Ellis.

The Bone Goat was one of the best companions in this book. It was so great to see all the side characters get fleshed out in a small way, and the Bone Goat was one of them. I also appreciated the representation that Lloyd-Jones was able to include through the small details like dialogue. It was never the thing, but it was subtle enough to get the message across.

I also loved how the folklore was woven throughout this book. It was awesome how Lloyd-Jones brought it to life through the story. It became a big part of the narrative, and I appreciate when an author can do this.

The atmosphere of the book itself was so spooky and eerie. I loved how the setting lended itself to this.

Overall, I recommend that you read this if you love world-building and spooky feelings.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Sneak Peek Sunday: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Sneak Peek Sunday: Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro & Emily Henry

Hi, folks! I’m here to talk about one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry are two of my go-to, auto-buy authors, and I could not have been more stoked to see that they were writing together! I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC, and I brought it with me on my short trip to London last weekend!

Title: Hello Girls

Authors: Brittany Cavallaro & Emily Henry

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Expected release: August 6, 2019

My rating: 5/5 Goodreads stars

Best friends are forged by fire. For Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, that fire happened the night they met outside the police station—both deciding whether to turn their families in.

Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.

Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and generations of barely getting by.

One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible to take them from Michigan to Las Vegas can’t hurt.

This book was such a riot! I loved it so much. Henry and Cavallaro are such a fantastic duo. I want more from them already, and this one isn’t even published yet!

I ate this book right up!!! I loved every page, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen. Emily Henry and Brittany Cavallaro are superb storytellers, and their writing together can’t go wrong. I can’t wait to writ up a full review for you!

Goodreads initial thoughts

And here that full review is! I’m really going strong on that review game (for now, ha!). But seriously, folks, let’s get down to the nitty and the gritty — Hello Girls.

This one was such a page turner. Every time I thought I knew what would happen, something wilder and more outrageous would happen, and I about pooped myself seven different times. Cavallaro and Henry know how to keep you on your toes!

Winona was such a fun character. She leapt off the page and straight into my brain. She was dynamic, and her scars made her stronger. It was so fascinating getting to know her and watching her grow and change throughout the book. Her initial innocence is tested and we see her become a woman who doesn’t flinch in the face of a huge roadblock.

Lucille was so relatable for me. Some of the parts where she talked about her relationship with Winona reminded me a lot of me and my best friend. It’s like she reached into my brain and my heart and pulled out the deepest things I feel and fear sometimes. Her fierce loyalty kept me coming back for more.

Lucille and Winona had a friendship that reminded me of my own best friends. They’re people I would steal a car and drive across the country with and not bat an eye. Their loyalty to themselves and to each other is admirable, and it’s something I saw reflected in myself.

The plot itself was a little fantastical, but that was probably one of the most fun parts of it. You could tell that Henry and Cavallaro were having fun with the characters and the setting. I’m not familiar with Thelma and Louise, but this is exactly what I imagine could happen with the two of them.

All in all, I really hope you go pick up a copy or pre-order it for yourself! This book is perfect for you if you love roadtrips, best friends, and gritty women.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Sneak Peek Sunday: Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

Hi! SURPRISE! IT’S MEEEE! Back with another review of a fantastic novel. I read Amber Smith’s debut novel The Way I Used to Be, and that one was amazing. Today I want to talk about Smith’s third book, Something Like Gravity, which comes out this coming Tuesday! It’s such a wonderful book, I hope you take the time to read it†

Title: Something Like Gravity

Author: Amber Smith

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Expected Release: 18 June 19

My rating: 4/5 Goodreads stars

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

Here were my first thoughts after finishing the book:

Absolutely loved this one!!! Once I started, I couldn’t put this down. I’m so in love with Amber Smith’s writing. I can’t wait to share this book with everyone!!

My Goodreads Review

I need to reiterate what I said above, because this book was amazing. It was so great to read such a deeply touching novel, and it was so well told. Chris and Maia are two characters I won’t forget about in a while.

The plot of the novel was well paced. It was intriguing right from the start, and I was intrigued to find out what would happen in the future. I knew that Maia’s secret would be a catalyst, but I didn’t see it playing out the way it did. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think it lends more of a realistic feel to the novel overall.

Chris and Maia are complex characters, and I enjoy how well they were developed. Their relationship to each other didn’t feel forced, but real and something that I was cheering for. Through their other relationships, we get a better picture of the people they are, the people they used to be, and the people they could be. I loved how we could see so much about them in these pages.

Is it superficial to talk about the cover? Maybe, but you don’t have to pretend you don’t judge books by their covers in front of me. I won’t tell 😉 I love this cover design. It fits well with the book, and I love the space feel.

I definitely recommend this to people who are looking for a LGBTQIA+ read (specifically trans), books about dealing with loss and grief, and ultimately coming of age. Chris and Maia’s stories are the one for you!!

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Hi guys! I hope you’re doing well this fine Sunday afternoon. I’m back again with a review of this fantastic book — Internment by Samira Ahmed. This is Samira’s second book, and it’s absolutely riveting. I couldn’t put it down! I want to do a special thanks to The Novl for sending me a copy for review!

Title: Internment

Author: Samira Ahmed

Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR

Expected release: March 19, 2019

My rating: 5/5 Goodreads Stars

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

I was riveted from page one in this book! It was absolutely fantastic. I feel that I don’t even have enough words for this book. Yes, there were some parts where I felt some of the dialogue was kinda cheesy, but genuinely, it didn’t matter.

This world created was scary familiar. I like how real Ahmed made this world. It operates in the same world as today, and the parallels are very realistic. The way things unravel and how people are interned in the book are extremely realistic, and I believe Ahmed did some research into this. I really appreciate how she reminded people that America has done this before with Japanese Americans and Japanese people. This part of American history isn’t talked about enough, and we need to remember that there is precedence for what is happening now in this nation.

I love all of the characters in the book. They made the book something incredible. As much as I hated the director, he was very compelling. I feel like he was the vitriol of hate in one person.

Layla was awesome as a character. There were a few times that I felt that she had some corny lines, but they didn’t take away from the book as a whole. Her flaws made her real, and that was what I loved the most about her.

I highly recommend this book! It puts a lot of things into context and makes you reflect a lot on yourself.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Sneak Peek Sunday: Internment by Samira Ahmed

Q & A Friday: Morgan Matson on Change, Weddings, and the Grant Family

Hi, there! Welcome to my last post in this series. If you wanted to read the previous posts I had in this series, you can read them here and here.

Today I’m going to talk about the swoon-worthy novel Save the Date by Morgan Matson. This was the second Matson book I read, and it was such a sweet read. I found the characters so relatable, and I loved the Grant family so much! If you wanted to know more of my thoughts on this book, be sure to check out my review. I can’t wait for you to read this interview I did with Morgan!

A little about Morgan:

morgan dog.jpg

Morgan Matson was born in New York City and grew up there and in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College as a theater major, but halfway through, switched her focus to writing and never looked back. She received an MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and then a second MFA in Screenwriting from USC.

She is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, all published by Simon & Schuster. 

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her rescue terrier, Murphy, in a house with blue floors that’s overflowing with books.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Want to know more about Save the Date? Here’ the synopsis!

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster. There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo. Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Interview

Hi, Morgan!! Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me about Save the Date. I can’t wait for everyone else to read it. It was such a fun read!

To start things off, why don’t you start by describing your book in 10 words or less.

Okay, I’ll give it a shot! I don’t write short books, so brevity is always a challenge for me. But how about this:

Wedding disaster, little sister, cute boys, unexpected dog, happy ending?

Perfect!! Weddings are so much fun. What made you want to write about one?

Aren’t they? I feel like there’s so much inherent drama in a wedding! All the family members coming together, and people from two different families joining up.  I’ve never been to a wedding where there wasn’t at least one last minute crisis, and so I thought it would be a great setting for a novel. And I also thought it would be fun to write about a wedding not from the POV of the bride or of a planner, but the younger sister, who’s both a part of the wedding and seeing it from the outside. It let me have my (wedding) cake and eat it too!

Charlie’s sister’s wedding goes through quite a few classic wedding disasters. What was the most fun one to write about?

I think the most fun one to write about was the decorations mishap. I thought to myself, what would be the worst event to have your wedding decorations mixed up with? And a nine-year-old’s Australia-themed birthday party seemed to be just the perfect amount of terrible. Nobody wants a wedding with koala decorations!

Yes! That scene was hilarious!! Who doesn’t love koalas anyway 🙂 Do you have a favorite part of a wedding (both fictional and in real life)?

I have two favorite parts of any wedding. The first is the moment when the officiant asks if anyone knows a reason why the couple should not be married, to speak now.  The part of me that loves drama is always holding my breath at that moment, even though I’ve never been to a wedding where anyone has ever said anything.  But we’ve all seen so many movies and TV shows that we’re primed for high drama at that moment!

And my other favorite is the couples’ first dance. It always makes me well up! I love that moment when these two people, who’ve been through this whole ceremony together, are now able to exhale and dance together as a married couple for the first time ever.  In every wedding, you can kind of see the couple look at each other like, “We did it! We’re married!” It’s just my favorite moment.

The dance is so touching! I love it too. I loved the Grant family! They reminded me of mine. Do you have a lot of siblings too? Does the Grant family remind you of your family?

Oh, I’m so glad you liked them! They were such a blast to write. I do not  have a lot of siblings – I have just one older brother, so we were a smaller family. But maybe because of that, I always wanted a ton of siblings and a big family.  I was even jealous of my friends who had three siblings in their families – it just seemed like there was always more going on!

So the Grant family was more of what I’d imagine a big family to be – lots of coming and going and drama and fights and laughter.  I wrote the big family that I always wanted to have! But of course, bits of my family made it in there too – the little sayings and rituals that are totally normal to your family that nobody else understands.  My mom, like Mr. Grant, is a really accomplished gardener, so that’s where that came from.  And parts of the Grant house, especially the front hall and the kitchen, were based on my family’s home in Connecticut.

I also noticed a lot of Easter eggs hiding within your book. How many did you include? What was your favorite part of writing them in?

Good eye! I love including little Easter eggs in my book – it’s one of my favorite parts of writing a new book, getting to check in with characters from other books.  My favorite part was probably getting a bunch of characters from Unexpected Everything in there, especially because in the past, many of my Easter eggs have just been passing references or little hints.  When I saw a way to actually have these characters engage with the Grants, in a way that didn’t feel forced, I got really excited.  I felt like I actually got to reconnect with the characters from Unexpected Everything, and catch everyone up on what they’d been up to.

There’s also a pretty quick reference to Amy from Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, and most of my books now have had a long-running reference to something first set up in Second Chance Summer, and it pops up again here too.

Charlie struggles a lot with change throughout the book, whether it be moving houses or choosing which school to go to in the fall. Is this something you struggle with yourself? How did your own experience help you shape Charlie’s?

This trait, of struggling with change, is absolutely something that Charlie and I both share.  I hate change, and have ever since I was little.  And Charlie’s feeling regarding going to college in the fall – her ambivalence about it – was my exact same feeling.  All my friends were so excited to be going to college and I just didn’t feel that way. It was like I could sense that what we’d had during our high school years was going to be very different very soon and I just wanted to hold onto it a little longer rather than rushing onto the next chapter.  But like Charlie, I soon realized that life moves only forward and if you can (it’s hard to do) it’s better to think of change like an exciting adventure rather than something to be dreaded.

But since I had this feeling that I hadn’t seen expressed much in books or movies, I wanted to give this to Charlie – and maybe someone else who feels this same way will see their feelings reflected!

I love this! Thank you so much for your time!

Big shout out to Morgan for being amazing! Her interview was awesome, and I had so much fun coming up with questions. Be sure to check out Save the Date if you haven’t already.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Q & A Friday: Brendan Kiely on Tradition

Hi guys! In the spirit of continuing my mini-series on some fabulous 2018 reads, I have an interview with the great Brendan Kiely, the acclaimed co-author of All American Boys. In 2018, Kiely published his latest novel, Tradition. This book tackles tough topics in an accurate yet sensitive manner. I devoured this book once I started it! I hope you love it as much as I did, and be sure to keep an eye out for a review of it on the blog soon.

Here’s some things you might want to know about Brendan:

Brendan Kiely

Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

Find Brendan here: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Want to know more about Tradition? Here’s the synopsis below!

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep

school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Interview

Hi, Brendan!! Thank you for taking time to sit down to answer some of my questions. I loved Tradition, and I can’t wait to discuss it!

Thank you so much for reading it, and caring, and thank you for this interview!

To start things off, why don’t you give a brief overview of your book.

            Tradition is about two outsiders, Jules Devereux, a whip-smart, confident, rabble rouser, and James Baxter, a tough, and sensitive kid on a hockey scholarship, who become friends as they learn just how dangerous the school’s old-boy, misogynistic traditions can be. When Jules is assaulted by an ex-boyfriend, she and Bax risk everything they’ve spent their entire high school careers working for to break the school’s culture of silence and complicity.

This is a very heavy, but important topic that you cover, and you write it in such a lovely way. What was it like trying to tackle it?

            Thanks for this question. It means a lot to me. I write contemporary realistic fiction, and though this is a novel, and Jules and James are characters, not people, I try to be as careful as I can because their stories are so viscerally similar to real people’s stories, and so, when I write, I try to listen to the characters with as much care and consideration as if they were real people sitting in front of me, telling me their stories.

I think writing, like living, is all about practicing empathy.

Did you write this book with a certain intention or message?

            All my books begin with a question that is deeply affecting me. In this case it was this: How can our community better listen to and support women, especially those who have been speaking out about misogyny, harassment, and assault for so long, and in particular, how can men become better feminists? I tried to address that question by writing Tradition.

Jules is so awesome. Can you talk a little about where the characters came from? Do you start with characters or a place?

            Thank you! I think Jules is awesome too, because she reminds me of some of those awesome students I had the honor to teach, advise, and watch soar out into the world. I worked in a high school for ten years, and the students who peered around the school’s walls and stared out into the wider world, are the students who inspired Jules. And Bax too. So many young men (myself included) grow up with so much pressure to try to be tough athletes, and when those some of those boys get together, in order to prove to each other how tough they are, how much of a “man” they are, they say terrible things about women, or worse, sometimes act in disrespectful or even harmful ways towards women. But then there are the guys who witness all this and think to themselves, “this isn’t right.” I remember those students too—the guys who did want to listen, the guys who turned around to the other guys and said, enough is enough. Bax and his big, soft heart reminds me of those guys who are out there too.  

I always start with characters. I write scene after scene after scene getting to know them, and though most of those scenes get thrown out, I do it because it takes time getting to know someone—just like in real life!

How did writing these characters and this story contrast from your other works?

I love this question, because I think Jules in particular is so different and unique. As a man writing a book in which half of it is from a woman’s perspective, it was essential for me to get feedback from women along the way. In order to try to be as accountable as possible, I asked nine women to read over my shoulder as I wrote Tradition—while I’ve always asked for feedback from readers while working on a project, I’ve never had so much feedback at once, and I’m forever grateful for the time, attention, and care!

There’s a distinction between a harmful tradition and a fun, silly one. Is there a fun one that you enjoy?

            Yes! Absolutely. Tradition itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s only when the tradition is used an excuse to protect some people while others are being harmed that it’s a problem. Every year in Barcelona, on April 23, couples exchange books and roses with each other, the tradition is called the festival of St. Jordi. It’s been going on forever, and no one really knows how it started, but it’s awesome and still continues today—it’s like a super bookish Valentine’s Day! And closer to home, right where I grew up, it was a tradition for many years that many of the neighborhood families would gather at my friend Adam’s house for Christmas Eve, and his father would make the same calzone every year, and we’d all sit around the piano and sing while another friend’s father played the songs. But what makes these traditions fun is that they are inclusive—everyone feels a part of it. The traditions that bother me are those designer to make some people feel excluded, or insignificant, or disrespected in some way. Those are the kinds of traditions Jules and Bax want to tear down and expose for their ugliness.

Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can share a little about?

            Ahhhh!!! This is always the hardest question because when I’m in the middle of something I never know what it really is until I get to the end of the first draft. I will say this though, I love telling stories that are full of heart and emotion and people learning how to better listen to each other, and my next project follows in the same… well… tradition. Ha! Thanks so much for asking!

Thank you so much to Brendan for taking the time to speak with me on the blog! I encourage you all to go out and get yourselves a copy of this excellent novel.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂