Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee is this month's book pick for readergirlz, an online book group which selects and then discusses a different book every month. Holly Cupala, HipWriterMama, and I got together to discuss the book, roundtable-style. Listen in!
Little Willow: Maybe's full name is Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chestnut, "named for two Miss Americas and her mother Chessy's favorite brand of mascara." Do you think her name suited her?
HipWriterMama: The name tells us so much about Maybe's mother, Chessy, and her dreams for her daughter. Does it suit Maybe? Not in the beginning. But, as the story develops, Maybe starts to grow into her name and develops poise and optimism.
Little Willow: The saying for the mascara brand Maybelline is: "Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline." I suppose you could say about our protagonist, "Maybe, she's born with it. Maybe, she's Maybelline." If you had her name, what would you go by?
Holly Cupala: I think Maybe is a perfect name, very much suited to her character and dilemma. Me...I think I might have gone by May, though perhaps that's prejudice because I have a character named May (next book). Other variations: Bella, Lina... Lina is pretty, too. Although Maybe is infused with possibilities - and hope.
HWM: At first, I wasn't sure about the name Maybe, but it speaks volumes on what Maybe thought of herself. I'm with Holly...Lina is a pretty name.
Little Willow: I like the sound of Lina. I've known some Lenas and Melinas, but never a Lina. I think that Maybe's nickname fits her well. What name do you think her mom would have given a son?
HWM: Tough question, LW! Maybe a combination of some designer or actor names?
Little Willow: James Dean Rock Hudson Chesnut, perhaps?
Holly Cupala: Ha, Little Willow - I was going to say Dylan James Dean Hilton!
Little Willow: Maybe is not the only person with an interesting name in this book; there's also Hollywood and Thammasat Tantipinichwong Schneider, also known as Tad. Out of all of Maybe's friends, who was your favorite? Why?
HWM: I loved Hollywood and Tad! Hollywood may have won out by a smidgen. He's so geeky, enthusiastic and kind.
Little Willow: Three awesome traits! Which supporting character was the most supportive of Maybe?
Holly Cupala: It's almost hard to put a finger on just one, because Lisa does such a beautiful job of surrounding Maybe with support, like waves helping a boat along. Maybe finds friends in unexpected places as well.
Little Willow: That's a lovely metaphor, Holly. We should all be so lucky to have supportive friends who can help us along.
HWM: I'm with Holly. Maybe has wonderful friends.
Little Willow: What did you think of Maybe's mom, Chessy, and her beauty pageant work?
Holly Cupala: For me, her mom represented the extremity of all kinds of parental expectations. She could have been a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, angling for her daughter to go into science or medicine, but the point is that people have expectations of other people, and dreams to fulfill. So in that sense, the pressure Maybe felt is a little bit universal.
HWM: You're right, Holly. Chessy does fall on the extreme of parental expectations. I think it's based on Chessy's own dreams and what she wished she could have done with her life if she didn't have Maybe. Yes, Chessy did have good intentions and she wanted the best for Maybe. But, it's always hard when things don't turn out the way we hoped...
Little Willow: What did you think of Maybe's dad?
HWM: Her birth dad was a letdown. But I considered Sammy her real dad. He's awesome. I think Maybe likes Sammy as her dad, too.
Little Willow: How did Maybe's reunion with her father make you feel?
Holly Cupala: Although it was disappointing, I thought it was essential for Maybe to find some closure there and come into her own. In a way, her expectations of her father are a mirror to Chessy's expectations of her. I think Lisa did an amazing job balancing that theme.
HWM: I'm glad Maybe saw her birth father so she could see that her life would not automatically change for the better. And, it made her truly take a look at her life and actions.
Little Willow: Do you think Maybe fit in in L.A.? Why or why not?
HWM: Absolutely. Maybe didn't feel like an outsider in L.A. and came into her own.
Little Willow: What's your favorite place in L.A. or in Hollywood?
Holly Cupala: I wish I could say I was more familiar with L.A. The only place I've visited there with any regularity is Disneyland - my family used to go there every few summers. A road trip of a very different sort...
Little Willow: Would you dare to take an impulsive road trip like Maybe did? Would you have stayed at the same places? (Have you ever crashed in a dorm of a school you didn't attend?)
Holly Cupala: My craziest escapades in high school and college were almost always accompanied by a group of friends - with friends and a little bit of cheek, almost anything is possible! In fact, I moved to Seattle because of just such a road trip - we came up to visit our friend who was living here, had lots of crazy adventures (I remember bonking heads with my friend Deanna as we car-moshed to "Smells Like Teen Spirit"...), and fell in love with the city.
Little Willow: I felt as though Maybe was a little immature for her age at the beginning of the novel, and I worried about her being able to survive on her own, so I was very glad when she finally found a job (and another unexpected friend) at the taco truck. What did you think of her work ethic?
HWM: In the beginning, I was unsure of Maybe's work ethic since she didn't really look for a job. But once push came to shove, Maybe needed to prove her value. Nice work ethic and smart business savvy.
Holly Cupala: I agree with HipWriterMama - I think Maybe even surprised herself.
Little Willow: This month's theme at readergirlz is hope. How do you feel this book embodies or addresses that theme?
HWM: Lisa did a great job weaving in Maybe's and Chessy's disappointments and hardships, while keeping things open for hope, possibilities and new beginnings. And how cool is it that her friend Hollywood puts together a movie...
Little Willow: Very cool, indeed. Any closing thoughts about the book or its creator?