February 4th, 2007

Lucy Woodward, happy

Goy Crazy by Melissa Schorr

For Rachel Lowenstein, the highlight of her brother's bar mitzvah was meeting a waiter named Luke. He's sweet, he's cute, he's her age - but he's not Jewish. In fact, his last name is Christensen and he goes to St. Joseph's Prep. She doesn't mind that he's not Jewish, and her friends probably wouldn't either, but Rachel is concerned that her parents might. It's really her grandmother's words that haunt her, accent and all: "Rachel, find a nice Jewish boy to marry. Don't go vith the goyim."

Rachel doesn't want to shake things up too much, but she doesn't want to ignore her feelings either. She decides to see Luke in secret. Never to fear: this is no Romeo and Juliet tragedy, but rather a light romantic comedy. While Rachel tries to figure out who she loves, she's also trying to sort out what she believes and who she is. Her little slip-ups along the way only make her more endearing to readers -- and to the boy next door, Howard Goldstein.

GOY CRAZY is a humorous, sweet story with a lovable main character and a delightful cast of characters. Rachel has two close friends who are extremely different: Jen, a social butterfly who goes to Rachel's school, and Leah, a reserved girl whose family goes to temple with Rachel's. There's Luke, of course, who is a basketball star, and Howard, the guy she's known forever and disliked just as long. Rachel's parents are kind and cautious, and her grandmother, Bubbe, has a remarkable presence. Rachel is never funnier than when she drafts - then breaks - the Teen Commandments, which include "Thou shalt not begrudge thy best friend's social success" and "Thou shalt not kill thy little brother."

Early teens who can't wait to be in high school as well as older teens who are currently stuck there should pick this book up. It is long enough to appeal to "serious" readers and the cover and plot are bound to catch the eyes of hopeless (hopeful!) romantics. Young girls will relate to Rachel's torn feelings, while adults who are kids-at-heart will remember their own high school dating experiences. Interfaith dating is not often addressed in teen novels, and Melissa Schorr clearly and gently addresses it, stamps it, and sends it with a smile. A notable debut.

Give this review a "yes" vote!

Mazel Tov Music: A Playlist for Goy Crazy
Hava Nagila (traditional arrangement)
Confessions of a Teenage Girl by Bonnie McKee
On Her Mind by Duncan Sheik
Horizon by The Rocking Horse Winner
Suddenly Everything Has Changed by The Postal Service
I Always Was Your Girl by Jennifer Love Hewitt

Read chapter one of Goy Crazy.

Check out my interview with the author, Melissa Schorr.
Lucy Woodward, happy

Interview: Melissa Schorr

Though GOY CRAZY is Melissa Schorr's debut novel, it is far from her first byline. She has worked for various magazines. In fact, one of her pieces for GQ magazine served as inspiration for her first novel. That, and her real life.

Did you always plan for GOY CRAZY to be for teens, or did it initially have an older audience? How long did it take to write the book?

The idea to write a book about interfaith dating started almost ten years ago, when I wrote that essay while I was working at GQ magazine, based on my own experiences. At first, my agent and I thought it was going to be a non-fiction book about my own 20something dating life, a real-life "Sex in the City" about dating a slew of non-Jewish guys. Then – whoops! – I met this great guy, who just so happened to be Jewish, and (even bigger whoops!) I ended up eventually marrying him. So, that basically killed that book project. (sob, sob)

Luckily, it only took about seven more years of letting the idea germinate in my mind until I realized my story could be fictionalized, and set back in time, before I met my hubby – in my teen years, when my parents were always pressuring me about who I dated. So while literally, GOY CRAZY took about a year to write, I like to say that it took ten years to actually get it published and that in a sense, I've been writing it my whole life – by living it.

Collapse )

Read my review of GOY CRAZY.

Drop by Melissa's website!

Buffy Summers, strong, strength, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Interview: Wendy Mass

I've enjoyed the novels of Wendy Mass for years now. I recently got in contact with her, and we discovered our mutual adoration of cats, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Ricky Nelson and his family, among other things. We spoke of things both serious and humorous. Here, take a peek:

While researching synesthesia for A Mango-Shaped Space, what did you find the most surprising statistic or attribute?

While I was researching the book I kept finding people with some form of synesthesia, practically everywhere I looked. I think it's much more common than people think. I went to conferences were there would be 50 synesthetes in a room arguing over the colors of letters. It was pretty entertaining.

Collapse )

Read my reviews of Wendy's novels.

Visit Wendy's website.

Lucy Woodward, happy

Interview: Deb Caletti

One of today's most thought-provoking authors is Deb Caletti. As I wrote in my reviews of her novels, she imbues all of her stories with realistic sensibility and captivating characters.

When I interviewed her this week, we discussed her upcoming novel THE NATURE OF JADE as well as her previous novels and her work in progress. We also talked about what makes a good book and how to handle delicate subject matter in teen books.

Your stories - certainly QUEEN and ROSES - address heavy issues with unflinching realism. I give you kudos upon kudos. Did you find "self-censor" anything as you wrote, and/or encounter any worries from editors or publishers about the books' suitability for teen readers?

Thank you. No, I really don't self-censor, and my publisher is thoroughly supportive of my -- hmmm, boundary pushing? I guess I thoroughly believe in my readers and feel they deserve honest, thoughtful material that doesn't insult their intelligence. Honesty is my driving force, and I believe that if a writer isn't willing to be honest, that maybe he or she should take up knitting. It's our job. Our moral imperative. It's what we've been entrusted to do. If you can't look to literature for honesty, where can you look?

THE NATURE OF JADE, due in March, focuses on a teenage girl with panic disorder. Did you set out to write about this illness, or did it come to you as you developed the character?

I really dislike "issue" books, because I feel they tend toward dishonesty (there's that word again). We all have our issues (although maybe they don't all have labels), but our issues are only pieces of us, along with our talents and bad habits and histories and tendencies to crave chocolate when we're depressed. So I didn't set out to write about this disorder. The book is not about a disorder. Jade sort of appeared to me as she was, speaking in her own voice, if that doesn't sound too schizophrenic. What I did set out to write about was fear and the ways it keeps us holding on when we need to let go. I wanted to explore nature and adaptation, and the ways we're forced to change because change is ever constant, often there against our will.

How does JADE differ from your previous releases?

Jade herself is different from my other protagonists. She's more cautious, a little more insecure. As well, there's a whole element in the novel about animals and animal behavior, particularly elephants. The elephants are major characters. The book, I hope, challenges readers to see the ways we're similar -- the ways animals and humans both are here struggling to be strong against the forces of nature. We're all pretty brave, when you stop to think about it.

Collapse )

Read my reviews of Deb Caletti's novels.

Visit Deb Caletti's official website.