Author Interview with Shaun David Hutchinson

Today, I am totally freaking out over the fact that I got to interview Shaun David Hutchinson.

First a little bit about Shaun:

Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of many queer books for young adults. Find out more information at shaundavidhutchinson.com. He currently lives in Seattle and watches way too much Doctor Who.

And here’s a little bit about his most recent fiction work, The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried:

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.

And now for the interview!

In the past, you have referenced The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley as being your relaunch/rebrand as an author. Can you speak more about this?

Sometimes 2008 doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but when I wrote and sold my first novel, The Deathday Letter, the YA landscape was so very different than it is now.  I honestly wasn’t sure that anyone would be willing to take a chance on me if I wrote books with queer narrators or focused on the things I cared about, like mental health.  I have a special place in my heart for my first two books, but they also aren’t totally representative of me.  They’re more representative of who I believed readers wanted me to be.

The irony is that neither Deathday or FML did particularly well, and they certainly weren’t reviewed positively.  It wasn’t until I had nothing to lose that I wrote The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley.  With Five Stages, I wrote a book that I believed was one-hundred percent representative of who I wanted to be as a writer, and I figured that if publishing rejected it that it was a sign I wasn’t meant to be writing.  It was kind of a fatalistic attitude because we all know that one book doesn’t decide a writer’s future, but I found an agent who believed in Drew’s story, an editor who believed, and readers who were hungry for more stories about people like Drew.

In that way, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley really was a bit of a rebirth for me as an author.  I had put myself out there, fully embracing my weirdness and queerness and honesty about mental health, and readers had welcomed me into their lives.  The Deathday Letter and FML will always be part of my history, but I sort of think of them as the books I wrote before I found the courage be myself.

In addition to your full length novels, you have been an editor to some unique anthologies (Violent Ends and Feral Youth) which tell an entire story through multiple short stories by different authors. What were the challenges and rewards of undertaking such an ambitious project (twice!)? 

I loved working on those anthologies, but they definitely were challenging.  The major challenge was wrangling all of the stories together and drawing the connections between them.  Violent Ends was more difficult than Feral Youth, but I was extremely fortunate that the authors in both anthologies were so passionate and supportive about what I was trying to do.  They often worked together to create those connections and to build the shared world the stories existed in. I guess in that respect, the challenges were the same as the rewards.  Because while it may have been a tough job to build that shared world, getting to stand back and see how it all came together remains one of the most gratifying experiences of my career.

Several of your recent works dealt with the end of the world in some way while your upcoming 2020 work The State of Us seems to be a departure from that thematic element. What drove this decision?

I remember being a teen and feeling how everything kind of felt like the end of the world, which is probably why I’m so drawn to it as a plot device.  It’s such a great way to explore problems that might otherwise feel mundane to readers.  But you can only end the world so many times before you begin to bore readers. At the same time, the last couple of years have exposed the hateful underbelly that exists in our world.  It was always there, but much of that nastiness was confined to the shadows. And now, unfortunately, it’s felt emboldened to step into the light.  With the world as dark as it is, I began gravitating toward stories that feel a little lighter.  Stories that envision the world I want to live in rather than the world we actually live in.

That said, explorations of sexuality and mental health will always be important to me.  In The State of Us, Dean is struggling to find his place in the queer world as he explores being demisexual, and both boys struggle with how to square their feelings for each other with the differences that divide them.  I’m just approaching those topics from a different angle these days.  One that lets a little more light in.

You transitioned from writing while maintaining another job to full-time writing. How has your writing process changed since this transition happened?

Oddly enough, my process hasn’t changed much.  When I had a day job, I did the majority of my writing in the morning before work.  I still do that.  And I still generally get up between five and six in the morning to do it.  The major difference is that I just do more of it.  I’m able to work longer.  Instead of finishing and then going to work in an office, I finish my morning writing and then go to a coffee shop to do more writing.

The biggest change has honestly been in my approach to future projects.  When I had a day job I was able to spend a couple of months working on a project that might go nowhere because I knew if it didn’t sell, I still had a paycheck coming in.  Writing full time means that I don’t always have that luxury.  If I’m going to commit my time to a project, I have to at least believe there is a good probability that I’m going to be able to make money off of it or I could find myself unable to pay my bills. It’s forced me to be a little more pragmatic about the projects I take on.

But I do make sure to set aside time for those weird passion projects because you never know what’s going to come out of them.  The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley began as a passion project.  As have other books, including one I recently sold that I can’t talk about yet but that I think my readers are really going to enjoy.

Brave Face is an absolutely stunning memoir that deals with a lot of tougher topics, including some very intense mental health challenges. What made you decide to relive these moments and write about them?

Thank you.  That really means a lot.  Even now, months after it came out, I still worry whether I should have published it. But I think that kind of fear is probably pretty natural when putting something so personal out into the world.

The idea actually came about because I was nearing the 20th anniversary of surviving my suicide attempt.  A lot of me goes into my books, but I wondered if it might be helpful for teens to have an account of that time—what I went through with coming out and depression—to both help them see that they aren’t alone and to help those who might not have experience with coming out or mental illness gain some understanding of what others might be going through.  I emailed my editor at Simon Pulse about the idea, and the more we talked about it, the more I thought I might have something worth saying.

The idea of writing a memoir was terrifying, and the only way I got through it was by telling myself that if only one person read it, and it helped them, then that was enough. That would make it worth it. The response has been overwhelming to say the least.

On Twitter, you post about baking a lot. How and why did this hobby come about?

Sorry!  I have a tendency to jump from one obsession to another.  Sometimes those obsessions stick around and become full-blown hobbies. Sometimes they turn into a career. I started baking last winter when my mom came to visit. It was my first winter in Seattle, and it was a cold, wet one.  My mom didn’t want to spent much time outside, so we spent a lot of time at my brother’s apartment where he was watching The Great British Baking Show.  I’d heard about it before, but I’d never sat down to watch an episode.  That show hooked me and reeled me in with its big heart and joyfulness, and I remain a fan of the show despite three-quarters of the original hosts leaving.

After my mom went back home, I found myself spending more time inside due to the weather, and I was looking for something to do. Inspired by The Great British Baking Show, I decided to give baking a try.  My mom baked quite frequently when I was growing up, but it was never something I thought I’d enjoy.  Much to my surprise, I instantly fell in love with it.  I think, for me, baking is a creative outlet that’s stress-free.  I enjoy the process of baking immensely because it helps calm my hyper-active and over-imaginative mind while also keeping me physically moving.  Plus, the end results make people smile.  Show up to a gathering with even the ugliest cake, and people will still smile.  Right now, baking is an oasis for me in this messy, messed up world.

Finally, what are some books that need to be on our radar? (This can be already released books and/or upcoming releases.)

Definitely The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper and How To Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters.  I’m about to get started on Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass, and the first page has already got me hooked.  Ryan La Sala’s Reverie is out soon, and I’m dying to get my hands on it.  Camryn Garret’s Full Disclosure and Saundra Mitchell’s All the Things We Do in the Dark are both out October 29th, and they’re at the very top of my reading list.  I also had the opportunity to hear Ryan Douglass read from his horror/thriller Jake in the Box, and he was amazing. I can’t wait to read the whole book.

There are always so many more books that I want to read than I have time for—the curse of every reader!—but we’re lucky that there are so many outstanding and diverse books out there now with more headed our way.


Thank you so much to Shaun for his time!

And always, here’s some links for you to check out:

Shaun David Hutchinson Links
Check Out Shaun on Goodreads
Make Shaun supremely rich and buy his books/enhance your own life too
Follow Shaun on Twitter

The Books Shaun Mentioned
Add The Gravity of Us to Goodreads / check out my interview with the author
Add How to Be Remy Cameron to Goodreads
Add Surrender Your Sons to Goodreads / check out my interview with the author
Add Reverie to Goodreads / check out my interview with the author
Add Full Disclosure to Goodreads
Add All The Things We Do in the Dark to Goodreads
Add Jake in the Box to Goodreads

Author Interview with Adib Khorram

Today, I have the great honor of doing an interview with Adib Khorram, author of the award-winning (and life-changing) Darius the Great is Not Okay.

First, here’s a bit about Adib (from his website)

ADIB KHORRAM is the author of DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY. If he’s not writing (or at his day job as a graphic designer), you can probably find him trying to get his 100-yard Freestyle under a minute, learning to do a Lutz Jump, or steeping a cup of oolong. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don’t usually talk about themselves in the third person. You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at adibkhorram.com.

And here’s a bit of Darius the Great is Not Okay (again from his website):

Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. 

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian–half, his mom’s side–and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.

Darius has never really fit in at home in Portland, and he just knows things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Sohrab introduces Darius to all of his favorite things–mint syrup and the soccer field and a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, friends don’t have to talk. Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.

By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough–then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.

And now for the interview!
Darius the Great is Not Okay is frequently included on lists for LGBT+ books, but in the book itself, Darius’ sexuality is never overtly stated. Was this an intentional decision/what drove that decision?

It was quite intentional. For me Darius’s story was always, always about friendship; I didn’t even realize he was queer until I was deep in revisions. I think it’s important to show pre-coming out queer narratives, and I think it’s important to show that queer identity is only one small part of people.

Darius has won quite a few literary awards which is incredible. What has been your most personally rewarding moment in the year since the book first released? (Doesn’t have to be literary award related!) 

It’s hard to pick a rewarding moment—there have been so many—but I will share a trend that’s stuck with me. I do a lot of school visits and I talk about my own growing up as a queer kid, and a diaspora kid, and I love the conversations that spurs. Sometimes it’ll be a big discussion and the students will get to see their friends and classmates with greater empathy than before. And sometimes it’s a quiet moment of connection where a student is struggling with something and asks me for advice. Making life better for young readers is why I do this.

Darius portrays the quiet struggles of mental illness so well. After I made my mom read it, she told me, “now I understand you and your dad a little better.” Why was it important to you to include this mental health representation?  

When I first started writing Darius back in 2015, it felt like there was a huge crop of books about mental illness that all dealt with suicide. While that’s certainly a possible outcome of living with depression, it’s not the only one, and I wanted to push back on that narrative.

You work a job outside of writing. Because of that, what does your typical writing day look like?

I don’t know that I really have a typical writing day! Sometimes my dayjob will be kind of slow and I’ll take time off to write. Sometimes it’ll be busy and get no writing in. Sometimes I’ll be on a job site but waiting for someone else to finish before I can do my work, and then I might squeeze in some writing there. My favorite writing days are when I can gather with some other local YA authors and we write, talk, and get lunch!

Your next sold book is a picture book. How has this process been different than the process for Darius?

With a novel, I’m in charge of describing everything in words. But with a picture book, I have to leave room for the illustrator. So much gets to go unsaid. It’s been so cool to work on something and know it’s going to be transformed into something even more amazing.

If you had the opportunity to co-write a YA novel with any author (living or dead), who would you pick and why? (And if you wouldn’t want to do a co-write, explain why.)

I met Lana Wood Johnson back in 2014 when we were both querying bad novels. We posted our queries for critique, ripped each others’ to shreds, and have been friends ever since. Her debut, TECHNICALLY, YOU STARTED IT came out this year, and it shares a lot of themes with Darius: nerds, queerness, mental health, parent relationships. I think we’d have a blast working on something fun and nerdy together!


Thank you so much to Adib for doing this interview with me! I’m still in shock that so many authors said yes, and I’m still shocked that Adib said yes.

Darius the Great is Not Okay is such an incredible book. You can read what I had to say about it here, and I included links below to check out.

Add Darius the Great is Not Okay on Goodreads

Buy Darius the Great is Not Okay

Add Seven Special Somethings (the forthcoming picture book) to Goodreads

Author Interview with Phil Stamper

Up next in the author interview series is an interview Phil Stamper, author of the forthcoming The Gravity of Us. I read this as an ARC (read the review here), and I loved it so much.

Here’s a bit about Phil Stamper (from his website):

Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. He has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt. He works for a major book publisher in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. THE GRAVITY OF US is his first novel, but he’s no stranger to writing. His self-insert Legend of Zelda fanfiction came with a
disclaimer from the 14-year old author: “Please if you write a review don’t criticize my work.” He has since become more open to critique… sort of.
And here’s a bit about The Gravity of Us which releases February 4, 2020.

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

And now for the interview!

In the book, you take the world that was built in the 1960s for the first era of human space flight modernize it. Why did you specifically decide to do this?

This is a great question, and I think it was actually a bit of trial and error that got me to this point. I started drafting the novel as a YA historical fiction novel, actually. In the plan for this novel, I was going to build a teen m/m love story into the actual Apollo program. But I had a hard time making it work. Among the issues, it didn’t feel very relevant or exciting as a story. I wasn’t feeling that “spark” you get when a piece is really coming together.

And then I had the idea to make it a contemporary, and I started to find so many parallels between the issues the astronaut families would face today and what they really did face 50 years ago. I replotted the book, adding the social media and reality show elements, the “Orpheus” missions to Mars, and I found a way to reference the drama of the 60s while not getting too caught up in nostalgia. I decided to go for it during NaNoWriMo 2016, and ended up drafting the full book in three weeks. It just worked so well.

In the book, both Cal’s mother and Leon struggle with mental health issues. However, Cal does not explicitly struggle with mental health. Why was it important to you to include mental health issues from the perspective of a perceived outsider (i.e. Cal)?

This really came from my own personal experiences—I’ve spent a lot of time (over the last half-decade especially) learning how to manage my own mental health, and for me, part of the challenge of that is in how to communicate it to others. Too often, it can feel like it’s “me against the world” when mental health is concerned, and I found it almost therapeutic to write from the perspective of a character who may or may not have the same experience, but who still takes the time to listen and understand.

Given the right circumstances, would you consider a sequel?

Absolutely! I loved spending so much time in this world, and I could definitely see the potential for more stories within it. Keep your fingers crossed. 🙂


Thank you so much to Phil for his time and thoughtful answers!!

I’ve linked some important links below:

Add The Gravity of Us to Goodreads

Pre-order The Gravity of Us

Info about Phil Stamper’s awesome pre-order gift (a bookplate that’s been flown into space!) 

Follow Phil on Twitter

Author Interview with Laura Silverman

Next up in the author interview series is an interview with Laura Silverman! I have read both of Laura Silverman’s books as well as an ARC of the forthcoming anthology that she co-edited entitled It’s a Whole Spiel which releases September 17.

Here’s a bit about Laura Silverman from her website:

Laura Silverman is an author and editor and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. Her books include Girl Out of Water, You Asked for Perfect, and It’s a Whole Spiel. Girl Out of Water was a Junior Library Guild Selection. You can contact Laura on Twitter @LJSilverman1 or through her website LauraSilvermanWrites.com.

and here’s a little bit about her two full length novels and a forthcoming anthology that she co-edited with Katherine Locke.

Girl Out of Water: Fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will fall in love this contemporary debut about finding yourself-and finding love-in unexpected places.

You Asked for Perfect : For fans of Adam Silvera and Nina LaCour comes a timely novel about a teen’s struggle when academic success and happiness pull him in opposite directions.

It’s A Whole Spiel: Get ready to fall in love, experience heartbreak, and discover the true meaning of identity in this poignant collection of short stories about Jewish teens.

And now for the interview!!

Girl Out of Water‘s main character surfs and learns to skateboard. Why did you pick those sports specifically?

Girl Out of Water started with just a title. The word “landlocked” popped into my head one night, and I thought it would make a cool book title (of course it was later changed but I love the new title more). So I tried to imagine what would make a character feel landlocked. The answer came to me almost right away – a surfer girl who spends all of her time in and by the ocean and then has to move to a landlocked part of the country. Once she got to Nebraska, it felt natural that another sport, though unfamiliar, might make her feel a little more at home, so skateboarding was the perfect fit! 

You’ve been an editor of two anthologies, one releasing in September 2019 and the other forthcoming in spring 2021. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of being an editor to anthology?

I love editing anthologies so much – possibly even more than writing books! It’s incredibly rewarding to work with talented writers I admire. It’s literally my job to read a bunch of incredible stories. I love seeing what all of the different writers do with the common theme. I love it, and I already have a couple more anthology ideas in mind that hopefully I’ll be able to pull together. 

What does your typical writing day look like?

I try to work a somewhat typical Monday-Friday schedule, though I don’t always stick to it. On days I’m working, I get up, shower, eat, breakfast, etc., and then I write first thing for somewhere between 1-3 hours. I find if I don’t write right away, then it’s probably not going to happen at all that day. After writing, I get into my freelance editing and administrative tasks. 

You Asked For Perfect perfectly nails academic anxiety. I write, and sometimes, my main character’s anxiety in scenes quickly becomes my own. How did you avoid getting sucked too deep into the depictions of anxiety in writing it?

Well, I didn’t avoid it haha! It was incredibly stressful writing You Asked for Perfect. Thankfully though Ariel and I would both get an emotional breather during the adorable scenes with Amir.


Thank you so much to Laura Silverman for her time and for her thoughtful answers!!

I’ve linked to the three previously mentioned books below as well as her 2021 anthology below:

Links to Buy Laura Silverman’s books

Follow Laura Silverman on Twitter

DRC Review of The Map From Here to There by Emery Lord

Disclaimer: I received an DRC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The Map From Here to There serves as a sequel to Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You. While it would be better to have read the first book first, it’s not actually a complete requirement to enjoy this one.

Weeks before the start of her senior year, Paige’s relationship with Max is just beginning. But at the same time, her world that she’s made in Indiana may be coming to an end. Faced with questions about where to go to college, what she wants to major in, changing interests, Paige’s relationship with Max becomes a lot more complicated.

Add into that, Paige’s anxiety, a constant undercurrent to her life, becomes worse after a car accident. Suddenly all the decisions that she’s facing become a lot more complicated. The anxiety representation is completely realistic for me. While Paige had made a lot of progress in the first novel, mental illness doesn’t always have a linear trajection. Sometimes, events happen that cause a worsening mental illness. Sometimes, it just happens. I appreciate the honest look at how just because you get better for a while doesn’t mean you stay better and that it’s okay to get help again.

The Map From Here to There is a very heavily character driven novel where the characters drive the plot instead of the plot driving the characters. Emery Lord pulls this off very well.

The Map From Here to There  releases January 7, 2020.

 

DRC Review of The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

NASA is preparing to go to Mars. They’ve had a nationwide search for astronauts to prepare for this mission, and they are about to announce the final one. Meanwhile, Cal is Brooklyn, trying his best to get through his senior year so he can become a journalist. He has a FlashFame account with hundreds of thousands followers, and he has a Buzzfeed internship lined up.

All of his plans are quickly derailed when his father is announced as the final astronaut for this mission. Quickly, his family has to leave Brooklyn and head to Clear Lake, Texas to prepare.

Cal quickly finds himself at odds with the reality tv show that’s covering the astronauts and their families, but he also quickly finds himself taken in by Leon, a fellow Astrokid.

The Gravity of Us is quite simply amazing. Stamper takes the world that was built in the 1960s for the first era of human space flight, and he modernizes it. It feels so real throughout the entire thing, as if I should be preparing to watch a launch for humans to go to Mars next year.

Additionally, there’s a different type of mental health rep in this book, where the main character doesn’t necessarily struggle with mental health issues but his mom and his love interest do. Both are done with such delicate care which is so appreciated from someone who struggles with mental health issues.

Throughout the entire book, I was heavily invested, and I didn’t want it to end. Selfishly, I hope it does well enough to demand a sequel.

The Gravity of Us doesn’t release until February 4, 2020, but you can pre-order this amazing book now. (P.S. Phil Stamper has an amazing pre-order campaign going where he’s sending bookplates into space. I’ve linked that info below the pre-order links)

Pre-order Links

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Phil Stamper’s Pre-order Campaign

 

 

ARC Review of Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Two years ago, Lia’s father was killed by a mob of dangerous teenagers named the Swarm. That was that last known attack, but Lia’s convinced that this isn’t over and that the Swarm will attack again.

The Swarm appears out of nowhere, targeting one specific person, beating that person to death, before disappearing. They have done 11 random attacks like this over the course of 9 years, and Lia’s dad was investigating the Swarm when he was killed.

She becomes aware of a probable attack at Navy Pier and arrives there, taking pictures of anyone that appears to be there alone. She’s certain that she can find the people who killed her dad. What she doesn’t plan is to be discovered in this process.

Over the course of Every Stolen Breath, set in a near-future Chicago, Lia invokes the help of multiple friends, old and new, to help her in order to discover who is behind the Swarm and behind her father’s death. Unfortunately, Lia also struggles with debilitating asthma as well as PTSD that sometimes results in hallucinations which makes it difficult for her to sometimes distinguish what is a real threat and what is being hallucinated.

Every Stolen Breath is a brilliant debut novel that will steal your breath away throughout. You will cheer for Lia and be heartbroken with her, and you will desperately want to know: who is behind the Swarm and can they be stopped?

Every Stolen Breath will be released November 5.

Pre-order Links

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Review of Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley

Pup Flanagan comes from a big family. He’s the youngest of eight kids, and with all of his in-laws, future in-laws, nieces, and nephews, there’s 28 of them.

But one of them is gone. Lost. Dead.

Almost almost three years prior to the start of Sorry For Your Loss, Pup’s brother Patrick died of meningitis. Since then, one of the three beds in the upstairs attic of the Flanagan boys’ room remains empty. Patrick’s picture on the wall has been replaced with a drawing of a cherub instead.

Every Sunday, all the members of the Flanagan family gather for dinner. But still, there’s that missing piece.

Pup finds himself on the verge of failing studio art, a class he needs to graduate next year. Although he doesn’t care much about his grades, he still wants to graduate. Encouraged by his teacher to try photography as a last ditch effort to save his grade, Pup takes a solitary picture of his brother Luke that begins to change his life.

Sorry For Your Loss is much-needed voice in the YA genre. Here’s the thing about grief: you don’t move on. Moving on isn’t possible especially when the loss is so sudden and so horrendous.

And not everyone grieves the same way. There are those that find safe ways to cope and deal with the grief. But others turn to destructive ways.

Because this isn’t a review that will be seen by a publisher, I feel the freedom to share this here. Content warning for infant death and suicidal ideation from this point forward.

4 years ago, my 2.5 month old nephew died unexpectedly. He had a brain tumor, unknown to anyone until those final 36 hours. I remember everything about that final day. There have been nights where it won’t stop playing in my head.

A month after his funeral, I couldn’t stand the grief anymore. Everything was too much. And so I went to figure out how to end my life. THANKFULLY, I was stopped.

But for the next year, I spent more time suicidal than not. My mother, she joined grief share groups and became fascinated by butterflies because they reminded her of her grandson. And when the second grandson was born, my father was too afraid at first to get to know this grandchild, afraid that we’d lose him too. As for my sister-in-law and brother, the parents, their grief was private. We said his name. We remembered him. We missed him. But we didn’t talk. The second Thanksgiving without him (despite never having a first Thanksgiving with him), the fractured lines were all over our family. They still are there.

Grief is not linear. It has no end point.

But it is survivable.

And that’s what Sorry For Your Loss does so well. It shows so perfectly what happened within my family, albeit a different story. People grieve in different ways. And sometimes, grief is destructive. But through it all, grief is survivable.

Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley is absolutely wonderful and completely nails it.

Sorry For Your Loss is available now.

Order Links: 

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

ARC Review of Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A year ago, Chris was badly beaten by group of males who hated Chris for being trans.

A year ago, Maia lost her sister Mallory due to an undetected heart defect.

Now, Chris finds himself in a small town in North Carolina, ten hours away from his home in Buffalo, spending the summer with his aunt after his parents decide that they need some time separate from him.

Maia finds herself avoiding all of her friends, wallowing in grief, unable to live for herself.

But on the day that Chris moves in with his aunt, they unexpectedly meet after Chris almost hits Maia with his car. The two then slowly become friends while considering the possibility of a romance.

Something Like Gravity is an honest look at what can happen when two people, left broken in different ways (Chris with his possible parental rejection and trauma from being beaten, Maia with losing her sister), find each other.

While this read can be heavy at times, it feels real. While I cannot speak on the accuracy of the trans rep, it doesn’t feel exploitative, and the author appears to have done her research. The grief from Maia and her family feels extremely real as well.

This is a solid read, and it’s one that I recommend. Something Like Gravity releases June 18.

ARC Review of We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

On Mia’s 15th birthday, her sister took her to a party. After that party, a car accident occurred, leaving her sister dead and Mia ruined. Mia was driving, despite not having a license, and her injuries left her unable to remember most of the details from that day, including the accident itself.

Now, nearly a year later, her family has pretty much dissolved. Her mom left first, and then her dad sends her on a train to New York to go live with a grandmother, Veronica, that she has never met.

While Mia wants to be consumed with her own guilt and grief, Veronica gets Mia a job at another family’s restaurant where on the first day of work, she is “adopted” by Fig, a person with her own broken past. Mia must learn what it means to live with knowing what happened, her role in it, and how to live in the present moment.

We Were Beautiful takes a serious lok at what it looks like to live with the guilt and grief of something that is a complex issue while also looking at how it is survivable.  Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, I found this book heavily readable with a very good mix of emotional moments so the reader never stays in a dark emotional place for too long. (I have no objection to those books that do; this is just a mention because some readers may initially shy away for that reason.)

Because I was approved for this ARC shortly before the release date, the book is available to buy now. Check it out.