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I recently had the privilege of interviewing Densie (not Denise) Webb. I first met her more than a dozen years ago when she was an editor and I a writer for the award winning nutrition newsletter, Environmental Nutrition Newsletter.

Webb has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor, specializing in health and nutrition, and has published several books and tons of articles on the topic over the years. A member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and SheWrites, her debut novel titled, “You’ll Be Thinking of Me,” was released as an ebook this past January by Soul Mate Publishing. A paperback and an audiobook will be released later this year.

A member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and SheWrites, Webb grew up in Louisiana, spent 13 years in New York, and settled in Austin, Texas, where it’s summer nine months out of the year.

Webb describes herself as an avid walker (not of the dead variety, though she loves anything to do with zombies, vampires or post-apocalyptic worlds), and as someone who drinks too much coffee. She also has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes and has arrested development in musical tastes (her two children provide her with musical recommendations on a regular basis).

When I learned Webb had written a novel, I jumped at the chance to pick her brain about it and about making the switch from writing about health and nutrition to writing fiction (something I’m now pursing as well). Webb was kind enough to indulge me. Here are some highlights from our recent email interview.

EZ: What inspired you to even think about writing an adult novel, especially after being a writer and editor for so long?

DW: I can’t say that there was any one trigger. It just really appealed to me. I love to read and go crazy over lovely passages and well put together similes, metaphors and analogies. Basically, I love words. I just had a real need to do it myself.

EZ: What were the first steps you took to learn about fiction writing? Did you learn on your own, take any classes, or do a combination of things to get started?

DW: With my novel, “You’ll Be Thinking of Me,” it was a 5-year process with a very steep learning curve. I have a completed novel in the drawer that came before. It’s embarrassing to read now, but I have been thinking about pulling it out and seeing if I can make it better.

EZ: How did you come up with the idea for your novel?

DW: I’ve long been fascinated by celebrities’ lives. Not in a Kim Kardashian sort of way, but in a horrifying how-can-they-live-like-that sort of way. It’s like rubbernecking to view a car wreck. I can’t turn away. Anyway, I saw this interview with a young actor several years ago. He was incredibly popular and everywhere he went there were hoards of screaming girls and women. The interviewer asked him where did he think it would all go from here. He chuckled and made a blithe comment about someone jumping out of the crowd and stabbing him, ending it all.  It just really struck me how vulnerable celebrities are and it was the seed of an idea for the story.

EZ: Did you do any special kind of research for your book?

DW: I knew nothing about stalking, other than what I had seen in movies, so I started researching. I Googled it, of course, and found textbooks, articles, memoirs of victims, and court records on stalking. Some were specifically about celebrity stalkers. I interviewed a psychologist who had worked on celebrity stalking cases, testified in court and had interviewed the stalker in a well-known case. He was gracious enough to speak with me for 45 minutes. I read a couple of his textbooks in advance and he provided some terrific insight.

EZ: What has been the easiest thing about writing fiction for you so far?

DW: I remember when I first considered writing fiction, I complained to a friend that I knew absolutely nothing about writing dialogue and I wondered how I could possibly do it. It turns out that dialogue is my strong point. It seems to come fairly easily to me without sounding stiff or unnatural—at least that what my critiquers say.

EZ: What has been the most challenging thing about writing fiction for you so far?

DW: Where do I start? For me, writing is easier than storytelling and you have to learn to be a teller of stories that hang together from beginning to end, to write a novel. Before this, I seldom wrote things that were longer than maybe 5,000 words. My novel is 95,200 words. Big difference.

EZ: How did you go about getting an agent/publisher for your novel?

DW: I queried and queried and queried. And I got what have been called “rave rejections.” Complimentary and encouraging, but in the end it was a “no.” One agent said something to the effect that she was sure I would find representation elsewhere, “elsewhere” being the operative word. In the end I found a small publisher without an agent. The publisher thought my story was “compelling” and I was and am a happy camper.

EZ: Do you write at specific times or in specific places or does it change depending on the day/how do you arrange your writing schedule—and how do you divide fiction writing time with the other writing/editing projects?

DW: I don’t have specific times. I’m afraid I’m not that disciplined. And my day job often gets in the way or drains my brainpower so that there’s not much left for fiction writing. Because I work at home, I prefer a change of scenery, so a couple of times a week I go to a coffee shop and write. Right now, I’m thinking of taking a couple of days off, going to a small town about 45 minutes from here and having a one-woman writing retreat.

EZ: What advice/suggestions would you give to anyone who is considering writing a book/fiction, especially if they aren’t writers or work in a completely different field that doesn’t require much writing/creative writing?

DW: I don’t have any original advice, but read as much as you can, especially in the genre you’re interested in writing in. Read and absorb everything you can on the craft of writing and editing fiction. There are tons of books out there, but among the best are anything by Donald Maass, Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Also, attend conferences and workshops if you can. If traveling and expensive registration fees are not an option, there are some good ones online that are much more affordable. And look for local critique groups to get unbiased feedback.

EZ: Any advice for writers like us who want to try their hand at a completely different kind of writing?

DW: It’s a tall order, but you have to sort of shed most of what you’ve learned about sentence structure and order. Science writing, like I do for my day job, is devoid of emotion, an unbiased representation of the facts. Fiction writing is the total opposite. Your job as a writer is have readers see the world from the characters’ totally biased point of view and even understand and empathize with, all the while creating your own writing “voice.”

EZ: How can people find your book (which I will read as soon as the hardcover/softcover is available; I can’t do digital)?

DW: Right now it’s available as an ebook on amazon (Barnes & Noble to follow) with a paperback due out later this year. An audiobook is also in production and should be available in April.

You can learn more about Webb and all her terrific work by visiting her website.

Image of book cover courtesy of Fiona Jayde.

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I recently shared with you a Q and A about All the Bright Places and its fantastic author, Jennifer Niven. You can read it in its entirety right here.

Here's Part Two to help you learn more about Jennifer, whether you're a fan, an aspiring writer, or both.

Favorite color: Purple—especially lavender and, of course, violet!

Favorite book(s) and/or authors: My favorite book is probably In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, though I also love To Kill a Mockingbird. My favorite author of all was my mother, Penelope Niven, but I’m wild about Flannery O’Connor. I also adore Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, the Brontë sisters, David Levithan, Laurie Halse Anderson, and I have a particiular fondness and admiration for British YA authors—Phil Earle, Louise Rennison, Melvin Burgess, and a slew of others.

The last movie you saw and loved: This is the End, which I recently rewatched for the millionth time with friends. I think it’s genius, and it makes me laugh from beginning to end.

What you would do for a living if you didn’t write: I’d be an international rock star detective (the thing I dreamed about being when I was little), a Broadway actress/dancer, a forensic anthropologist, or an archaeologist.

Where you’ll be professionally and personally in 5 years: I want to write many, many more YA books, another nonfiction book for adults, and, down the line, another adult novel or two, including an idea my mom intended on writing but never got the chance to. I’d like to write it for her. I’d like to see my books turned into movies. I’d also love it if one of them was turned into a Broadway musical a la Wicked. If that ever happens, I want a really juicy cameo (one that doesn’t require me to sing). In terms of where I’d like to be personally, I’d love to own a lovely house in LA but also split my time with London or Paris as long as my fiancé and three literary cats can come with me. Oh, and I want to realize my childhood dream of owning an animal rescue organization where all the homeless animals in the world can come live.

Favorite place/way to write: My favorite place to write is my office. It is stuffed with bookshelves and books and souvenirs I’ve collected throughout my career and my travels (not to mention my three literary cats and my computer, which is what I almost always compose on). I call it the nerve center of our home. It’s where magic happens. But when I’m deep into a project, I tend to write everywhere—I get ideas while driving or working out or spending time with friends or doing errands. I record them on my phone or write them down on any piece of scrap paper I can find. My mind is always writing, long after I’ve left my desk.

Hardest part about writing for you: Plotting/outlining and the middles of books. I hate the middles and mine are always too long and meandering. (EZ note: I disagree. All the Bright Places is brilliant from start to finish!)

Anything else you want to share about yourself with readers: I’ve lost so many people in my life—my father, my beloved grandparents, cousins, friends, mentors, cats, and, most recently, my mom, who was my very best friend. So much loss. But through it, I try to focus on something Violet realizes in the book: it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave. Every person I’ve lost has left me so much, and I like to think I carry them with me. I’ve also learned the importance of wandering the world, making it lovely, and leaving something behind. Additionally, I know the words to every ABBA song and I’m a huge Supernatural fangirl.

Anything else you want to share about yourself with aspiring writers: When I was first starting out, the actress Madge Sinclair told me, “Writing, like any art form, takes soul stamina. You have to be prepared to commit to it, want it more than anything, honor your gifts, and stick it out through thick and thin.” I was lucky enough to grow up with a writer mom, so I saw firsthand how demanding and stressful and unpredictable the business is. I also saw the commitment it takes. I’m grateful for that because I think so many people go into the business of writing with unrealistic expectations—not realizing that it is, in fact, a business, and that you have to be ready and willing to do it in spite of everything else. My other advice is to write what inspires you. Write the thing you’re burning to write. Write what you love. Write the kind of book you’d like to read.

If I didn’t love Jennifer Niven’s words before (which I did), I love them even more now (which I do). How lucky am I to have had the opportunity to interview one of my writing heroes and share it with you?

To learn more about Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places, and all of her great work, check out her website.

Image of Jennifer Niven courtesy of Louis Kapeleris.

Subscribe to my Stressipes blog here.

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I recently came across an article in which an accomplished author said he tries not to read a great novel when he’s trying to write one himself.

Too late for me to follow that advice. Since July, I've been working on my very first young adult novel. As part of my research, I've read close to 30 books. And I love love loved (did I mention I loved?) Jennifer Niven’s latest title, her first for young adults, called All the Bright Places.

This book about a boy named Finch and a girl named Violet made me laugh, cry, and feel joy and pain all at the same time. With her story, told from alternating perspectives of Finch and Violet, Niven paints a beautiful picture of love, loss, hope, and despair. Probably every human emotion is covered so beautifully in its pages, and it was one of those books I didn’t want to put down and that I finished in a couple of days.

I don’t want to give away too much about the book, but from the first pages I was wrapped up in Finch and Violet’s story, which I felt was one of love, loss, and hope. I grew to care deeply for these characters. Of course the mother in me wanted to nurture and take care of them and guide their decisions. But like any parent will tell you, teenagers ultimately need to make many of their own decisions and find their own way in the world. So while reading All the Bright Places, instead of trying in my mind to steer the characters toward the light, I instead surrendered to being a mere passenger and bystander on their journey. It wasn’t always pleasant, but it was necessary.

In All the Bright Places, Niven has crafted a rich, beautiful, and deeply moving book that wrecked me—but in the best way possible. I am honored to have had the pleasure to interview her about the book and about writing in general via email. Here are highlights from our exchange:

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EZ: How did you come up with the title, All the Bright Places? When I read it, I immediately thought of the song, Looking for Love and its lyrics, “Looking for love in all the right places” and thought that made sense since at the heart of this book is an amazing love story.

JN: The book was originally titled You Make Me Lovely, but Random House worried that the word “lovely” might not appeal to male readers.  When they asked me to change it, I began searching for a new title in lines of poetry—I read everyone from Lord Byron to E.E. Cummings. I kept a very long list of possibilities, and was taking a break from my search when I spied Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! on my shelf.  As I read through it, I came across these lines: “Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.” And I thought about how that stanza related to Finch and, particularly, Violet. So my thought process went something like, “Bright Places… Find the Bright Places… The Bright Places… All the Bright Places.” It really grew on me, and I added it to my list, which I forwarded to my editor. Random House conducted an in-house poll, and that was the overwhelming favorite. In retrospect, I’m so happy we changed it!

EZ: You have an amazing body of work to your credit (including American Blonde, Becoming Clementine, Velva Jean Learns to Fly, and Velva Jean Learns to Drive as well as several nonfiction titles). How different an experience for you was writing All the Bright Places in terms of developing the voice and the characters? And did you do anything special to create what come across as authentic and strong voices for Finch, Violet and the other characters?

JN: I began writing the book the summer of 2013, and it only took six weeks to write. A lot of that had to do with the deadline I gave myself and also the fact that I once knew a boy much like Theodore Finch. When I first started writing, I didn’t let anyone know what I was working on, in case it didn’t go anywhere. I thought, I’ll just try to write a chapter and see what happens. And then I heard the first line of the book: Is today a good day to die? And I saw Finch standing on the ledge of his high school bell tower looking down at the ground and contemplating jumping. And suddenly there was a girl up there with him… Finch’s voice came out pretty much fully formed, as if he’d been waiting for me to write him. Violet took a bit more work, but for the most part, the writing of the story just flowed. I like to say it’s the book I’ve been carrying around inside of me for some time, but didn’t put on paper until 2013. As for writing the other teens in the book, I think it helps that part of me is and always will be fifteen. My best friend from high school is still my best friend, and when we’re together we’re teenagers again. J

EZ: How challenging and important was it for you to write Finch’s character with regards to his emotional state/challenges? Did you consult with any mental health experts e.g. psychologists or psychiatrists as part of your research?

JN: While I did do some research into mental illness/depression—which included speaking with experts—it was the experience of knowing and loving this boy I mentioned that informed my writing the most. In so many ways, I really just wrote the story I knew. Years ago, I knew and loved a boy, and that boy was bipolar. I witnessed up-close the highs and lows, the Awake and the Asleep, and I saw his daily struggle with the world and with himself. The experience was life changing.  Back then, I didn’t talk about it, but it’s important to talk about. I experienced firsthand the stigma associated with mental disorders—both from his perspective and from mine—and I realized that we need to make people feel safe enough to come forward and say, “I have a problem.  I need help.”  If we don’t talk about suicide or depression or mental illness, how can we expect anyone to reach out for help when they need it most? A young writer asked me recently, “How did you write All the Bright Places without crying over it?” The answer is that I did cry while writing it, but I also knew that it was okay to cry because that meant I was tapping into all of the emotion that was going to help me write what I needed to write. As for Violet, she is struggling with loss, and that is something I know too well. I’ve lost both my parents, all four grandparents, and numerous other family members and friends, so loss is something I know inside and out.

EZ: What made you decide to tell the story from both Finch and Violet’s perspectives? Did you know you’d do that from the beginning and did you write their stories separately and merge them together or write them chronologically or some other way?

JN: So many times I read a novel from one character’s perspective, and I find myself wondering about one of the other characters—what it’s like in this person’s head or that person’s head. It’s almost as if I’m being told the story in mono, when I want to hear it in stereo. When I sat down to write All the Bright Places, I heard Finch’s voice right away, and out came the first chapter. But I knew I wanted to write from Violet’s POV too, especially because she has to carry the story through to the end. As for the writing, I wrote the book chronologically, alternating between their voices as I went.

EZ: You’re getting incredible feedback and accolades about this book. It’s absolutely one of my favorites and you and it deserve high praise. I won’t give away the ending of the book, but I will say it tore my heart. Did you ever question how the book would end or play with alternative endings, though I do feel that the way it ended was very true to both characters.

JN: Thank you so much! That means a lot to me. I never questioned how All the Bright Places would end. I knew in my bones that the only ending could be the one I wrote, not just because too many stories about teen mental health are tied up in neat little packages with bows on top, but because it’s the ending I lived with the real-life Finch. Once again, it was the story I knew.

EZ: As a former major in psychology, I appreciate your extensive resource lists at the end of the book for suicide prevention, diagnosing mental health in teens, survivors, bullying, and abuse. Any you’d like to share with my readers?

JN: There are so many terrific resources, both national and international, a number of which are listed on my website and on the Germ Magazine links page. But I also want to mention Too Damn Young and Lauren’s Place, both of which are attempting to raise awareness and build community for young people in need.

EZ: Thanks so much for answering all my questions. In closing, can you describe in one sentence how you felt when you finished writing and editing the book?

JN: I felt spent, elated, depleted, full, proud, grateful, and deeply, wonderfully peaceful.

Image of Jennifer Niven courtesy of Louis Kapeleris.

You can learn more about Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places (which will be made into a movie starring Elle Fanning, woot!) and all her other great work on her website. You can also follow her on twitter (@jenniferniven), on Instagram (JenniferNiven), and on Facebook (Jennifer Niven).

Stay tuned for Part Two of my interview with Jennifer Niven coming soon.

Subscribe to my Stressipes blog here.

 

 

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Think 'processed' means bad for you? Processed foods can help you meet your food group quotas and nutrient needs. Check out nine processed foods that I and other RD experts recommend on EatThis.com.

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Can you eat just one cookie? I know I can. This is something I taught myself to do. It wasn't easy at first, but once I gave myself permission to eat what I like and really taste and savor it, it made it that much easier to stop at just one.

Eat this, Not That asked me to weigh in on this question. Check out my response here.

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According to the latest Stress in America Survey conducted annually by the America Psychological Association, average stress levels have decreased since 2007. Despite this downward trend, many Americans say they continue to struggle to achieve their healthy living goals and that stress adversely affects their eating and sleeping habits.

The survey also finds that money is a tremendous cause of stress in America. Nearly one third of adults report that their finances or lack of money prevent them from living a healthy lifestyle.

Among women, those who have high stress related to money are more likely to report sedentary or unhealthy behaviors than women with low stress about money. Compared with women with low money-related stress, those with high money-related stress report watching television/movies for more than two hours per day (55 percent vs. 38 percent), surfing the Internet (57 percent vs. 34 percent), napping/sleeping (41 percent vs. 23 percent), eating (40 percent vs. 19 percent), drinking alcohol (21 percent vs. 9 percent) or smoking (19 percent vs. 7 percent).

Women who say their stress about money is high also are significantly more likely than women who say they have low stress about money to rate their health as fair or poor (34 percent vs. 13 percent).

Among all adults, about one third report eating too much or eating unhealthy foods over the last month in response to stress.

Can you relate to any or all of the above?

Stress is an inevitable part of all our lives. Finding ways to cope with stress in a healthful way is essential to preserve both health and sanity. Easier said than done, I know, but critical if you want to look and feel your best and optimize your overall health.

While there’s no one size fits all approach to managing stress, my book, Younger Next Week (Harlequin Nonfiction) is a tool you can use to move towards more balance in your life, especially in the face of stress. The book has an anti-aging twist, but really it’s about promoting vitality and managing stress among women. (Even some men have said that the book has helped them establish more healthful food and fitness habits).

In the book, I describe several ways stress affects our habits—e.g. it makes us overeat, eat late at night, over-caffeinate, or even drink too much alcohol); then I provide solutions including Stressipes® (remedies to help you overcome the negative effects stress has on your food, fitness, and lifestyle behaviors).

Younger Next Week also includes a Vitality Plan complete with food lists, easy-to-follow menus, and delicious recipes created by Robyn Webb. The book has been honored with three awards (Winner, 2014 USA Best Book Award, and two National Health Information Awards of Merit) and I hope it will help you and the women in your life learn to nurture and care for yourselves, especially in the face or wake of stress, and to not just survive it but thrive in spite of it.

To learn more about Younger Next Week, click here.

For more on stress management, check out some great resources by the American Psychological Association here.

How do you handle stress in a positive and productive way?

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If you enjoyed Super Bowl Sunday a little too much --one too many chicken wings or handfuls of chips smothered with guacamole or cheese, no need to feel guilty about one day of overindulging, if you otherwise have a balanced and nutrient-rich diet.

This is how to get back on track after Super Bowl Sunday, or any day you overeat or make less than healthy food choices...read more here on Today.com.

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Since 2015 is here, I thought I’d put together a list of some great ideas to help you help your kids eat better during the upcoming year.

Don’t worry—I’m not suggesting any kind of complete dietary overhaul. But I do recommend all of these no-fuss strategies suggested by some top dietitians to help move kids’ diets and habits in a more healthful direction. Read more here on Parents.com.

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I’ll admit it. I’ve been bingeing lately. Not on chocolate or cookies (not that there’s anything wrong with that, lol). But on books. Young adult books. Works of fiction. I can’t help myself.

In another installment of Books I Love on my Stressipes® blog, I thought I’d share my thoughts about a few recent reads. Warning: Most are about love and relationships, and other things that lend urgency and drama to childhood. I’m a sucker for it all. If you're not, stop right now. If you might be or are, read on.

While most of these titles are aimed at teens, I know each of them resonated with me. My guess is that they’ll appeal to people of all ages who enjoy realistic fiction with all the drama typical of adolescence.

So without further ado, here are seven titles I think are worth talking about. Some are new, while others have been around for a while. (No spoilers, I promise!)

1. Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli. This was the first book I read during my current binge. Although it’s not considered a young adult book, I read it to my husband husband over the course of a few drives last summer as our 12-year-old read it as part of his summer reading for school. Milkweed is about a little orphan boy who flies (mostly solo) through Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II the best way he knew how. The book simultaneously devastated me while filling my heart with love and hope. The book got under my skin, probably because I had family members who survived or were killed in the Holocaust. To this day, I think of the protagonist, Misha Pilsudsky. And my husband, son and I still bring him up in conversation from time to time. He inspires all of us. I loved the story so much but could not read the last page aloud without crying. Not just a drip or two, but a full out cry. It was that brilliant and moving.

Favorite lines: pages 207-208

“My daughter does not pester me with questions. She knows everything that I told her mother, which means everything but Janina. All those years of talking, all those street corners—I kept my sister to myself.

One time Katherine said to me, “Are you ever going to tell me why you named her Janina?”

“Someday,” I said.”

2. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I hope that Rowell (who doesn’t know me, by the way) doesn't think I’m a stalker because I’m always posting tweets about her/this book. What can I say? A) I loved this book SO much, and B) We authors need to support one another (not that Rowell needs my help, lol). But back to the book: As a girl who grew up in suburbia the mid 1980’s, I could relate to Eleanor and Park in so many ways. The school bus. The mixtapes. the music. The neighborhood. I related especially to the story of young love and of falling in love. The characters are so beautifully written—I could see each of them in my mind. They are fully formed. And not just the main characters, but ALL of them including their parents and school friends (and enemies). I cannot wait to see this book on the big screen (thankfully, Rowell is writing the screenplay).

Favorite lines: pages 113 and 132

Eleanor: “Are you sure you want them to meet me?”

Park: “Yes,” he said. “I want everyone to meet you. You’re my favorite person of all time.”

--

“But Park’s face was like art. And not weird, ugly art either. Park had the sort of face you painted because you didn’t want history to forget it."

3. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. I hadn’t even heard of this extremely successful author until I saw this movie last spring. I loved so much about the book including the unfolding of a love story between two teens (one struck with terminal cancer) and thoughtful discussions about the meaning of life e.g. is it better to be loved (but not really known) by many or deeply loved by a few? The unique story and endearing characters made this book so appealing to me. And it made me want to learn how to write in a way that also moves people. It really moved me. I hope to someday be in touch with him to personally thank him for inspiring me to carve a new professional path for myself!

Favorite lines: pages 31-32:

“I liked Augustus Waters. I really really really liked him. I liked the way his story ended with someone else. I liked his voice. I liked that he took existentially fraught free throws. I liked that he was a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment in the Department of Having a Voice That Made My Skin Feel More Like Skin.”

4. I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson. I’m sure like Rowell, Nelson (who also does not know me) doesn't think I’m a stalker because I tweet to/about her so much. But I can’t help but share my love for this unbelievable book. I might otherwise burst! The book tells the story of Noah and Jude, twins, and the story unfolds going back and forth between Noah, at age 13, and Jude, at age 16. Everything about this book is EXTRAORDINARY and BRILLIANT. I can’t say enough about it. It’s like a gigantic poem with the most interesting and imaginative characters. Nelson does an unbelievable job allowing the reader to picture every movement in the main characters’ lives and every thought in their minds. The book lives on my bookshelf and I sometimes pick it up just to reread a few pages just because. It makes me feel a million different emotions all at once. The only real problem with the book is that it sets the bar SO high for all other YA books—or all other books, for that matter. It is simply BEYOND.

Favorite lines: pages 7 and 215

(told from Noah’s perspective): “Mom smiles at Jude and puts her hands on the table. I put mine on the table too, then realize I’m being a Mom-mirror and hide my hands in my lap. Mom’s contagious.”

--

(told from Jude’s perspective): “He’s looking at me in that way of his that should be illegal or patented and it’s affecting my ability to remember things like my name or my species and all the reasons a girl might go on a boy strike.”

5.     Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins. This book was delightful. I really loved the story about Anna, a 17-year-old who’s forced by her parents to spend her senior year of high school in Paris. Sounds ideal, I know, but Anna was not on board with leaving her school, her life, her friends, and her hot crush to go somewhere where she knew no one. That is until she falls for someone. I won’t give the story away, but I will say that I love Perkins’ writing style. It's rich, sweet and satisfying like a warm cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream.

Favorite lines: page 42

“I spend the rest of lunch in a stall. I miss home so much that it physically hurts. My head throbs, my stomach is nauseous, and it’s all so unfair. I never asked to be sent here. I had my own friends and my own inside jokes and my own stolen kisses. I wish my parents had offered me the choice: “Would you like to spend your senior year in Atlanta or Paris?”

Who knows, maybe I would have picked Paris.

What my parents never considered is that I just wanted a choice.”

6.     Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins. I finished this book today and loved it. It’s so engaging and so enjoyable, and I had trouble putting it down—especially after reading Anna and the French Kiss (see 5!) in which Isla and Josh, the main characters in this book, are introduced). Isla goes to private school in France and spends summers in New York City. When her crush who recently broke up with his girlfriend enters the picture, things change—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Perkins does a great job fleshing out each character and crafting an enticing and believable story. And the cameos by Josh’s friends (some of whom star in Anna and the French Kiss) are an amazing and welcome element in this story about love, romance, and possibilities.

Favorite lines, page 45

“I think he likes me. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but I do know that it doesn’t matter anymore. It can’t matter. In physics, I feel his stare—a string as delicate and gossamer as a spider’s web, gently tugging at the back of my skull. I imagine snipping it loose with a pair of sharp scizzors. I don’t know if he’ll try to talk to me after class, and I don’t know what I should say if he does.”

7. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. This book was very very sweet and I loved how unsent love letters to crushes are the story’s thread. Han writes in a best-friend kind of way that makes you want to continue on. She paints a vivid picture of The Song sisters and the love and complexity of such relationships. I never had a sister but I imagine Han’s portrayal of the Song sisters would resonate with many. Another reason I love the book? Josh...

Favorite lines: page 87

“Who’s the guy?”

“What guy?”

“The guy you’re dating?”

That’s when I see him. Peter Kavinsky, walking down the hallway. Like magic. Beautiful, dark-haired Peter. He deserves background music, he looks so good. “Peter. Kavinsky. Peter Kavinsky!” The bell rings, and I sail past Josh. “I’ve gotta go! Talk later, Josh!””

What are your favorite young adult books?

Thanks for indulging me! Coming soon: another 7 recent YA reads I've loved.

If you have a published young adult book and would like to share it with me for possible mention/review on my blog, please email me at elisa@elisazied.com.

About me: I'm a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of 4 nutrition books. I'm also a speaker, spokesperson, and freelance writer and have my own Parents.com blog called The Scoop on Food. Currently trying my hand at fiction, I'm writing my first young adult novel. Let's connect about all things nutrition, food, and books at @elisazied and @ezwriternyc on Twitter and at Elisa Zied on Facebook. I'm also on Instagram (Elisa Zied).

 

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Posted on December 15, 2014

I’ll admit it. I’ve been bingeing lately. Not on chocolate or cookies (not that there’s anything wrong with that, lol). But on books. Young adult books. Works of fiction. I can’t help myself. In another installment of Books I Love on my Stressipes® blog, I thought I’d share my thoughts about a few recent reads. Warning: Most are about love and relationships, and other things that lend urgency and drama to childhood. I’m a sucker for it all.

While most of these titles are aimed at teens, I know each of them resonated with me. My guess is that they’ll appeal to people of all ages who enjoy realistic fiction with all the drama typical of adolescence.

So without further ado, here are seven titles I think are worth talking about. Some are new, while others have been around for a while. (No spoilers, I promise!)

1. Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli. This was the first book I read during my current binge. Although it’s not considered a young adult book, I read it to my husband husband over the course of a few drives last summer as our 12-year-old read it as part of his summer reading for school. Milkweed is about a little orphan boy who flies (mostly solo) through Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II the best way he knew how. The book simultaneously devastated me while filling my heart with love and hope. The book got under my skin, probably because I had family members who survived or were killed in the Holocaust. To this day, I think of the protagonist, Misha Pilsudsky. And my husband, son and I still bring him up in conversation from time to time. He inspires all of us. I loved the story so much but could not read the last page aloud without crying. Not just a drip or two, but a full out cry. It was that brilliant and moving.

Favorite lines: pages 207-208

“My daughter does not pester me with questions. She knows everything that I told her mother, which means everything but Janina. All those years of talking, all those street corners—I kept my sister to myself.

One time Katherine said to me, “Are you ever going to tell me why you named her Janina?”

“Someday,” I said.”

2. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I hope that Rowell (who doesn’t know me, by the way) doesn't think I’m a stalker because I’m always posting tweets about her/this book. What can I say? A) I loved this book SO much, and B) We authors need to support one another (not that Rowell needs my help, lol). But back to the book: As a girl who grew up in suburbia the mid 1980’s, I could relate to many elements of the book. Especially to the story of young love and of falling in love. The characters are so beautifully written—I could see each of them in my mind. They are fully formed. And not just the main characters, but ALL of them including their parents and school friends (and enemies). I cannot wait to see this book on the big screen (thankfully, Rowell is writing the screenplay).

Favorite lines: pages 113 and 132

Eleanor: “Are you sure you want them to meet me?”

Park: “Yes,” he said. “I want everyone to meet you. You’re my favorite person of all time.”

--

“But Park’s face was like art. And not weird, ugly art either. Park had the sort of face you painted because you didn’t want history to forget it."

3. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. I hadn’t even heard of this extremely successful author until I saw this movie last spring. I loved so much about the book including the unfolding of a love story between two teens (one struck with terminal cancer) and thoughtful discussions about the meaning of life e.g. is it better to be loved (but not really known) by many or deeply loved by a few? The unique story and endearing characters made this book so appealing to me. And it made me want to learn how to write in a way that also moves people. It really moved me. I hope to someday be in touch with him to personally thank him for inspiring me to carve a new professional path for myself!

Favorite lines: pages 31-32:

“I liked Augustus Waters. I really really really liked him. I liked the way his story ended with someone else. I liked his voice. I liked that he took existentially fraught free throws. I liked that he was a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment in the Department of Having a Voice That Made My Skin Feel More Like Skin.”

4. I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson. I’m sure like Rowell, Nelson (who also does not know me) doesn't think I’m a stalker because I tweet to/about her so much. But I can’t help but share my love for this unbelievable book. I might otherwise burst! The book tells the story of Noah and Jude, twins, and the story unfolds going back and forth between Noah, at age 13, and Jude, at age 16. Everything about this book is EXTRAORDINARY and BRILLIANT. I can’t say enough about it. It’s like a gigantic poem with the most interesting and imaginative characters. Nelson does an unbelievable job allowing the reader to picture every movement in the main characters’ lives and every thought in their minds. The book lives on my bookshelf and I sometimes pick it up just to reread a few pages just because. It makes me feel a million different emotions all at once. The only real problem with the book is that it sets the bar SO high for all other YA books—or all other books, for that matter. It is simply BEYOND.

Favorite lines: pages 7 and 215

(told from Noah’s perspective): “Mom smiles at Jude and puts her hands on the table. I put mine on the table too, then realize I’m being a Mom-mirror and hide my hands in my lap. Mom’s contagious.”

--

(told from Jude’s perspective): “He’s looking at me in that way of his that should be illegal or patented and it’s affecting my ability to remember things like my name or my species and all the reasons a girl might go on a boy strike.”

5.     Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins. This book was delightful. I really loved the story about Anna, a 17-year-old who’s forced by her parents to spend her senior year of high school in Paris. Sounds ideal, I know, but Anna was not on board with leaving her school, her life, her friends, and her hot crush to go somewhere where she knew no one. That is until she falls for someone. I won’t give the story away, but I will say that I love Perkins’ writing style is rich, sweet and satisfying like a warm cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream.

 

Favorite lines: page 42

“I spend the rest of lunch in a stall. I miss home so much that it physically hurts. My head throbs, my stomach is nauseous, and it’s all so unfair. I never asked to be sent here. I had my own friends and my own inside jokes and my own stolen kisses. I wish my parents had offered me the choice: “Would you like to spend your senior year in Atlanta or Paris?”

Who knows, maybe I would have picked Paris.

What my parents never considered is that I just wanted a choice.”

 

  1. 6.     Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins. I finished this book today and loved it. It’s so engaging, so enjoyable, and I had trouble putting it down—especially after reading Anna and the French Kiss (another Perkins book that I finished last week in which Isla and Josh, the main characters in this book, are introduced). Isla goes to private school in France and spends summers in New York City. When her crush who recently broke up with his girlfriend enters the picture, things change—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Perkins does a great job fleshing out each character and unfolding the story. And the cameos by Josh’s friends (many of whom are main characters in Anna and the French Kiss) are an amazing and welcome element in this story about love, romance, and possibilities.

 

Favorite lines, page 45

“I think he likes me. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but I do know that it doesn’t matter anymore. It can’t matter. In physics, I feel his stare.—a string as delicate and gossamer as a spider’s web, gently tugging at the back of my skull. I imagine snipping it loose with a pair of sharp scizzors. I don’t know if he’ll try to talk to me after class, and I don’t know what I should say if he does.”

 

7. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. This book was very sweet and I loved how unsent love letters to crushes are the story’s thread. Han writes in a best-friend kind of way that makes you want to continue on. She painted a vivid picture of The Song sisters and the love and complexity of such relationships. I never had a sister but I imagine Han’s portrayal of the Song sisters would resonate with many. And then there’s Josh…

 

Favorite lines: page 87

“Who’s the guy?”

“What guy?”

“The guy you’re dating?”

That’s when I see him. Peter Kavinsky, walking down the hallway. Like magic. Beautiful, dark-haired Peter. He deserves background music, he looks so good. “Peter. Kavinsky. Peter Kavinsky!” The bell rings, and I sail past Josh. “I’ve gotta go! Talk later, Josh!””

What are your favorite young adult books?

Thanks for indulging me! Coming soon: another 7 titles of my recent YA reads.

If you have a published young adult book and would like to share it with me for possible mention/review on my blog, please email me at elisa@elisazied.com.

 

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