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Little Willow

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Author Spotlight: Deb Caletti

Deb Caletti imbues all of her stories with realistic sensibility and captivating characters. At the risk of sounding foolish while attempting to be succinct, I will say that I love all of her books, I recommend all of her books, and I think you should get them all right now. ("You" meaning "all teens and adults.")

Here are my thoughts on Deb's books, in order of publication:

The Queen of Everything

Jordan's life is about to change forever. This teenage girl thought the worse thing that could happen to her would be her artsy mother embarrassing her yet again. Then, her father - the "normal" one, the parent she chose to live with after the divorce, the optometrist - becomes the epicenter of a scandal.

I read this novel when it was released in 2002 and it haunts me to this day. To say this is simply about what happens when teenagers realize that their parents are people too would be accurate, but incomplete. This book is an absolutely amazing story of a girl, a family, and a violent crime. Stunning.

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

Ruby's always been quiet and shy. She knows it. She embraces it. Thanks in part to her mother, the elderly members of a book group, and a boy - who may break her heart . . . or just might win it - she's about to let go, just a little bit. She does not rebel nor become completely impulsive, but she does learn to be more in control and more decisive.

Caletti's sophomore effort has a lot of heart. This is just as enjoyable as her debut novel The Queen of Everything, but with a warmer tale to tell. It will leave you smiling. Highly recommended, especially for fans of That Summer by Sarah Dessen. Honey, Baby, Sweetheart deserves every award it has received, and that in itself is a rarity.

Wild Roses

Cassie's stepfather Dino is famous. The world knows him as a talented violinist. Cassie knows him as an unpredictable and violent man. As the story progresses, he nears the brink of self-destruction. You can almost hear the walls shake and see Cassie cringe when Dino raises his voice. Meanwhile, Cassie becomes involved with Ian, another violin virtuoso - and a student of Dino's.

While there are plenty of books out there about abusive significant others, there are few - especially those shelved in teen fiction - that confront mental illness or the dynamics of stepfamilies head-on. This book has both. It is honest and unflinching.

The Nature of Jade

Jade doesn't know yet that she wants something more out of life - and that she is about to meet someone that will change her life.

Good student Jade is an overachiever who has developed panic disorder. Sometimes, the medicine she takes makes her antsy at night, so she's taken to watching the online elephant cam from her local zoo. One night, the camera shows her a young boy in a red jacket with a baby boy, and she is inexplicably drawn to them.

Throughout the course of her senior year, Jade finds herself feeling more and more out-of-place with her friends as they discuss their future plans. She's ready for her life to change, but she's not sure how. When she gets a job at the zoo and befriends the elephants and their caretakers, things seem right again.

Then she meets the boy in the red jacket face-to-face. As their relationship grows, secrets are revealed on both sides, and it is that relationship which ultimately gives her the strength to make some extremely difficult choices.

I have never worked with elephants. I never knew a Sebastian. I (thankfully) haven't suffered from panic attacks. But there was something about Jade that mirrored something in me, and that really made me connect with the character.

I enjoyed the story and the writing so much that I purposely slowed my reading speed down to take it all in. I wanted this book to last.

Note: If you've seen a book called Love is All You Need bearing Deb's name, know that it is not a new book but rather an omnibus that contains two of Deb's previously released books, Wild Roses and The Nature of Jade.

The Fortunes of Indigo Skye

This isn't yet another rags-to-riches tale, nor "a simple story of money can't buy happiness." This book is about a girl on the cusp of adulthood who actually likes her life and doesn't really want it to change that much. She would rather be poor and happy than wealthy and miserable.

(Read my full-length review.)

Many thanks to the book fairy who gave me this book! As I read, I marked my favorite lines of this pretty Skye with little white Post-It flags. There are a total of 26 little flags sticking out of the book.

True story: A few weeks after I read Indigo, a man in San Francisco left $50,000 and his car to a waitress!

The Secret Life of Prince Charming

Not every girl is looking for a Prince Charming - and not every charming guy is a prince. Though the title and cover for this book (both the hardcover and paperback editions) might make you think the titular character is the protagonist or the protagonist's boyfriend, he's neither - he's her father.

Quinn's father has left a series of women in his wake, including the mothers of his children. 17-year-old Quinn and her little sister love their mom, who, along with their aunt and grandmother, are always willing to share advice and personal stories about love, life, and heartbreak. When Quinn's boyfriend dumps her, her quest to find out why he did that leads back, interestingly enough, to her own father - not because he's involved in the breakup, but because his absence and her parents' divorce helped shape Quinn's world.

Upon learning that her father's artistic keepsakes are actually personal items that he's taken from the women he has dated or married, Quinn gathers the items and goes on a quest to return the items to their rightful owners. She brings along her sisters: Charlotte (aka Sprout), her sunny, bouncy little sister, and Frances Lee, the older half-sister she'd never met before this trip. As they follow the path of destruction their father left behind, the girls find humor, sadness, a ten-foot statue, a cat that looks like a dust bunny, and other things they didn't expect... like the truth, and forgiveness.

I headed up a roundtable discussion of this book with fellow readergirlz. Check it out.

The Six Rules of Maybe

When Scarlet's older sister Juliet comes home, she's not alone: she's brought along her husband Hayden, his dog Zeus, and the announcement that she's not only married, she's also pregnant. As the family adjusts to their new situation, Scarlet reevaluates her relationship with her sister and becomes close to her new brother-in-law. As she gets tangled up in her feelings about Hayden, thanks to her tendency to want to help people, she also becomes involved in the lives of her neighbors. But "help" and "fix" are two different things - and she might have to help herself first, for once, before she can truly help anyone else.

The meaning behind the title is revealed about 100 pages in - and fully realized later, just when it should be.

My favorite lines from the book include:

But I was just being myself, and you wouldn't believe what a relief it was. - Page 48

Maybe that was it, that I was a reading person, or a mini-adult, or an old soul, because I just never got the rules of high school. It all seemed silly. - Page 68


Teenaged Clara has chosen to put miles between herself and her abusive boyfriend - and everyone else she knows, except for her father, who remains by her side, who takes her to another town so she can be safe. Looking for hope and hoping to heal, they seek refuge in a coastal community. Clara lost her mother when she was four; her father, a writer, raised her by himself. With a lighthouse and a beach as the backdrop and new friends as the accidental instigators, she learns more about her father, her family, and herself.

One of my favorite lines from the book appears halfway through the story:

I was alone with something too big to be alone with.

As Deb said in her personal essay about the book: "If you are in any situation that sounds remotely like the one Clara was in, speak up. Tell someone. Look after yourself. Get help, if you need it. You probably need it. It's a dangerous place to be. Most of all, be safe. Please. Listen to me on this one. Deal? Excellent."

The Story of Us

Cricket, a recent high school graduate, her slightly older brother, Ben, their mother, and their faithful beagle, Jupiter, have packed up their belongings and sent the boxes ahead to a new house. Before moving, they'll spent a week with their mother's fiancee and his two daughters as well as other relatives and close friends, all gathering to take part in their mother's wedding. The only person missing will be Cricket's long-time boyfriend, Janssen, whom Cricket is purposefully, regretfully holding at arm's length. The circumstances which created this distance are explained as the book progresses, mostly in the letters Cricket writes to Janssen.

I finished reading this book on a beautiful day, full of sunshine, memories, and emotion. Just look at the picture I took, nestled in the top corner of this post. Cricket would have liked this day, I think, and so would Jupiter. And if you liked Caletti's previous novels, especially The Nature of Jade, you'll like The Story of Us as well.

(Read my full-length review.)

The Last Forever

The Last Forever by Deb Caletti is the story of a girl named Tess, and the people who have influenced her the most: her parents, each absent in a different way; her grandmother, who she hasn't seen since she was a toddler; and someone she never saw coming. The summer between Tessa's junior and senior years of high school is a summer filled with unexpected, unforgettable things. It's about finding your roots, and planting your own. It's about grief, and hope, and truth, and family. It's about the choices that are made for us, and the choices we make for ourselves. It's about celebrating what you have, honoring what you have, and knowing who you are.

(Read my full-length review.)

Essential Maps for the Lost

Both Madison (Mads) and Billy have their futures ahead of them - futures heavily shaped by their mothers. And, perhaps, by each other. When the story starts, when their stories first intersect, only one of them is present: Mads, when her morning swim leads her straight into the path of a body, a woman who has taken her own life: Billy's mother. But once Mads and Billy meet, once their lives collide, their futures change. Or is it that their options change, and their true futures reveal themselves?

(Read my full-length review.)

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Annabelle, a senior in high school, attempting to cope with the emotional aftershocks of a violent event, decides to run from from Seattle to Washington, D.C. A heartbreaking, memorable story about loss, survivor's guilt, and endurance.

Additional Notes and Connections

Deb's adult novels include He's Gone and The Secrets She Keeps.

Deb's other works include an essay in the anthology First Kiss, Then Tell and the essay "The Joys and Perils of Dæmon Ownership" in the anthology The World of The Golden Compass.

Though the characters and stories are not directly connected, all of Deb's novels take place in and around the real community of Nine Mile Falls, Washington.

Deb's books are being developed into a film series titled Nine Mile Falls. Dear Vulcan Productions: Please do right by Deb's books...and please let me know when and where you're holding auditions. :)

Interviews and More

Read my exclusive interview with Deb Caletti.

I also wrote an article entitled Clamoring for Caletti which ran in the May 2007 issue of The Edge of the Forest, a publication which is sadly now defunct.

Watch Book Lust with Nancy Pearl featuring Deb Caletti.

Thank you, Deb. Your Secret is safe with me.

Tags: author spotlight, books, cybils, reviews

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