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Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions 101

I have always been lousy about keeping resolutions. Oh, sure, I’m always super excited about making them. That’s the easy and fun part. Imagine how your life could be different if only you, say, spend every minute of your free time at the gym or never again eat any products made with refined sugar. I wrote a short story on the subject of a person who can’t seem to stop making resolutions (you can find it in In One Year and Out the Other), and while she had over three hundred of them (I’ve never quite been that bad), I will say that my list of resolutions is usually pretty long.

Here’s a sampling of some of the fun ones: Travel to Japan, Adopt a Dog, Buy a House, Watch Highlights of Dancing With Stars so I can Keep Up in a Conversation With Mom, Learn To Salsa, Try Some New Food Even at a Restaurant You’ve Been Going to For Years (i.e. stop ordering the EXACT same thing every time), Learn to Cook Something that Doesn’t Involve a Can of Soup/Ready Mix/and/or a Take Out Menu, and the related – Actually Cook Something Seen on a Cooking Show Instead of Just Watching Them and Getting Hungry.

Then there are also the not-so-fun ones: Go to the Gym More than Once in Ten Years, Quit Watching Shows That Make You Want To Eat, Vacuum Regularly and Not Just When Company is Coming Over, Pay Down Credit Cards Even the Ones You Don’t Count in Your Accounting Like Gap and Macy’s, Stop Spending So Much at the Dry Cleaners, and the related, Do More Ironing.

My list of resolutions is usually about ten or twelve things, and a lot of the same ones keep popping up over and over again. At the end of the year I’ll usually have accomplished at least two of them, usually the easier and cheaper ones (Dancing with the Stars? Check) but not the rest (Salsa? Not yet). It may seem a very inefficient way to sort through the clutter of one’s life, but I do eventually get some things done (not the ironing, but I did pay down my credit cards! Even the Gap one). And at one time, writing a novel was on that list, and it stayed on my list for years. But eventually, I did that one, too. Not just once, but several times over. So I have hope for Japan, yet. The gym? Not so much.

So here’s my question to all of you: What’s been the toughest resolution you’ve actually kept?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Last Monday I crossed the finish line for LOCAL GIRLS, handing in revisions one whole day early!!! (only because I thought the deadline was Monday, otherwise I would have squeezed every last second out of one more day). And then I settled down to read a little (Sarah Dessen's THIS LULLABYE). Stuck in between the pages were all these pink sticky notes with ideas I'd had the last time I was reading - ideas for the book I just handed in. Of course, since I forgot about said ideas on pink sticky notes, I didn't put them in during the revision round (smack to the head).

That's pretty much how I feel until the book is in print, like there's more I could do, another scene that will make it all come together, a sentence that makes it oh so much better. Even after the book is in print I feel like that. Imagine how thrilled I was for one reader to point out that there's a typo on the last page of LUKE. Gee, thanks for pointing that out, like I can change it now. Still, the reader made me feel personally responsible for assaulting her sense of all that is correct grammatically, like I knew the mistake was there and thought, ah, to hell with it, who cares about one little mistake... even though the mistake makes Emily's graduation date one thousand years before she was even born. Yeah, I need to be told that like I need a hole in my head, or to have every single typo pointed out to me in painstaking detail. In any case, typos aside (and I can put them aside because I have no control over whether or not my changes are actually implemented in the end when some typesetter is putting together his hundredth book for the week and he doesn't care if Emily ever graduates, or who Emily is, no less what the date is), I hate turning in a book because it means I have to stop fixing it, and I'm always sure there's more to be fixed.

So here's my question for the other authors: ever gone back and read one of your books only to cringe at a line, wonder why the hell you had a character do something, or just basically wished you'd done something differently? Or do you just accept it for what it is and move on?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mix Tape Queen

Right now I'm revising my second novel (or I'm supposed to be, actually I'm procrastinating by writing this blog instead). As you might have guessed there is an underlying musical theme to it. No rock stars like in I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, but the characters are the kind of kids who would tell the story of their life with music. So when I was writing the book, I carefully picked out a song that represented each character. In fact, at one point I had a song for every chapter. Ok, maybe it was another procrastination technique, but I loved it because it was like making a big mix tape (or CD for those of you born after 1985 or iTunes playlist for you really high tech folks). And back in the day I was the mix tape queen.

I lay claim to that throne because I started creating mixes the really hard way when I was ten. I taped songs off the radio. It sounds simple enough, but trying doing it in the perfect order. You see, the Stephanie Kuehnert mix has to have flow, sound-wise and theme-wise. A portion of the "Stephanie and Katie Summer of '03 Driving Mix" (which is a three-disc set because I always get carried away) follows a geographical path: "Santa Monica" by Everclear leads into "Malibu" by Hole leads into "Dizz Knee Land" by Dada leads into "Olympia" by Rancid. Waiting for a specific song to come on the radio so you can record it in exactly the right order, that's a science!

Fortunately, technology has advanced. By eighth grade I had a CD player and by the end of high school, I had a pretty sweet stereo system that allowed me to use songs from CD, cassette, and vinyl. (You had to know I'm the type to have a serious vinyl collection, right?) I kept making mix tapes instead of CDs until 2002 because for the most part I listened to them in my car, which still had a tape deck. I'm a serious devotee of the driving mix. In fact, I prepared for getting my driver's license by making a mix tape and I made a new one at least once a year, many of which I shared with my best friend Katie. Now, I no longer have a car so I make playlists for my iPod to make Chicago public transportation more bearable. Also my friend Eryn and I travel together once a year and we alternate who makes the mix CD. It's one of the best parts of our trips!

Then, I make writing playlists. You might have heard the one I made for I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE on my website or myspace, but while I was procrastinating a few weeks back, I created my ideal soundtrack for IWBYJR. It follows the storyline of the book perfectly in song, how cool is that? I can't use Project Playlist or anything online to duplicate it because it has some harder-to-find songs on there, so I'm burning it on CD instead and my fabulous webmistress Jenny Hassler has agreed to design some hott artwork. It's going to be part of the prize for my first contest and you can enter to win the CD along with some early IWBYJR promo materials by simply signing up to be a member of my street team. Street team members are volunteers who spread the word about IWBYJR by putting up banners on their myspace or other website, passing out promo goodies (which I send you) around town, or just telling people about the book. Not a huge commitment, but if you sign up before January 15th, you're eligible to become one of seven lucky folks who gets a mix CD from yours truly, the Mix Tape Queen. Who knows, it might become your favorite mix ever.

And if you're wondering what my favorite mix ever is, it's a tape that my friend Tom made junior year of high school. He used some serious old school mixing skill on it, blending snippets of songs from the radio (he demonstrated how overplayed Bush's "Glycerine" was that summer by putting it on there three times), his record player, and best of all, the only full version of a song that he put on was "Loser Fan Club" by the band he fronted in junior high, the Skexies (if anyone remembers what movie that band name comes from I might have to reward you with a mix CD just for that!). I may be one of the few people on earth in possession of a recording of that early Tom Smith classic and now that his latest band Office is getting rather popular that rarity might become pretty desirable. Not that I would ever eBay my favorite mix!

What about you, what's the story of your favorite mix tape/CD/playlist? And authors, name five songs that would go on the soundtrack for your book. Here's a little peek into the IWBYJR ultimate soundtrack: "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" by Sleater-Kinney (of course), "I'm Not Dead" by Pink, "Suddenly Cool" by the Methadones, "Ragged Company" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and "New Wave" by Against Me!, but you gotta enter the contest to find out more!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Caught in No-Man's Land

It hit me, reading the blog entries here, that I'm kind of in a unique position.

I'm the only one who doesn't have an upcoming release with MTV Books and I'm not going to—at least, not at any time in the foreseeable future.  I do have a young adult release coming up in early '09, but that's with a different publisher and I don't know—I'd feel kind of odd talking about it here, even though it's all I want to talk about because I'm in the throes of revision for it and it's all that my creative brain is full of right now.  Plus, I just really, really like the story.  

The other side of the No-Man's Land coin is that I don't have any particularly recent releases.  Adiós is more than a year back and Accent was released nearly five months ago, so neither of them constitutes any kind of fresh news.  Any of the typical blog stories—where did I get my inspiration, what influences me with a particular story, tell us about the characters... it all feels as if I've already answered them a hundred times before.  

This is where things get tough for me—as I mentioned in a column for my agent, I find it difficult to sell myself.  Ridiculous, no?  But it just goes against my general nature to go tooting my own horn.  But it's an evil necessity.  Actually, contrary to what this post may sound like, I do enjoy talking about my books—a lot.  I just worry about wearing out my welcome! :-)

So anyhow, I will make  concerted effort to talk my lovely MTV Books up, especially since I'm very proud of both of them and they've taken me some incredible places.  And anything that anyone wants to ask me about either—I'm more than happy to answer.  Deal?

Okay.  I'll start then—I found out last Friday that I made my very first Best of list.  If you scroll on over to page three of the article, you'll see that author Mary Castillo chose as her best book of 2007, none other than IT'S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT.  Merry Christmas, baby!  Especially since I'm there alongside such luminaries as Junot Díaz, who wrote what is unarguably the most celebrated Latino novel of 2007, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Dude.  How unbelievably hard does that rock?  My book on a list like that.  It boggles the mind, really.

So, anyhow, that's kind of where I sit—and the deal utterly stands.  Anything anyone wants to ask me, I'm more than happy to answer.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What’s in a name?

I name my characters very carefully for reasons I have developed as both a writer and a reader.

As a reader, I’m annoyed when more than one character name in a book starts with the same letter. When the book gets really good and I read faster, my eyes use that initial capital letter as shorthand and skip over the rest of the name. If there are two or three R-characters, I get confused. So when I write a book, I jot down the alphabet and make sure I don’t use more than one main character name for each letter. This is a habit I developed on my own, but I’ve since heard that some editors ask writers to change names when several start with the same letter. Affirmation makes me feel 50% less neurotic.

As a reader, I’m also taken aback by strange character names. Some names don’t sound like names, and lately writers love to give heroines boy-names. If I have to think too hard about a name, I’m pulled out of the story.

As a writer, when I begin a new manuscript, I’m embarking on a lonely journey of several months. I do everything possible to keep myself on the edge of my seat. So my characters have names with special meaning to me or the story, even if that meaning will never be apparent to my readers.

In the manuscript I just finished, the heroine is named Zoey because at first I pictured her looking like Zooey Deschanel, but I think Zooey has one too many O’s, and I could not be bothered with repeatedly looking up the key to type an umlaut (Zoë). By the time I finished writing, I’d changed the character until she looked nothing like Zooey Deschanel--but I have to start somewhere, and I still like the name Zoey.

The hero of that story is an Olympic-caliber swimmer who works on his dad’s charter fishing boat and is very unhappy about it. I named him Doug, which means “black water,” according to the baby naming website. I spend a LOT of time on the baby naming website.

One of my favorite characters I’ve written is the heroine of BOY IN BLUE, which is coming out in March 2009. I named her Meg. I have a cousin my age named Meg, and I grew up thinking Meg was the coolest name in the world, MUCH cooler than Jennifer.

Here is how I came up with the name of the hero. I live in Alabama and my critique partner Vicki lives in Utah, but somehow over months of e-mailing and calling each other, we had become best friends without ever meeting in person. We finally met at a writers’ conference in Reno. Between playing blackjack and listening to the (excellent!) Johnny Cash impersonator in the bar, we had the sort of strange conversation you have with someone when you are best friends but are meeting in person for the first time and are trying desperately to make sure you will still like each other afterward. Somehow we got on the subject of the names of our characters and strange names of people we’d known in real life.

Vicki: I went to school with a guy named John Actor. It flowed off the tongue so well that no one ever called him John. Everyone called him Johnactor, one word.

Jenn: That would be a great name for a character. Johnafter.

Vicki: I said Johnactor.

Jenn: What? [The casino was loud.]


Jenn: Oh. *pause* Johnafter is a better name for a character.

I came home and wrote a book about John After, a.k.a. Johnafter, a 19-year-old rookie cop with a Dark Past.

If you’re a writer, how do you come up with character names? Do you give it a lot of thought, or is it just me? We would love to hear the story behind characters' names in your books.

If you’re a reader, what do you love about character names, and what annoys you? I’ll try to keep that in mind for the next manuscript. ;)

Monday, December 10, 2007

2008? Really?

I have this problem where I can't seem to think about next year until I've bought my dayplanner, which I did last week. So all of a sudden I realized that it's going to be 2008 in a few weeks, and that my book, What Happens Here, which "isn't coming out until 2008!" is going to be coming out soon. May, when it pubs, will be here before I know it.

The most exciting book news of the week for me is that National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr has contributed an amazing quote for the front cover. See all that white space up top? Picture, if you will, this there:

"A compulsively readable tale of complicated friendships, life-changing loss, and the search for authentic experience in a world full of artifice. It's a story of coming to terms with the fragility of life as well as its mettle, and with with the failures of those we love along with our own...in other words, growing up."
—Sara Zarr, author of Story of a Girl

Pretty exciting stuff indeed.

Not exciting: reviewing the copy editor's marks and notes. I'm grateful, for example, that the copy editor pointed out that I referred to a B&B in Italy when, technically, it's a pensione, but I mean, come on! Zzzzzzzzzz. And on that note, I should get back to it, so that when What Happens Here comes out in May, there won't be any big mistakes in it!

I suppose I should also start thinking about New Year's resolutions? Does anyone have any that are rarin' to go?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"The Race"

writer ideaI’m participating in a race.

A race against time. More specifically a deadline for my second MTV title, INVISIBLE TOUCH. :)

Deadlines are something we as writers are not always comfortable with.

I was reading Marjorie Liu’s blog the other day--she’s currently gone under for her deadline--and only comes up for air for a few minutes to post this:

Hair = Gross.
Food = Down to applesauce, frozen spinach, and ice cream, followed by gnawing on my own leg.
Cats = Frightened of hair, and making peculiar noises in the kitchen.
Poodle = Hanging in there.
Haha! Oh, and she also mentions what Meg Cabot is writing on her blog:
I don’t know about other writers, but when I’m towards the end of writing a book, I am completely unfit for human companionship. Like, I pretty much stop bathing and I can’t speak in complex sentences anymore.

For the welfare of others, I try to avoid human contact when I am at this stage of one of my books.

And other humans know to avoid me, as well. It really is safer that way.

I get it. I get what they are going through. The race against time to finish the book and get it into the hands of the editor so we can all be happy and meet the schedule.

The thing is, I wish I could become a hermit and stay in my jammies all day, but my family might abandon ship! :) Instead I’ve bought stock in French Vanilla Café, and my mind is muddled as I drive here and there, you know, from the late-to-bed-early-to-rise schedule. And suddenly I'll remember something that needs to be done that day, and I rush around like a craaazzzaay woman, trying to get it done all the while the book is lurking around in my brain.

So tell me, Authors…what’s your life like as that deadline looms over you and you're speeding toward the finish line?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ski Trips from Hell... the story behind OBLIVION ROAD

So my new novel, Oblivion Road, is about five friends who get stranded during a ski trip in the Colorado wilderness. Readers often ask me where I get the ideas for my books—and I usually don't have a good answer for them! Ideas are such whimsical, odd, dreamlike little things. But in the case of Oblivion Road, the idea came directly from the experience of one of my friends. Back in high school, my friend Mark flew to Denver to go skiing for a week with his older brothers, right before Christmas. He was really psyched about the trip, and he was a great skier. (I almost went along myself, except my parents made me stay home because we had relatives coming into town).

As it turns out, Mark and his brothers never made it to the slopes. Their rented van broke down about an hour away during a massive snowstorm, and there was no way for them to call for help. They ended up spending the night out there, in the brutal cold, figuring that the next day someone would come along and rescue them. No such luck! Sometime around the next afternoon, they realized that they hadn't seen a single car, and came to the horrible realization that the road must have got closed because of the blizzard. They had to hike about two miles to a ranger station, where luckily, they managed to get help. But they knew they'd avoided a horrible disaster by the skin of their teeth.

So this was the genesis of Oblivion Road. I always kept their saga in the back of my mind over the years, but I wasn't sure if it was enough of an idea to support a whole novel. Then one day, I was thinking about it, and realized, Hey, how could I make things even worse for them? And I came up with the idea that while they were stranded, someone would stumble out of the snow, and that the person would be an escaped convict. From there, the novel just took on a life of its own.

Anyway, while I'm on the cheerful subject of skiing horror stories, there was one scene from real life I wanted to work into the book, but couldn't. Another friend of mine from college was in Vermont once, skiing a double diamond, when he slipped and fell going fast on an icy patch. Through some bizarre feat of physical contortion, his ski actually snapped off, and the metal tip punctured his skin—and the ski went all the way through his leg! He had to get taken down the mountain on one of those emergency sleds, and it was about six months before he could walk again. Ah, wintertime! So if anyone's got any juicy skiing horror stories, please feel free to share... (or maybe not...)


Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Inner Lit Nerd

I'm in the middle of moving and I'm reminded of two things: 1) packing completely and totally blows, and 2) I have a shopping problem. Having fifteen pairs of black shoes never seemed like a problem until I actually have to take them somewhere all at once.

Of course, what's really tough to pack are all my books. I have a scary amount of reading material. When I went to the U-haul to buy book boxes and requested thirty, the guy behind the counter asked me if I lived in a library. Well, yeah, kinda. I'm a writer, so naturally it follows that I like to read.

I've always had a book addiction, and it hasn't gotten any better with time, or with the invention of Amazon. It's part of the reason I dreamt up Bard Academy in the first place. The idea of a boarding school haunted by famous fictional characters, well, that's my idea of heaven. I've always been a lit nerd.

I get attached to characters - both the ones I dream up and the ones created by other people. To answer Jenny's question, yes, I do think about what might continue to happen to my characters after I've finished writing a book. It's hard to put some of them to rest (Miranda of Bard Academy fame has a particularly loud voice, and she doesn't like not being the center of attention).

But I also think about characters I've read about in other books, which is part of the reason so many of them pop up in Bard Academy. Well, I've postponed packing long enough. I have twenty-nine more boxes to fill, which brings me to a question for you: If you had to move, but could only take five books with you, which ones would they be, and why?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yesterday at 1:15 the sun shone, the birds sang and all was right with the world. Because finally, after three months of spending every weekend at my laptop, every night typing away, I turned in my manuscript for LOCAL GIRLS. Let me tell you, it was painful. I'm taking a few days off (if you call working on the next book, RICH BOYS, taking time off) before revisiting Kendra and Mona and Henry and the world of Martha's Vineyard in the summer. Because I know the book still needs work.

My next two books are part of a series that takes place on Martha's Vineyard during the summer. See that picture up there, that's me (on the right) and friend/author Megan McCafferty being interviewed for a TV show on Martha's Vineyard last summer. I looked at this picture a few times while slugging through LOCAL GIRLS so I could actually remember that it's sunny and warm and peaceful and perfect on the island. It's kind of hard to remember what it's like on the Vineyard in the summer when you've got left over Thanksgiving turkey in the refrigerator and your Christmas tree is blinking at you from the corner of the room. I'll post a description of both LOCAL GIRLS and RICH BOYS next time, when the sight of the main characters' names don't make me so dizzy.

In other news, am heading to NYC tomorrow to be interviewed for the Today Show in Australia. The interview is taking place live via satellite, and I'm having serious wardrobe issues. What to wear?

One more thing. Received an email from a girl who wrote to tell me she loved THE BOOK OF LUKE, but she had a question. Do Emily and Luke end up together always? And you know what, I didn't know the answer.

So I'd like to ask all the authors here a question: do you know how your characters' stories continue long after the last page is finished?
Must go look through closet for appropriate Aussie outfit. That's all for now!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wanna Be Rock Star

Rock ‘n roll has ruled my world since fifth grade when my parents finally caved after years of my begging and agreed to get cable so I could have MTV. When I got a CD player for eighth grade graduation, the first disc I rushed out to buy was Metallica’s Black Album. Now I own practically 1,000 albums on CD, cassette, and vinyl. I can’t even count how many concerts I’ve been to because I spent most weekends during my junior and senior years of high school seeing punk shows at the infamous Fireside Bowl in Chicago (which I am pictured in front of). Back then, I dated drummers, singer/guitarists, drummers that wanted to be singer/guitarists…. And of course, deep down, I wanted to be a rock star.

I took guitar lessons, had multiple friends try to teach me, and learned a few simple punk songs from tablature. I’d promptly forget those songs because I’d stop practicing for a month to write poems or a short story instead. I have writer friends who are in bands, and, oh, how I envy them for being multi-talented. I’m just not. I realized this a few years ago after spending my tax return on a shiny new guitar and amp. I practiced without real progress for a few weeks and then turned full attention to my novel. My fingers just don’t work on the strings like they do with a pen or on the keys of my laptop. I decided I would have to become a literary rock star instead.

Emily Black, the main character in my first novel I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, is the talented, ultra-cool, punk rock songstress I wish I could be. And when I found out that MTV Books would be publishing it in July 2008, it felt like things had come full circle.

I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE is about the way music connects us. Punk rock is in Emily’s blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. Emily grows up playing guitar and singing, determined to find the tune that will bring Louisa home. You’ll have to wait until next summer to find out more about Emily and Louisa, but you can see a sneak peek of chapter one here.

I truly believe that music can bind us like nothing else. My boyfriend and I met after discussing one of our favorite bands online. I will never forget the shirt my best friend was wearing when I met her (Anthrax, proving how totally bad-ass she was). What about you? How does music connect you to the people in your life?

Getting ready for the holidaze

So, U.S. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and with it, the holiday shopping frenzy.  Thank God for Amazon, is all I can say.  Especially since I love to give books and music as presents.  Yes, I'm that relative.  You know, I can't help it—I was the kid who actually liked getting books as presents (and clothes, too).

There was only ever one toy that I was desperate to get (as in desperate in that Ralphie from A Christmas Story sort of way) and wouldn't you know it, that was the one I never got.  I wanted the I Dream of Jeannie bottle house with doll.  It was sooooo cool, you'd open it up and inside was Jeannie's bed and a small Jeannie doll and you could put her in the closet and pull the cork and she'd come flying out.  No, I'm not as old as that might suggest—the toy was from the late seventies and as a latchkey kid, I watched a lot of television in the afternoons while doing homework.  In those days of only three broadcast networks and a handful of local channels, my afternoon options were Mike Douglas, Phil Donohue, or reruns of fifties and sixties sitcoms.  Lot of Dobie Gillis & Leave it to Beaver & Gilligan's Island for me.  But my absolute favorite was Jeannie.  And I. Wanted. That. Toy.

Have no idea why I never got it—maybe it was hard to come by, I don't know.  Instead, Santa brought me the Barbie RV.  Which was okay, but it wasn't Jeannie's bottle.  Good thing I really enjoyed the books and music and clothes I was given.

What about y'all?  Any gifts you really wanted but never got?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Proud to finish 1665th

My next novel, BOY IN BLUE, is coming out with MTV Books in early 2009. It's about a 17-year-old who avoids prosecution for a high school stunt by spending spring break on night patrol with the 19-year-old rookie cop who arrested her.

In the book, both the chick and the cop are runners. He was the captain of his high school track team. She's been through a trauma she can't shake, and she figures if she can run five miles a day, she must not be dying. Right? I can't tell you what the trauma is--meet me back here in a year and three months. But you can read the first chapter here.

When I started writing the book I didn't intend for the characters to be runners. It happened naturally because I was training for my first-ever 10-K (that's 6.2 miles for the metrically challenged). I few days ago I ran in my fourth 10-K with a time of 1:06:48. I'm pretty sure that's bad. I was beaten by 1664 people. On the bright side, I beat 324 others, including several 86-year-old men. If you walked I had you. You were TOAST baby.

I ran my longest distance ever while training for a 15-K last March. That training program ended sadly with no race, a sinus infection, and two very large and painful shots in the tuckus. But now I've pledged to run a half-marathon in February. So you can bet my future books will be about runners, or--depending how things go--ex-runners.

Jennifer Echols

Gotta have now!

by Tara Altebrando

We were going to see the world together, Lindsay and I. We were going to eat it up, whole. But it didn't happen that way.It didn't happen that way at all...

When Chloe's parents decide to take her to Europe the summer before senior year of high school, she’s ecstatic... she only wishes her best friend, Lindsay, could come too. Living in Las Vegas, they have long imagined the world through casinos inspired by great cities and have vowed to travel the globe together someday. Unfortunately, Lindsay’s parents won't agree to send her along.

So Chloe goes to Europe and sends postcards to Lindsay every day. But when she comes home, she must cope with shocking news that rips her family—and Lindsay's—apart. And as she tries to uncover the truth about what happened, Chloe soon begins to feel that Lindsay's brother, Noah, is the one person alive for whom she'd go to the ends of the earth...

From the acclaimed author of The Pursuit of Happiness this is a stunning new novel of friendship, love, and loss set against the dazzling dual backdrops of Europe and Las Vegas.

by Cara Lockwood

The third book in the Bard Academy series, which centers around teens at a boarding school where the teachers are ghosts of literary heroes. This book picks up where THE SCARLET LETTERMAN left off.

Home for the summer, Miranda is blamed when her sister Lindsay takes a bad turn to get attention from her neglectful parents and is sent off to Bard Academy for her freshman year. Miranda not only has to deal with the embarrassment of having a geeky younger sister trailing her around while she tries to fit in at her junior year at Bard, she also has to figure out how to keep the mysteries of the school a secret from her nosey sis. To make matters worse, Miranda's nemesis Parker takes an unusual interest in Lindsay, and takes her under her wing for a “make-over” converting her sister to a Parker clone.

When Lindsay goes missing after Parker sends her into the woods to search for Whale Cove, which is rumored to be the hiding place of a sunken pirate’s ship, Miranda, Ryan and Heathcliff search for her. While exploring the island, they find an old native American Indian shrine that hints that the island and the purgatory has been there a lot longer than they first imagined. People from their group start disappearing one by one, they get the feeling that they’re not alone in the woods.

It turns out that Whale Cove isn’t the home of a pirate ship at all, but of the Peaquod the ship from Moby Dick, and the kidnapper is none other than Ahab, the ship’s peg-legged and revenge-obsessed captain, who has been kidnapping Miranda’s friends and other students from the school, in order to get his ship in sailing condition and once again hunt for Moby Dick.

by Laura Wiess

Blair and Ardith are best friends who have committed an unforgivable act in the name of love and justice. But in order to understand what could drive two young women to such extreme measures, first you'll have to understand why. You'll have to listen as they describe parents who are alternately absent and smothering, classmates who mock and shun anyone different, and young men who are allowed to hurt and dominate without consequence.

You will have to learn what it's like to be a teenage girl who locks her bedroom door at night, who has been written off by the adults around her as damaged goods. A girl who has no one to trust except the one person she's forbidden to see.

You'll have to understand what it's really like to be forgotten and abandoned in America today.

Are you ready?

Oblivion Road
by Alex McAulay

Five stranded teenagers must battle for their lives against a group of escaped convicts, and each other, in this shocking survival thriller from the author of Bad Girls and Lost Summer.

Courtney Stanton thinks she's on just another ski trip with her friends -- until a horrific car accident strands them all on an isolated Colorado road during a blizzard. Frightened but alive, Courtney and her companions discover an abandoned vehicle nearby, and seek help. But the vehicle turns out to be a prison van, with the inmates missing, and the guard's dead body in the front seat.

Soon after, a stumbling figure emerges from the snow, a handcuffed refugee from the van. He says he's been in prison for selling meth, but that he once served in the army. Dare they trust him? He pleads innocence about the guard's murder, warns them about the other fugitives, and promises he will help guide them out of the wilderness. But as the group begins a nightmare trek across the frozen landscape, they start to get the feeling he hasn't told them the entire truth, and someone -- or something -- is secretly watching their every move.

by Justine Musk

Kelly Ruland's world fell apart when her brother Jasper walked away the sole survivor of a car accident...and kept walking right out of town. She doesn't want to believe that Jasper was at fault - but then why did he run away? How could he abandon Kelly and her parents? Now, former star student and athlete Kelly struggles to care about anything anymore, sleepwalking through school and experimenting with dangerous behavior as she tries to fill the void inside her.

Then one night, Jaspers returns...but he's not alone. Someone has followed him home. Someone who hides in the space behind the truth, who hovers in the shadows between the known and the unknown. His name is Archie, and he is the stranger they never asked to know, the guest they never invited . And he's about to challenge Kelly and Jasper to a game that demands a price they may not be willing to pay...

It's Not About the Accent
by Caridad Ferrer

Sporting a new name and an exotic new Latina flair, she's ready for her college debut. But is the luscious Carolina really better than plain-Jane Caroline?

Sick and tired of her life in small-town Ohio -- completely boring with a side of dull -- college-bound Caroline Darcy is determined to start fresh...as a new person. And that means following in the footsteps of her late Nana Ellie -- her witty and vibrant Cuban great-grandmother with a glamorous, well-traveled past. Donning a seriously caliente new wardrobe and a vivacious persona to match, she becomes Carolina, a half-Cuban aspiring actress ready for adventure.

Once at school, everything goes according to plan. Putting her primo acting skills to use, she flirts up Erik, a smooth-talking frat guy with gorgeous baby blues -- who can't get enough of her "exotic" charm. The only person who doesn't seem impressed by her Latina facade is Peter, a quiet, sweet Cuban guy from Miami. But when "Carolina" gets in over her head and finds herself in a dangerous situation, it's Peter who comes to her rescue -- and leads her on a real adventure to discover the truth about Nana Ellie and her family. It turns out that being boring old Caroline is way more exciting than she ever could have imagined.

by Gena Showalter

Alien hunting can get a girl killed. It can also get her a date.

High school senior Camille Robins and her best friend are determined to snag the attention of their crushes before graduation next month. Armed with red-hot outfits and killer hair, they sneak into the hottest nightclub in town -- which caters to the rich and famous, both human and alien. They end up following Erik (who is human) and Silver (who isn't) through a guarded door and are soon separated and under attack...and not the good kind.

Bad boy Erik spares Camille's life, but the two are soon being chased by gun-toting Alien Investigation and Removal agents. Camille's more confused than ever because Erik's finally showing real interest in her, but the agents are accusing him of dealing Onadyn -- a drug that ruins human lives. Suddenly, with the heat of his kiss lingering on her lips, Camille has to decide whose side she's on...and whether she's willing to put her life on the line to save Erik's.

Red Handed
by Gena Showalter

Phoenix Germaine has been trying to earn back her mother's trust after going into rehab and kicking Onadyn -- the drug of choice for New Chicago teens. But when a party in the woods turns into an all-out battle with the most ferocious aliens Phoenix has never seen, she's brought home in what appears to be an Onadyn-induced state. Hello, reform school.

Except, what her mother doesn't know is that Phoenix has just been recruited to join the elite Alien Investigation and Removal agency, where she'll learn to fight dirty, track hard, and destroy the enemy. Her professional training will be rigorous and dangerous, and the fact that one of her instructors is Ryan Stone -- the drop-dead gorgeous, nineteen-year-old agent she met in the woods that night -- doesn't make things any easier. Especially when dating him is totally against the rules....

Wildly imaginative, action-packed, and thrilling, Red Handed launches Gena Showalter's stunning new alien huntress series.

Graffiti Girl
by Kelly Parra

Graffiti art. It's bold. It's thrilling. And it can get a girl into serious trouble...

Raised by her single mom (who's always dating the wrong kind of man) in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez is a headstrong, independent young woman who channels her hopes and dreams for the future into her painting. But when her entry for a community mural doesn't rate, she's heartbroken. Even with winning artist Nathan Ramos -- a senior track star and Angel's secret crush -- taking a sudden interest in Angel and her art, she's angry and hurt. She's determined to find her own place in the art world, her own way.

That's when Miguel Badalin -- from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte -- opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. She's blown away by this bad boy's fantastic work and finds herself drawn to his dangerous charm. Soon she's running with Miguel's crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

The Book of Luke
by Jenny O'Connell

From the bestselling author of Plan B comes a funny and touching new novel about a girl, a boy, and a notebook that could ruin everything.

Emily Abbott has always been considered the Girl Most Likely to Be Nice -- but lately being nice hasn't done her any good. Her parents have decided to move the family from Chicago back to their hometown of Boston in the middle of Emily's senior year. Only Emily's first real boyfriend, Sean, is in Chicago, and so is her shot at class valedictorian and early admission to the Ivy League. What's a nice girl to do?

Then Sean dumps Emily on moving day and her father announces he's staying behind in Chicago "to tie up loose ends," and Emily decides that what a nice girl needs to do is to stop being nice.

She reconnects with her best friends in Boston, Josie and Lucy, only to discover that they too have been on the receiving end of some glaring Guy Don'ts. So when the girls have to come up with something to put in the senior class time capsule, they know exactly what to do. They'll create a not-so-nice reference guide for future generations of guys -- an instruction book that teaches them the right way to treat girls.

But when her friends draft Emily to test out their tips on Luke Preston -- the hottest, most popular guy in school, who just broke up with Josie by email -- Emily soon finds that Luke is the trickiest of test subjects . . . and that even a nice girl like Emily has a few things to learn about love.

Boy Trouble
by Beth Killian

Beth Killian's 310 series heats up as rising "It girl" Eva Cordes lands her first starring role -- and a notorious Hollywood bad boy!

What do you get when you mix broken hearts and superstar egos? Drama, drama, and more drama. With her family in chaos, her roommates at each other's throats, and her ex-boyfriend Danny refusing to return her calls, good girl Eva Cordes is desperate for her luck to turn around. So when she snags a role in Westchester County, TV's hottest new primetime hit, she's thrilled. But the casting directors must have made a mistake -- she's been cast as a vampy vixen? Talk about playing against type.

Being the star of the show is more than Eva bargained for -- she has kissing scenes with both her aunt's actor boyfriend (ick!) and smoldering Aussie heartthrob Teague Archer, plus the show is filming on the UCLA campus -- home to the ex-boyfriend she hasn't quite gotten over. And when she's not dealing with boy trouble on the set, she's trying to get to know the older brother she just found out she had (nice going, Mom!). Eva is ready to give up on boys forever, but Teague Archer -- the guy every girl wants -- has decided he wants Eva. This good girl is no match for his bad boy ways...or is she? Eva just might surprise everyone -- including herself.

Such a Pretty Girl
by Laura Wiess

They promised Meredith nine years of safety, but only gave her three.

Her father was supposed to be locked up until Meredith turned eighteen. She thought she had time to grow up, get out, and start a new life. But Meredith is only fifteen, and today her father is coming home from prison.

Today her time has run out.

The Scarlet Letterman
by Cara Lockwood

Miranda Tate and her closest friends have been let in on a powerful secret: their teachers are famous dead writers.

After a heroic first semester, Miranda's got Bard Academy's ghost faculty in her debt, a new boyfriend in hot basketball player Ryan Kent, and she's just turned in a paper about The Scarlet Letter that she's sure is A material. But when the Bard Queen Bee, Parker Rodham, claims she's attacked in the woods, Ryan is all too happy to play bodyguard. Then teachers start disappearing and the campus is abuzz with news of the Hooded Sweatshirt Stalker -- not to mention sightings of a monster in the woods. But it's Miranda who feels like a moving target when she is accused not only of plagiarism but of suspicious involvement in the attacks!

Meanwhile, rumors are flying about what it really means that Miranda's wearing Ryan's varsity letterman jacket. And she just can't shake her nagging feelings for Heathcliff, who entrusted her with the locket that keeps him in the "real" world even though every one else thinks he's back where he belongs, in the pages of Wuthering Heights. Is he the campus stalker? Does she like him more than she likes Ryan? And how is that possible if he's only a character from a book?

Beautiful Disaster
by Kylie Adams

Senior year is cooling down, student scandals are heating up, and in sexy South Beach, one teen's wicked dirty trouble is another teen's good clean fun. Until the last killer party becomes exactly that -- a party that kills.

Everyone wants to be just like them: Vanity, the gorgeous celebutante; Dante, the hip-hop dreamer; Max, the second-generation Hollywood bad boy; Christina, the just-out-of-the-closet Latina; and Pippa, the British hottie. They're the fabulous five of the Miami Academy for Performing Arts, and they've got everything and more. But for the unluckiest one of all, that includes a violent death at seventeen...on the night before graduation.

Hot romance, dangerous games, platinum dreams, and deadly choices. For some people, it's an impossible life. For Miami's most infamous clique, it's just another day at the beach...and for one of them, it's going to be the last.

Lost Summer
by Alex McAulay

When Caitlin Ross's mother takes her and her brother to an island in the remote Outer Banks for the summer, Caitlin is furious. She was planning on spending the summer hanging out by the pool, partying, shopping, and singing backup in her boyfriend's band, Box of Flowers. North Carolina isn't anything like California, and Caitlin doesn't fit in. But her troubled mother is too busy popping pills and trying to win back her creepy ex-boyfriend to care.

At first, the only friend Caitlin makes on the desolate island is a local misfit named Danielle. but things start to improve when she meets a bunch of visiting prep school boys and gets swept up in their exciting world. Then, one dark night, she witnesses a murder and begins to suspect that her new friends aren't really her friends at all. With a powerful hurricane approaching, and the island cut off from the outside world, Caitlin has no one to turn to but herself...and whether she'll live to see another summer is the biggest mystery of all.

Everything She Wants
by Beth Killian

In the second book of Beth Killian's juicy 310 series, Hollywood newcomer Eva Cordes starts to unravel her family's dark secrets -- and creates some scandals of her own.

Aspiring actress Eva feels like she's finally on her way to the big time -- she's got new friends, a new life, and a starring role in a hot new commercial. And with Valentine's Day fast approaching, she's determined to finally "seal the deal" with her new boyfriend, Danny. But all her plans turn inside out when someone from her past shows up at her doorstep -- with an engagement ring!?!

Eva swears the only guy she wants to be with is Danny, but he's starting to have doubts. So when she finds out the shocking truth about her father's identity, she has no one to turn to -- the guys are at each other's throats and her roommates are having a major catfight of their own.

Eva is about to make some tough choices...and if she's not careful, she may make the biggest mistake of her life.

Bling Addiction
by Kylie Adams

After a hot summer of partying in sexy South Beach, the fabulous five of the Miami Academy for Creative and Performing Arts are back in school but no less scandalous!

You met them in Cruel Summer: Vanity, the gorgeous celebutante; Dante, the hip-hop dreamer; Max, the second-generation Hollywood bad boy; Christina, the anime-obsessed Latina; and Pippa, the British hottie. Now, with a sex tape looming overhead and a very adult career happening in secret, you're about to get to know them better than ever.

But as out-of-control parties rage and dangerous connections form, the cool kids who thought they'd be friends forever are about to face the cold hard fact that they won't...because one of them will be dead by graduation day.

Wuthering High
by Cara Lockwood

Welcome to Bard Academy, where a group of supposedly troubled teens are about to get scared straight.

When Miranda, a slightly spoiled but spirited fifteen-year-old from Chicago, smashes up her father's car and goes to town with her stepmother's credit cards, she's shipped off to Bard Academy, a boarding school where she's supposed to learn to behave. Gothic and boring and strict, it's everything you'd expect of a reform school. But all is not what it seems at Bard....

For starters, Miranda's having horrific nightmares and the nearby woods are eerily impossible to navigate. The students' lives also start to mirror the classics they're reading -- tragic novels like Dracula, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. So Miranda begins to suspect that Bard is haunted -- by famous writers who took their own lives -- and she senses that not all of them are happy. Complicating things even more is the fact that Ryan Kent -- a cute, smart, funny basketball player who went to Miranda's old high school -- landed himself in Bard, too. And the attention he's showing Miranda is making some of the other girls white as ghosts. Something ghoulish is definitely brewing at Bard, and Miranda seems to be at the center of ominous events, but whether it's typical high school b.s. or otherworldly danger remains to be seen.

Adios to My Old Life
by Caridad Ferrer

Does a seventeen-year-old from Miami have what it takes to be the next big Latin superstar? And does she really want it?

As a talented singer-guitarist with a dream of going pro, Alegría Montero is getting fed up with the endless, boring parade of quinceañeras and other family party gigs. She's longing for something bigger. And Oye Mi Canto -- a new reality TV show that's searching for the next Latin superstar -- is definitely that. Ali figures she'll never make the cut, but auditioning seems like a good way to get her overprotective father to take her ambitions seriously.

To Ali's complete shock, she passes her audition. Next thing she knows, she's dealing with wardrobe fittings, cameras, reporters, vocal coaches, and websites designed by lovestruck fanboys. She's also dealing with jealousy, malice, and sabotage among the contestants, all of which has her wondering: Is it really time to shoot for the stars and try to win the whole competition, or is it time to say "Cut!" and become a normal teenager again?

Oh My Goth
by Gena Showalter

A fiercely individualist Goth girl wakes up to discover that the whole world has gone Goth and she's actually -- gag -- popular.

Jade Leigh is a nonconformist who values individuality above all else. She has a small group of like-minded Goth friends who wear black, dabble in the dark arts, and thrive outside the norm. They're considered the "freaks" of their high school. But when Jade's smart mouth lands her in trouble -- again -- her principal decides to teach her a lesson she'll never forget.

Taken to a remote location where she is strapped down and sedated, Jade wakes up in an alternate universe where she rules the school. But her best friends won't talk to her, and the people she used to hate are all Goth. Only Clarik, the mysterious new boy in town, operates outside all the cliques. And only Mercedes, the Barbie clone Jade loathes, believes that Jade's stuck in a virtual reality game -- because she's stuck there, too, now living the life of a "freak." Together, they realize they might never get back to reality...and that even if they do, things might never be the same.

The Pursuit of Happiness
by Tara Altebrando

These are the real five stages of grief: agitation, intoxication, experimentation, resignation, and reinvigoration.

Betsy knows that her summer job at a colonial village is going to ruin whatever slim chance she has of ever being popular. To make matters worse, Liza Henske, only the biggest freak from school -- piercings, tattoos, you name it -- works at the village, too. But when Betsy's mother dies, playing farm girl starts to feel like a great escape...from her shattered family, from the boyfriend who dumps her, from the friend group that goes poof.

Fortunately, Liza turns out not to be such a freak after all. And James -- a lanky surfer who works at the village -- has started carving Betsy things out of wood. Being with him is the only thing that makes her feel normal these days. That, and cutting images out of black paper like colonial silhouette artists did, which she knows must seem strange, but life seems very black and white lately...except for things with James, which are a million shades of gray.

Plan B
by Jenny O'Connell

Coast through senior year. Graduate. Travel around Europe. Join boyfriend out East for college.

That's the plan. Then the phone rings.

Vanessa has the next year of her life pretty much figured out. Sure, there's some parental convincing to do but she and her celebrity-obsessed gal pal Taylor pretty much think their plan is airtight.

Then Vanessa's parents get a mysterious phone call and drop a bombshell on her that she never could have imagined. She has a half brother. And he's coming to live with them.

If that wasn't bad enough, this half brother is none other than Hollywood bad boy Reed Vaughn. He's famous. He's going to be a senior, too. And he's going to ruin Vanessa's life for sure....

Life as a Poser
by Beth Killian

A new cell with the right area code. A sky's-the-limit credit card. A chance at becoming a Hollywood It Girl. What else could Eva possibly want?

Caught in the middle of senior year's juiciest scandal, Eva Cordes graduates early and moves to L.A. to live with her aunt -- the top talent agent for teens -- who plans to make her a star.

Eva has another reason for heading to Hollywood: it's time for her to get to know her mother -- a once-famous model who left Eva to be raised by her grandparents.

But when she gets stuck rooming with a bunch of outrageous teen starlets, and her mom doesn't want to admit she even has a daughter, Eva's life is one big tabloid story after another.

Smoking-hot Hollywood insider Danny wants to be her leading man, but he's officially off-limits. With all these complications, how can Eva ever make it down the red carpet without falling flat on her face?

Cruel Summer
by Kylie Adams

One gorgeous celebutante. One hip-hop dreamer. One second-generation Hollywood badboy. One anime-obsessed Latina. One British hottie....

They're five friends living the highlife in sexy South Beach, Miami. And one of them won't make it to graduation alive.

Life is fast and furious for these A-listers and their friends: the hottest bars, the hippest clubs, the coolest, most exclusive parties.

But not everybody loves this fabulous five from the Miami Academy for Creative and Performing Arts...and if they think they're untouchable, they're about to find out that they're wrong.

Dead wrong.

Bad Girls
by Alex McAulay

Thick with suspense and simmering with adolescent turmoil, Bad Girls is an action-adventure survival story that pits a group of troubled teens against a forbidding tropical landscape, an elusive enemy, and, worst of all, each other. It's Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies, and it marks the debut of an innovative new voice in fiction.

Anna Wheeler's parents have had it up to here. They can't seem to control their daughter anymore and so, one night, Anna's yanked from her bed and carted off to Camp Archstone — bootcamp for troubled teen girls. There, on a vast, remote, sparsely populated island, Anna will be expected to change her ways and repent for the sins her religious father just can't seem to forgive. Here's a hint: There's a boy involved. No, a man.

Life at Camp Archstone is Anna's worst nightmare. Every minute of the day is scheduled, the counselors are hardcore, and one girl is crueler than the next. But when a grueling hike into the forest goes horribly wrong, things go from bad to worse. Stalked by an unknown foe and left to fend for themselves, the girls band together to try to find their way back to civilization — and that's when the real trouble begins.