The Big Comprehensive PLACES NO ONE KNOWS Post

In the past few months, Places No One Knows has been getting realer and realer, turning into something undeniably solid, acquiring the various characteristics that make it more and more like a book.

For instance.

It has a release date:

May 17th!

It has a cover:

Places No One Knows

It has a synopsis:

Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.

Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.

But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.

You can read an excerpt on the Entertainment Weekly site.

It’s on Goodreads and Amazon.

I wrote a book, and it’s about dreams.

It’s about sleeping and not sleeping.

It’s about boys and girls and ideas and feelings and the towering shower of sparks that happens when all those things collide.

The Last Visible Dog

I’ve been away. I know this.

I’ve been away, writing an all-new secret book, full of all-new secret words and kisses and the kind of deep relational dysfunction that was all I ever, ever wanted to hear about at sixteen.

Now, that book is safely in the capable hands of Agent Sarah, and even though many esteemed writers of my acquaintance are often driven to anxious rocking and madness by this part of the publishing process … I kind of love it.

Not because I’m willfully contrary or a masochist, but because in that brief window of Circumstances Yet Unknown—for that one finite spoonful of time—this whole physical world/gainful employment/concrete consideration/behaving sensibly business is distinctly Not My Problem. I LOVE when things are not my problem!

However. I realize there’s a flip-side. That flip-side is: uncertainty.

I have a long, storied, and overly-complicated relationship with uncertainty.

(This is not a post about Fiendish.)

Let me tell that relationship to you.

(Later, I will make a post about Fiendish. MANY, even. Right now, though, this is a post about personal growth, the power of literature, and the confusing phobias of my youth.)

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Through to You

No matter how many times I start to write this post, I keep wanting the basic thesis to be that Emily Hainsworth is delightful.

However, as with so many of my basic theses, that doesn’t actually tell you the part you need to know. I mean, you should know that she’s delightful, but more relevant-to-you-this-minute (until you meet her somewhere, in which case you will discover her delightfulness for yourself) is this other thing:

Her debut novel THROUGH TO YOU just came out last week, and I wanted to tell you about it, because it’s also delightful, but in less of a let’s-drink-coffee-and-talk-about-how-much-we-love-Christopher-Pike* way and more of an Ooh, an otherworldly phenomenon—now let’s look at all the dysfunction! kind of way.

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Dangerous Things

Today, I’m going kick off my Return to Blogging by talking about something I like.

Because that’s what I do sometimes on Mondays, so clearly it’s like I’m right on schedule and not like I left for a whole entire month, and also this is something I really, really want to share with you, because I like Gillian Flynn a lot. A LOT.

Before we begin, I want to be conscientious and point out that her books should probably come with a content warning.* However, I don’t know what it would say, because it’s not one of those TV-MA, easily-quantifiable kinds of Content, although there’s some of that too. No, it’s this other thing. This ominous, hard to define thing where after you’re done reading, you might not feel all that good about the world, and you have to understand that’s just the chance you take when you open the book. It’s what you’re getting into.

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(Also, my previous sentiment is strictly for the purpose of hyperbole—I don’t actually want summer to vanish into the black hole of times gone by. Honestly, it’s already doing a pretty good job of disappearing all on its own, no warp speed or magic involved.)

(Still, I just want to be able to walk into a theater and watch this movie right-now-this-minute.)

I know, I know—books-to-movies can sometimes (often) be disasters. But you guys, I’m just so unbelievably hopeful for this one, for the simple reason that this trailer feels almost exactly like the book.

I mean sure, we could make the case that no film will ever truly capture the intimate, understated rendering of a story told entirely in letters, or that Logan Lerman is just too unrelentingly pretty to play Charlie, but whatever. I don’t care.

I know that The Perks of Being a Wallflower will never be for everyone—no book is ever for everyone—but it probably surprises no one that it’s on my list of favorites.

Even though I was fairly detached and thinky as a teenager and didn’t really have a lot in common with Charlie, who is a big emotional softy and really damaged and mostly just wants to bundle up all the love and compassion inside him and share it with the world, I still felt like it was a book that had been written with me specifically in mind. It still resonated with me on a very personal level, because above all, Charlie is a collector, just like I was (am) a collector. He watches things as they happen, and he writes them down and he knows his friends really well—sometimes better than they know themselves—and he’s just so observant and so self-aware … and he has no idea what to do with any of it.

And this is why even though time is scarce and precious, and even though I have lots to do between now and then, I’m still counting down the days until September.

Now, who’s with me?

(P.S. Also, remember to go enter my contest for a finished copy of The Curiosities, which should be hitting stores next month.)

Better Late (Five Fictional Characters)

Okay, get ready to laugh at me.

Ready . . .

Ready . . .

Are you ready for it?

Here we go:

I’ve been working on this particular meme for roughly two years.

Yes. I know. In my defense, though, it was a really hard meme.

The instructions are simple. (Deceptively so.) List five fictional characters you closely identify with, and then explain why. Not five characters you admire, or find attractive, or think are funny, but five characters that you personally—like, as a person—identify with.

Now, let’s be very clear. It’s not that I consider myself to be such a mystery that I’m unquantifiable, and it’s not that no one ever appreciates or writes about people like me. It’s just that my type hardly ever shows up as more than a peripheral role—the literary equivalent to a walk-on. (In fact, some of my personal five are walk-ons.)

The following list can be roughly categorized by tropes (okay, sometimes the tropes are stupid-specific ones that I kind of made up, but still, I am organized. Look how organized I am!)

Also, some of the character descriptions may seem to sit in direct conflict with each other, but that’s not really true. Because inside, I think that a person can really be a lot of people, depending on the situation.

My list of Brennaesque characters reads as follows:

The Comic Relief

Luna Lovegood—Harry Potter. So, when I was in high school, I had this very bizarre sense of fashion. It was heavily influenced by my nonexistent budget, but also, it was kind of made worse by my affinity for … trinkets. I mean, I decorated everything. I sewed plastic Christmas ornaments on my sweaters and glued tiny dollhouse clocks to my shoes. I went out in public wearing rubber monster finger puppets. Plural. More than one.

I didn’t usually volunteer opinions, but if you asked, I’d certainly tell you what I thought. Regardless of how blunt or inconsiderate or strange it was. And sometimes I knew that I shouldn’t, but most of the time, diplomacy didn’t even occur to me. Because honesty is a virtue and precision matters. Because when you are Luna Lovegood, things mostly seem to sort themselves out. Sometimes you’re mildly perturbed when people call you crazy, but there’s really no point in being tragic about it.

Also, in order to make people start taking you seriously, you’d have to stop doing all the things you like. And well, that’s no fun.

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Fly on the Wall: A Bookish Report

I would just like to take a moment to announce that yesterday, I turned in my first revision of Paper Valentine!

Soon (possibly very soon), I’ll get a second revision letter, after which I will probably disappear in a puff of smoke and go into hiding and eat only beef jerky and popcorn, and bake pies in the middle of the night.

But for now, we should have a week or two-ish of relative normalcy. I plan to get back on schedule (mostly meaning the official return of the high school posts) and in short, Be A Better Blogger.

But that’s next week.

Right now, I’m here to tell you about the third and final book in my Books-Brenna-Would-Have-Loved-in-High-School-Had-They-Existed series.

Pretty much anyone who hangs out with me, either on the internet or in real-life, has probably heard me talk about how much I love E. Lockhart. When YA readers ask me what smart, romantic contemporaries I’d recommend, I invariably point them toward the Ruby Oliver books . When professor-friends ask me for YA books to put on reading lists involving sociology or feminism or Marxist strong-containment models (or-or-or), I rave about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.

However—while each of these books is smart, hilarious, and wonderful, and while they are all inarguably excellent books for many, many people to read—there’s still this one book that I tend to keep to myself. Because it is weird and hard to explain. Because it is bizarre and uncomfortable and kind of abrasive. Because it is my favorite.

That book is Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything.

fly on the wall

Reasons this is the best* book in the world:

  1. Random, unexplained magic that is really a metaphor.
  2. Boys. Real boys, without censors or filters (sometimes without clothes), afflicted with faults and insecurities and terrible, stupid defense mechanisms and crushing vulnerabilities and social hierarchies and everything that makes boys real, live people.
  3. Frank, realistic discussion of physical attraction. Not sex. Not love. Not even necessarily kissing. (Although yes, sometimes.)

What this book is about:

  1. A girl named Gretchen Yee, who is half-Jewish, half-Chinese, and the lone comic book enthusiast in an arts-intensive NYC high school where all her teachers want her to draw “real” things.
  2. A girl named Gretchen Yee, who is secretly kind of a badass and doesn’t even know it.
  3. A girl named Gretchen Yee, who, through a very Kafkaesque turn of events, is transformed into a house fly and spends the rest of the week trapped in the boys’ locker room.

See? This is why Fly on the Wall is a very hard story to talk about.

This is also exactly why it would have been seventeen-year-old Brenna’s Most Important Book.

In high school, I was just as passive, just as intellectually prickly, and just as desperate to understand people as Gretchen is. And I wanted so, so much for a book to magically come along and tell me about boys—not a book to tell me what it thought I wanted to hear, but to tell me the truth, in precise, unerring detail.

Fly on the Wall has that. Fly on the Wall is that!

Lockhart does an amazing job of exploring all these tricky, interconnected ideas, like how to be a good friend (by listening, communicating, being honest), how to talk to boys (like they are people), how sometimes an unspoken infatuation can kind of start to edge into awkward voyeurism, and maybe most importantly, how the way you feel inside is not what other people see—because most of the time, people only see what you show them.

Which was something that at seventeen, I had absolutely no concrete understanding of, and would have pretty much willingly died a thousand deaths for any book that could actually kickstart that conversation.

(Also, sometimes I still don’t.)

(Have an understanding.)

(But I try.)

*In my head, I have like 20 Best Books at any given time. This is always one of them.

Before I Fall: A Book Reportish

For the next Book I Wish Had Existed When I Was in High School, I absolutely have to tap Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver.

before I fall

Full disclosure: I put off reading this one for a really long time because I didn’t think I was going to like it. The premise—which could sort of be described as Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls (popular girl dies, only to relive the same day over and over again while learning to be a better person)—struck me as being at high risk for rampant sentimentality, complete with Lessons Learned, and even as a little kid, I was pretty resistant to cautionary tales and anything that smacked of after-school-special.

And then when I finally picked it up, I was duly chastened, because instead of being not my thing at all, it turned out to be exactly my thing.

For those who haven’t read it, Before I Fall is kind of a strange beast. Oliver combines a bunch of elements I really like, but don’t often see happily coexisting together. Even though the central device is thoroughly fantastical, this is a book that reads 100% like contemporary realism, (which is one of my favorite genres). The depictions of daily life are fully articulated and lovingly mundane, and the complex social interactions of the characters are the most important part of the story. The fact that our narrator is reliving the same day over and over again is not The Point, but rather, a way to get a really good look at the precarious dynamics of high school social schemas.

Before I Fall is widely acknowledged to be a book about mean girls. However, I’d make the case that Sam, the main character, is not a prototypical mean girl. At the outset of the story, she’s definitely a weak girl, but there’s nothing sadistic about her, which I think is in keeping with the realities of bullying—meaning that most people who act in antisocial ways are not sadistic. Rather, they’re bad at propelling themselves through society in a way that doesn’t damage or exploit others, and also prone to hitching themselves to those vicious few who have no reservations about using power like a weapon.

When I talked about The Big Crunch last week , I was mostly interested in what that book could have told teenage-me about myself. With Before I Fall, the more pertinent thing is what it might have been able to tell me about my world, because it completely debunks the politics of bullying as depicted by movies like Heathers* without taking the position of apologist. I’m not going to go so far as to say it necessarily functions as a guide book to the underlying messiness and paranoia of teenage popularity, but it has to at least qualify as a brochure.

(The kind with a map on the back.)

*Heathers was my favorite movie as a tween—taught me everything I thought I knew about adolescence. Then I got to school and had to unlearn half of it.

The Big Crunch: A Book Report. Sort of.

To reiterate very briefly, I am currently revising Paper Valentine. It’s new and exciting and lots of fun, BUT. It definitely cuts into the amount of time I can devote to other things. For instance, blogging.*

I don’t want to neglect the blog entirely though, because I like it, and I like you guys. So, here is what I’m going to do. I’ve been thinking for awhile that I’d really like to put together a short series on Books High-School Brenna Would Have Loved (except they didn’t exist yet), and this seems like a good an opportunity.

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