Tuesday, January 15, 2019

And just as we like to close each December with books, we also like to start each January with... books! Here are a few of the reads we are most looking forward to this year:


The Wicked King by Holly Black - Enough said.


The Summer of '69 by Todd Strasser - This is historical fiction based in a time period I was slightly obsessed with when I was a teenager...the 60s. In this novel, the MC deals with the Vietnam War draft, true love, free love, family dysfunction, and life choices—and it all culminates at the Woodstock festival.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - Love the cover of this book and loved The Hate U Give, so of course I'm gonna read this!

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio - Straight-laced girl spends a semester abroad in London. She's going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! Sounds like a fun read, which I definitely need mixed in between all the dark, heavy stuff I typically choose.

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett - This book has so much that appeals to me-- nighttime jaunts in Seattle, romance, a mysterious reclusive author, and an introverted MC who wants to break out of her shell.

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis - Addiction is an issue I repeatedly tackle in my own books, so I'm always interested in reading about this particular problem. Plus, I loved Female of the Species and definitely appreciate books (and writers) that don't sugarcoat the darker aspects of life. Plus: check out the cool cover.

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer - From Goodreads: 'This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?' Well, this is one of the big questions I explore in All Out of Pretty, so I'm interested in reading this novel based on that simple description. Also, I loved Letters to the Lost (see favorite reads of 2018), so I already love Brigid's writing style.


I'm a little behind the times with what books are coming out, but I've got a few new-to-me books on my nightstand I'm excited about. I received The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss for Christmas, which I've been meaning to read for a long time. Then I got Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith in a white elephant exchange. I also just downloaded Becoming by Michelle Obama on audible.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - This will be my first read of the year, and I'm listening to it on audio, because my friend Alice recommended it, and the author has experience with spoken word poetry, so I trust her to do a bang-up job with her own novel in verse. So far it's fantastic!

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi - I love that after all her success in fantasy and dystopia, Tahereh Mafi is turning inward to a quieter contemporary story. Breakdancing + Muslim culture + romance? I'm so there.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga - Jasmine is a friend, yes, and that makes it even more special that I love her writing so much. This book is her first turn toward Middle Grade, and I'm looking forward to seeing her explore this new voice and territory: a Syrian refugee girl coming to the Midwest US and redefining her ideas about home, family, and self.

Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway - PIE. Need I say more? Okay, fine. This story (by another friend of mine who happens to be fabulous writer) tackles a lot of big topics -- grief, homelessness, immigration -- with heart and humor. I can't wait to dig in!

Stealing Home by Becky Wallace - Two disclaimers: (1) Becky is ALSO a friend (I'm so lucky! such wonderful and talented friends) and (2) my husband used to work for a minor league baseball team, so I definitely feel a personal connection to this story. But really, who WOULDN'T love a sporty rom-com?

* * * * *

What books are YOU looking forward to in 2019?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

We love to close out each year by reflecting on the great books that we've read. We can't name them all, but here are a few of our favorites (in no particular order):


Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (audio) - The beauty and depth and whimsy of this novel can be summed up in two words: Letter Library. Please, please let me live in the Letter Library!

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer (audio) - Apparently I have a letter theme going on this year... Oh, how this book gutted me. If you need a good cry, this will do it. It's heartbreaking but also heartwarming.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (audio) - The premise hooked me right away: "Three siblings adopted into different families find each other as teens, right when they need each other most." This book did so many things right. The three main characters tell their stories from three points of view, and I was invested in them all. The emotions felt raw, the characters authentic. Plus, solid storytelling.

Someday, Somewhere by Lindsay Champion - Lindsay is a fellow 2018 debut author (and our books shared a launch day!) so I was able to get my hands on a copy of her ARC before publication, and it was all-around gorgeous. The writing is lyrical but the form doesn't overshadow the plot or characterization. It's a bittersweet love story yet so much more. When I finished reading, I felt completely satisfied and thought: That was the perfect ending.

I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall - Kate is also an Electric 18 debut author, and her novel is a page-turning thriller. A disabled 16-year-old winds up alone in the Canadian wilderness with winter closing in...and that's before things get really dicey. A heart-stopping survival story. (Warning: after page 306, guys, you will never be the same.)

**You may have noticed that three of my five chosen books were consumed on audio. If you're looking for good audio books, these were all wonderful reads by exceptional voice actors.


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
Now I Rise by Kiersten White
Circe by Madeline Miller
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor


Confession: I read very little in 2018. I spent most of the year re-listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks while feverishly sewing my own wedding dress. But I did read The Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, which would have been my favorite this year, no matter how many books I read. I adored it.


This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack - I absolutely adored this collection of real life stories about humor writer Erin Chack's teens and twenties, and I wish it were getting more attention. Funny, heartfelt, insightful, and well-written. Get on this!

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga - Jasmine is a good friend, and this is a great book. It's about music, striking out on your own, finding family, understanding family, understanding yourself, and love of all kinds.

All Out of Pretty by Ingrid Palmer - Surely it's not a shock that I love this book. I've been in love with Ingrid's writing ever since we met almost 10 years ago. Her lyrical voice, authentic teenage perspective, and gritty but uplifting stories captivated me. I'm so proud of her for this debut novel, and so excited for the books still to come.

Sadie by Courtney Summers - This is such a tough book to talk about, because the subject matter is rather grim, and yet there is so much heart and beauty and grace in the writing. The structure is also very clever and fun, with the main arc of the story framed by a series of podcasts episodes.

Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor - Have you noticed a trend yet? We are big Laini fans around here, and these books perfectly encompass why. Her imagination, insights, prose... it's all so magical! Dark and deep and delightful. 

* * *

What were YOUR favorite reads of 2018?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Dear Kristan, Sarah and Stephanie, 
A letter from last night...

It is the eve of my publishing debut.

I'm sitting at my computer sipping some wine and trying to wrap my head around the facts of that sentence. The sheer, impossible facts. Anyone who has spent time working toward this 'published author' gig surely knows what I mean. There are so many hours and weeks and years of work that go into producing a finished manuscript...and then so many more that go into querying and submitting and editing. But we continue to write and query and edit because we must. It's something that lies deep in our bones.  

Except. I can see how, without a support group of like-minded people, writing for publication could be a dream unrealized. For me, it might have been words upon words that never stretched or grew. There's no doubt in my mind that without the help of my critique group, I would not be sitting here typing this now.

WeHeartYA came together in 2009, when the four of us were part of a larger group called Cincinnati Fiction Writers. Joining any critique group was a huge, scary step for me back then. But each day I grew more confident, listening to and contributing to the discussions. And then one day I built up the courage to ask the fabulous Sarah Wedgbrow if she wanted to exchange manuscripts for review. Thankfully, she said yes! And soon we became four, with the brilliant Kristan Hoffman and the creative Stephanie Mooney, joining us. Kristan's perceptiveness, Sarah's sense of humor, and Stephanie's introspection were apparent and appreciated. We were all writing in the young adult genre and, though we each had a different style, somehow we fit together perfectly.

Ladies, I can't believe it has been almost a decade since we started meeting at the bookstore cafe on Monday nights with our printed manuscripts and our pens poised. Years of laughter and Kristan's perfect handwriting (it really is perfect, like its own font)...years of movie nights, Steak 'n Shake, and Sarah's "banned words" (yes, there's an actual list)...years of honesty and Steph's never-ending talents (this girl can draw, act, write, sew, design, etc.)...years of you all putting up with  my indecisiveness ("Option A or Option B?"). We've weathered cross-country and transcontinental moves, seen each other through weddings and births and deaths, and cheered each other on through setbacks and achievements. It has been quite the ride.

I can't thank the three of you enough for helping me reach this lifelong writing goal. But more importantly, I want to thank you for our lovely circle of friendship that I cherish and celebrate above all else. GFFF!!!  
Love, Ingrid

Monday, March 5, 2018
A few months ago, fellow 2018 debut author Farrah Penn and I interviewed each other about our upcoming contemporary YA books and publishing experiences. Since Farrah's book, 12 STEPS TO NORMAL, comes out in just one week and my book, ALL OUT OF PRETTY, releases in less than a month, I thought this was the perfect time to share our conversation with the blogosphere. Hope you enjoy it!

12 STEPS TO NORMAL, out from Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown in March 2018, is about a teen who moves back home after her father finishes Sober Living rehabilitation and finds her life upside-down. When she develops her own 12 steps to get back to normal, she has to redefine what “normal” really is.  

ALL OUT OF PRETTY, releasing from Creston Books in April 2018, is about straight-A student Andrea Hathaway, who finds herself indebted to her mother's drug-dealer boyfriend. In order to survive, she learns to keep her head down and her mouth shut. But soon she realizes that surviving is not enough; she must use her smarts to plan an escape—even if it means betraying her best friends and leaving her mother behind.

Farrah: It sounds like both of our books deal with different types of hardships and teenagers grappling at normalcy. What inspired you to write ALL OUT OF PRETTY?
Ingrid: For me, it always starts with character. Andrea, the MC in ALL OUT OF PRETTY, was actually a minor character in the first novel I ever tried to write back when I was a teenager. When I decided to dust off that novel and work on it years later, my critique partners mentioned how compelling Andrea was and encouraged me to write her story someday. So a couple of years later, after letting that idea percolate, Andrea’s voice and full story came to me. Once I started writing it, I couldn’t stop. TWELVE STEPS TO NORMAL sounds amazing — I can’t wait to read about Kira’s journey! How did you come up with the idea, and what was the most challenging part about writing it?
Farrah: It’s amazing how much we learn from our prior work! I have MANY shelved books and stole a kissing scene from one to put into TWELVE STEPS, haha. I wanted to write a hopeful story about a father and daughter whose relationship was rocky due to his struggle with alcoholism — yet focus on how that would directly affect Kira (my main character). But I also love a sweet romance, so I definitely wanted to include that in Kira’s journey with figuring out WHO may be right for her, and who she thinks is right for her. I think the most challenging part was writing those real, raw emotions of loving someone who is an addict, as it’s a disease my own father suffered from.

Should I move on to a fun question?! Do you have a “receiving The Call” story??
Ingrid: Yes! Well, for my agent (the awesome Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary), the moment I remember most was getting her email after she requested my book. I’ll never forget clicking it open and reading the words “I love it!” I was so excited I couldn’t breathe. And then when she called me several months later to tell me about the offer from Creston, I basically started crying with happiness. My husband was there and we hugged, and my son was doing fist pumps in the background. It was an amazing moment. Same question back at you!
Farrah: Aww, that is so sweet your family was there to enjoy that moment with you! When my agent called to tell me TWELVE STEPS had sold, I was in the car on my lunch break running an errand. I answered through Bluetooth but ended up pulling over into some random gas station to talk because I was so surprised and excited. It was surreal! After, I immediately called my mom and sister and ended up taking a much longer lunch break than I intended (but I don’t think anyone noticed!)
But it’s a lot of work getting that life-changing call. What was your publication journey like? Was there a moment you felt like giving up?
Ingrid: Oh wow, you definitely needed to pull over for that call — and I agree that an extended lunch break was in order! I started writing ALL OUT OF PRETTY six years ago, so it has been a long and emotional journey. The first time I queried I got a lot of requests and encouragement, but no offers of representation. I started seeing a pattern in the feedback I was getting, so I took about two years to revise/rewrite and then started the query process again. I’m a pretty persistent person, so giving up was never an option for me. Of course, there were times when I felt discouraged and frustrated (like when I wrote ten different versions of chapter one and then ended up with something close to the original!), but I deeply believed in these characters and this story, and my perseverance eventually paid off!
What has been the most enjoyable — and the most difficult — part of your writing journey?
Farrah: Ugh, I love hearing success stories like this! I think publishing is a mix of perseverance, hard work, and luck. It’s subjective for SURE, but your persistence paid off!! I’m not an overnight success story, so the most difficult part for me was moving on from previous books I’d written. My agent and I went on submission with three different YA books before TWELVE STEPS sold. It’s hard not to feel like a talentless failure when you don’t get any bites, especially when you’re comparing yourself to everyone else (which, I know you shouldn’t do but I’M NOT PERFECT!!). But the most enjoyable part so far has been working with an enthusiastic, lovely publishing team who is passionate about this story. Okay, what piece of writing advice would you pass along to another debut author?

Ingrid: It looks like we are both good examples of persistence leading to success! I think your journey is super inspiring, and I understand all those fears and doubts. It’s so hard to keep moving forward, and especially hard to let go of characters you love. I’m working on a new book right now, but I still plan to go back and rework my old stories someday. Or at least mine them for gems ;) Hmm, writing advice...I think if someone asked, I would pass along the advice that I tried to follow when I was drafting: Don’t be afraid to write what scares you. That, and of course, never give up! Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? What did you read as a teen?
Farrah: Absolutely! Those are both VERY solid pieces of advice! I’d always dreamed of becoming a writer, but I NEVER thought it’d be possible for me to do it professionally! After college I sorta had the mindset of “OK, now I need to get a good job and make money” — but then realized getting a job doesn’t mean you have to stop writing entirely. It may be challenging to make the time, but it’s not impossible! As a teen, I was ALL OVER the Fearless series by Francine Pascal. Gaia was my idol. I also read a ton of Meg Cabot (love her Mediator series!) and Sarah Dessen. And, of course, the Harry Potter books.
Ingrid: You are absolutely right about making the time to write. Ooh, and I love all those authors you mentioned. Especially Sarah Dessen — I’m a huge fan of her books!
— Lightning Round —

Are you a plotter or a pantser? 

Farrah: I’m about 50/50! I need to know where the story is going and have a path to the ending, but I love pantsing and coming up with all the middle stuff on the fly! 

Ingrid: Pantser all the way. I never fully know what shenanigans my characters are going to get into until I start typing. 

Your must-have snack or drink when writing? 

Farrah: Coffee! Also, Pirate’s Booty, pomegranates, and cheese are my go-to snacks. 

Ingrid: Coffee, for sure, but it has to be the yummy kind filled with chocolate and sugar! 

Favorite non-writing hobbies? 

Ingrid: Hiking, running, and (lately) renovating my house. 

Farrah: Hiking for me, too! Also, hanging out with my dog (: and exploring new places in LA with friends. 

Ingrid: Oh yeah, I love hanging with my dog, too. He is the best! We should go hiking together with our dogs someday, Farrah! 

Here’s a VERY important final question: which Hogwarts house do you associate with? 

Farrah: I’ve been Pottermore sorted into Gryffindor, but I also feel strong loyalties toward Hufflepuff. 

Ingrid: Nice! I have been sorted into Ravenclaw, with Gryffindor a close second. But I honestly don’t think I’m brave enough for Gryffindor, so Ravenclaw it is! 
So, that's a wrap. For more information or to preorder books, check out our author websites:
Thanks for reading. I think we're off to grab some coffee now!

Thursday, February 15, 2018


I started this year with two and half weeks of flu and sinus havoc, so I'm off to a slow reading start. But I did squeeze in one book. I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it was so so inspiring. It's all about giving yourself permission to be creative. I wanted to take a highlighter to half of it.


I was sick at the beginning of the year too, but that actually gave me more time to read, haha, because I was too exhausted to do pretty much anything else. My first book of 2018 was STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman, which was a really thoughtful story about anxiety and art and family, and becoming who you are. Because a lot of it is character-driven and internal, it reminded me a little of ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins.

Then I read THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING by Erin Chack, a collection of personal essays about life and love (and cancer) in the author's late teens and early twenties. These stories are so funny, and heartfelt, and clever, and well-written! I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from Chack in the future.

I just finished HERE WE ARE NOW by Jasmine Warga, and I loved it so much. It's a deceptively simple story on the surface, but then underneath it's this beautiful messy love letter to music, and to immigrants, and to the natural ups and downs of relationships of all kinds. Also, Jasmine is so good at narrative voice. And I absolutely adored the Lena/Julian chapters.


Back in December I was feeling so pumped for 2018 — my DEBUT YEAR, AHHHH! — that I decided to set a goal for myself to read at least 40 books. That's double what I read last year, and it means I have to read more than three books per month! I'm off to a good start, so hopefully I can keep it up.

In January I read FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway - a wonderful character-driven novel about family, love, and growing up. SEVEN ALONE by Honore Morrow - this true story about seven siblings on the Oregon Trail was my fave when I read it as a 5th grader. Inspired by Kristan's pioneer book last month, I found a used copy of SEVEN ALONE on Amazon. Guess what? I love it just as much 30 years later! GIRLS ON THE LINE by Jennie Liu - you MUST check out this upcoming novel (out Fall 2018) about two orphaned girls in China making their way to adulthood as they dodge bride traffickers and family planning regulators. Heart-wrenching! THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED by Becky Albertalli - I really enjoyed the sibling relationship aspect of this book, even more than the fun love story threads. And...I'm halfway through ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell - more on that next month!


This month I've been reading all things Holly Black. THE CRUEL PRINCE was compulsively good so I, of course, went back to the original "folk" trilogy to see which details I'd missed. With TITHE and IRONSIDE now swirling around my imagination, I'm cracking open VALIANT.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

about us

Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

We Heart YA's favorite books »

ya diversity book club

© 2011 All words & images above are the creation/property of We Heart YA unless otherwise credited. Powered by Blogger.

have a heart

We Heart YA