Interview With Rachel Shane, Author of Alice in Wonderland High

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Sixteen-year-old Alice just can’t find a way to be free. Her parents are environmental activists, whose cringe-worthy public protests might involve chaining themselves to a fence and pleading  with passersby to “Save the World. Save Alice!” It’s not that Alice doesn’t believe there’s work to be done. But after a petition to start a farmer’s market meets with more snickers than signatures, she figures she should shut up instead of speaking out. At least, that is, until she can find something that feels real. Then along comes Whitney Lapin, a girl who speaks in cryptic riddles and spends her free time turning abandoned warehouses into beautiful gardens. Charismatic Whitney leads Alice on a rabbit trail into the underground–aka secret society–of Wonderland High. Curiouser and curiouser.  

Alice is in wonderland! Even though Whitney’s group of teenage environmental vigilantes operates on the wrong side of the law, with them, Alice is finally free to be herself. She stomps on her good girl image by completing a series of environmental pranks to impress the new group: flooding the school and disguising a pig as a baby in order to smuggle it out of a testing facility. She wants to trust them, and she especially wants to trust (or maybe kiss) Chester Katz, a boy with a killer smile, a penchant for disappearing, and a secret that will turn Alice’s world backwards. But then, one of the young vigilantes tries to frame Alice for all the pranks, and she must figure out their secret before she ends up in front of a jury screaming, “Off with her head!”


I was lucky enough (thanks to Nori, the coordinator of our Sunday Street team) to have the opportunity to interview Rachel! Keep reading to get to know a little bit about Rachel and her new book.

  1. What made you choose to write YA fiction as opposed to writing children’s, middle grade, or adult fiction?

The simple answer is because I started writing while in high school and never stopped writing about that time period. Even though I’m solidly an adult now (apparently marriage and a child does that to you), I still feel like I relate better to teens. Most TV shows I watch are centered around teens. I love getting to experience all these firsts–first love, first big decision, etc.–again vicariously through my characters.

 

  1. What inspired you to write Alice in Wonderland High?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always been a favorite book of mine. When news came out that Tim Burton was doing an adaptation, I had the urge to re-read the original book. At the same time, I was trying to write an outline about a girl who does ecotage for a quasi-secret society. As I was reading Alice, I realized her main goal in the original was to get inside the beautiful garden, and that every beat in the story could be reworked to meet that goal from an environmentalism standpoint. I also loved the idea of making her main ally from the original–the cheshire cat–into the love interest since all retellings I’d read focused on the Mad Hatter.

  1. What do you think is key to creating a believable yet interesting character?

I think the key lies in what the character wants and what they do to get it. Characters who want something desperately and go to extreme measures to get it are interesting. And they become believable when the reader gets invested in seeing them meet their goal. Humor also helps!

 

4.What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a novel?

Everyone always says middles are difficult but I have a much harder time with endings. Specifically with Act 3. I had to rewrite the Act 3 of Alice in Wonderland High from scratch more than once because I’d written myself in the wrong direction. A particular challenge with this book was finding a good balance between recognizable items from the original but also making the characters and plot my own.

 

  1. The main character in your book, Alice, discovers a secret underground society in her high school. If you had the opportunity to make your own secret society, what kind of society would it be?

What a great question. I’d love to create a secret society of writer vigilantes who go around turning reluctant readers into avid ones.

 

  1. What do you do to relax yourself on days when you’re feeling very stressed?

I binge-watch every show that airs on TV that isn’t a medical, crime, or law procedural. But writing is also my main form of relaxation. I also have a 2.5-year-old who keeps me on my toes. We have a lot of tea parties.

 

  1. What is the last book you finished reading?

BONE DRY by my critique partner, Cady Vance. A fabulous paranormal YA.

 

  1. What activities do you like to do in your free time?

My free time is very limited these days but mostly I like to write, read, watch TV, and buy cute shoes I don’t need.

Thanks so much to Nori and Rachel for this awesome interview! If you’re interested in buying this book, then you’d be happy to know that Alice in Wonderland High is available for pre-order now. Click here to place your order through Amazon, or here to do it through Barnes and Noble.

Also, enter this giveaway to win an annotated hard-cover copy of Alice in Wonderland High!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Rachel Shane studied Creative Writing at Syracuse University and now works in digital publishing at in New York City. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and a basement full of books. This is her first novel.

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Neverland by Shari Arnold (Review)

Neverland

Neverland by Shari Arnold

Release date: April 7th 2015

Obtained from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

My rating:

Goodreads summary:

It’s been four months since seventeen-year-old Livy Cloud lost her younger sister, but she isn’t quite ready to move on with her life — not even close. She’d rather spend her time at the Seattle Children’s hospital, reading to the patients and holding onto memories of the sister who was everything to her and more.

But when she meets the mysterious and illusive Meyer she is drawn into a world of adventure, a world where questions abound.

Is she ready to live life without her sister? Or more importantly, is she brave enough to love again?

In this modern reimagining of Peter Pan, will Livy lose herself to Neverland or will she find what she’s been searching for?


 

I stare out the window as we cut across town, focused on the reflection of a girl whose eyes are still slightly red but bright and the boy sitting next to her who occasionally glances in her direction. I don’t know this girl. She looks like me- she has the same hazel eyes and strawberry blonde hair- but she definitely doesn’t act like me. I would never get on a bus with a strange boy. I would never go out into the night in pursuit of an adventure. No. I don’t recognize this girl, but I want to be her. I like the way I feel right now, how each and every breath I take is spreading throughout my body like a wildfire, not trapped, as it usually is, below the heavy feeling in my chest. It’s been a while since I felt like I could breathe freely.

I was a little wary of this book at first, because my experience with lesser known authors hasn’t been very good lately. I was so pleasantly surprised for several reasons, however, when I finally picked it up. One of the aspects of this book that I really did not anticipate was its emotional intensity. As someone who has a sister the same age as the protagonist’s sister, I could connect very strongly to her pain. Livy’s struggle to let go of her sister and begin the healing process made me tear up on several occasions because I could imagine myself in that same situation.

Even though this is a fantasy novel and it contains magic and other fantastical elements, its themes were not particularly light. At its most basic level, it was really a story about a girl who struggles to decide if she wants to go on with her life after the loss of someone she loves, or if she wants to lose herself in the darkness of grief. For those of you who are familiar with If I Stay, you can find some parallels in that novel and this one.

Meyer (the love interest and the “Peter Pan” of this story) pops into Livy’s life and attempts to show her that life can still be worth living even when it feels like you’ve lost a piece of yourself. To his surprise, though, it turns out that she has just as much to teach him about love and loss. For this reason I found their relationship to be beautiful. Albeit, I did find Livy a little weird for trusting Meyer so easily in the beginning of the book when she knows almost nothing about him. However, I’m willing to overlook this, as an important idea present in this book is taking risks (and, ultimately, if the cost you pay for these risks is worth it).

One of my complaints about this book is that, at times, it can feel a little slow. On the other hand, I loved how you didn’t really know what was going to happen next. The adventures that Meyer takes Livy on are fun, and the combination of his energetic youthfulness and his wisdom and experience with pain makes him such a wonderfully complex character. Plus, it didn’t hurt that he has sparkling green eyes and an ever-present grin (a combination which I’m a huge sucker for).

While the story does drag on quite slowly in some parts, I found this novel to be emotional and powerful. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good stand-alone novel about grief and loss that doesn’t portray these themes in a particularly dreary or depressing way. Or, of course, anyone looking for a Peter Pan retelling 😉

 

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The winner’s curse (review)

the winner's curse

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Purchased at NoVA Teen Book Festival

My rating:

   

The pointy-chinned woman snickered. “Looks like someone’s suffering the Winner’s Curse.”

Kestrel turned to her. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t come to auctions often, do you? The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.”

The crowd was thinning. Already the auctioneer was bringing out someone else, but the rope of excitement that had bound the Valorians to the pit had disintegrated. The show was over. The path was now clear for Kestrel to leave, yet she couldn’t move.

“I don’t understand,” said Jess.

Neither did Kestrel. What had she been thinking? What had she been trying to prove?

Nothing, she told herself. Her back to the pit, she made her foot take the first step away from what she had done.

Nothing at all.

Goodreads summary:

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.


The Winner’s Curse is a fantasy novel old from the point of view of a high society general’s daughter. As a result, we get to see the story from the perspective of someone who is used to getting what she wants. This doesn’t necessarily mean she is a bad person, but it does mean that, at times, you might find yourself frustrated with the way Kestrel interacts with some of the characters around her. This is not to be considered a negative aspect of the book, though. In fact, it makes the novel more complex and it makes you, as the reader, question which side of the conflict you land on.

The novel is made even more complex by Kestrel’s relationship with Arin. Yes, there is a “forbidden love” aspect to it, but as the novel goes on, it seems more and more impossible that their relationship could go anywhere. Although I started off not being very emotionally invested in their relationship, as the story progressed I found myself wanting them to be together more and more.

I am a huge fan of the manifestation of physical strength in a female character. Despite the fact that Kestrel admits (and demonstrates) on several occasions that she is not strong physically, however, she is very intelligent and brave and determined. For this reason, I think that Kestrel is one of the strongest characters I’ve ever read about. She recognizes her weaknesses, she knows her strengths, and she plans and creates strategies based on this knowledge about herself.

While in some novels, the war aspect of the novel’s society is a minor aspect with regards to the world building, in this novel it plays a central role to creating the conflict. I won’t say much about this because I might spoil the book, but the war is VERY important.

Overall, I think this book is well written and the plotline is balanced in such a way that you never get bored while reading it. The characters, while not very memorable or unique, are still ones that you find yourself caring about and rooting for. For these reasons, I would recommend The Winner’s Curse to anyone looking for a fairly good fantasy.

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Introduction to…the Sunday Street Team!!!

I’ll be participating in this 🙂 My interview with Rachel Shane will be posted in a couple of weeks!

Readwritelove28

Hello there everyone! This is an introduction…an introduction to a new feature that I am hosting, called the Sunday Street Team (SST). Starting this week, you might see some SST posts throughout the blogosphere, so I figured that it was important to explain exactly what SST is. Also, I am still recruiting more members, so if this sounds like something that you would be interested in, please make sure to sign up using the form at the bottom of the post! The SST can be best explained as a combination between a blog tour, book meme, and street team.

To explain it in simpler terms, The Sunday Street Team will act as a street team for one author every month. My hope is that this will be a great way for authors who currently do not have street teams to get the feel for having one; also it will enable…

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Female Empowerment and Literature

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Well, that concludes the series “Let’s Talk: Female Empowerment and Literature”. I’d like to send out a huge thank you to all the bloggers who participated by writing a post. Thank you so much to all of you for taking the time to write out your opinions on this subject. I loved how different everyone’s ideas were, and how one topic could branch out into so many distinct discussions! It was so great to be able to see such different perspectives that I had never considered before. I’d also like to thank all the readers who took the time to read these posts. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. 🙂

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Let’s Talk: FE&L #9- A Different Kind of Strength

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A Different Kind of Strength

Alice

I would like to start by thanking Batool for inviting me on her blog and for being patient while I struggled, wondering what to say. I am really honored that she asked me. Writing this post has proven more difficult than I would have thought as I feel I have no authority to throw my ideas out there. I will simply attempt to express my opinion as a reader and as someone who enjoys writing.

The subject of female empowerment in literature, as well as in society, is becoming more and more prominent these days – a topic that brings to light certain issues still encountered by women in the 21st Century.

It has also become a trend to expect female characters in YA to be strong, fierce and not to rely on any male character whatsoever.

As someone who believes in women, our strengths, our beauty, our rights, one might think that I completely accept this new tendency, but I, in fact, do not quite agree with it.

Young women have always been taught how to behave, what to look like, what to think, in order to fit the standards of our different societies. The most recent idea being that girls should be beautiful, skinny and smart. Girls should be willing to push their limits as much as possible to meet our society’s expectations. They are constantly told what to do to become a person worth being looked at or interacted with. Such expectations have forced many of us in a mold that we cannot fit, and in which we suffer in silence while suffocating.

Now, we are also expected to believe that young girls need to be strong, fierce, not to cry, not to show weakness, and more specifically, never to rely on a man for help.

I will put it very simply: I strongly disagree with this view point.

Though there is nothing wrong with creating such a female character, one should not expect for all writers to do so nor bring down those who don’t. As a reader, I personally privilege kindness as well as respect above all things. I want to see characters who are the epitome of what I wish to become as a human being: someone who is kind-hearted, open-minded and capable of unconditional love towards others. I have found such characters in series such as “Shatter Me” and “Sweet Evil,” where the strength of the main protagonists reside in their ability to remain kind in spite of all the hardship they have to face. Those characters also do not hesitate to rely on their male counterparts for support.

I do not believe a female character should face the odds on her own. Life is hard enough as is, we should learn how to rely on one another and help each other. I like for the main characters to be equals, to give each other strength, without one feeling the need to crush the other, or be better, or prove that they can deal without their fellow protagonist.

While reading, I’ve had issues with protagonists who put themselves in danger just to make a point, to prove their independence or strength. Such characters often need the male protagonist to eventually pull them out of the predicament they had willingly jumped into. Such actions seem futile and counter-active in my opinion. I prefer a heroine who will rely on her counterpart to overcome difficult situations together.

Another type of protagonist that doesn’t work for me is a female character who will not show respect toward her male partner. Treating a male protagonist with disregard does not make a female character strong. It only makes her unworthy of the boy willing to put his pride aside just to love a heroine treading all over him and his feelings. To me, mutual respect and requited feelings are the ingredients to making both characters strong while uniting them against adversity.

Do authors have a duty toward their readers? To provide role models? To guide them?

Yes and no. I believe it is the writer’s role to make their readers feel good about themselves or to give them someone to look up to, someone they could strive to become. However, I am against the idea of shoving strong female characters down young girls’ throats just because society tells us to. I do not believe in making girls feel like they shouldn’t be sad, weak, that they shouldn’t be individuals with the right to feel the full range of emotions bestowed upon us humans: love, fear, joy, sadness, heartache, sorrow, anger, rage.

It is the author’s role to raise their readers’ self-esteem, to provide them with characters they can relate to, but it is not the author’s role to preach or teach their readers what they should or should not do.

Everyone has different expectations when it comes to characters. Those expectations often stem from what they would themselves like to be as a person. Some readers want to see strong independent females, others prefer loving ones, some like a deeply-flawed heroine. The fact that a female character is a main protagonist in a novel is, in and of itself, an empowerment of women in general to begin with. The empowerment of female characters in YA relies on telling our girls to simply be themselves and to love themselves just the way they are.

 

Alice Rachel