Hey guys! I am so excited to be a part of the blog tour for A Short History of the Girl Next Door! For this stop in the tour, I have a book review and an interview with the author, Jared Reck!
Before we get started, let me just thank Jared and his wonderful publicists for sending me an ARC of this book and including me in this tour! This book took me on one of the biggest emotional journeys of my book-reading life, and I will be forever changed for it. I am so excited to be able to share my love for this book with all of you!
The unrequited love of the girl next door is the centerpiece of this fiercely funny, yet heart-breaking debut novel.
Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.
This book was an emotional rollercoaster. I went from laughing through the first half to sobbing my eyes out through the second half. My heart was destroyed. My soul was crushed. I don’t know if I will ever recover from this emotional journey. I don’t know if I ever want to.
This book follows Matty, a freshman in high school who is in love with his life-long best friend. He tries to navigate his feelings all while dealing with being in high school, playing basketball, and dealing with his brain which never seems to let him do anything right. Matty is funny and sarcastic and hilarious. I was laughing out loud at every other sentence and loving it.
I loved all of the characters in this book. They were all so real, it felt like I was right there with them. I saw everyone and everything through Matty’s eyes. It was amazing. I fell in love with the characters. I fell in love with the story.
Then the unthinkable happens. Not gonna say what, because it would be giving away too much, but I couldn’t stop crying. Actual tears were pouring down my face. And they didn’t stop.
Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:
— Em | Keystroke Blog (@keystrokeblog) June 29, 2017
The way Jared Reck captures emotions is incredible. Sure, I cry at a lot of books, but I have never come across emotions as strong as these. My whole body was shaking. And even though the end of this book made everything a little better, I lay down for hours processing the emotional journey I had just gone through.
Honestly I would recommend this book to everyone. It was beautiful. It was strong and emotional. It was heart-breaking and hopeful at the same time. It is a story that I think everyone can relate to and benefit from.
I am going to give A Short History of the Girl Next Door five out of five hearts. I would give it more if I could.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Author Interview with Jared Reck
Emma: Hi Jared! I can’t wait for the release of your upcoming novel, A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, in September 2017! Can you tell me where the inspiration for this novel came from?
Jared: Thank you, Emma! And thanks for having me—your review blew me away!
I wish I could say that SHORT HISTORY came from some big idea, but it didn’t. It really just started with a character.
I teach 8th grade ELA, which I run as a Writing Workshop, and every year we do a pretty in-depth unit on fiction writing. We always start the process by developing a believable main character using a simple questionnaire—about twenty questions answered in the voice of that character, almost like you’re sitting down across the table from your character and recording whatever he or she says to you. (I still start all my stories this way, with about 20-30 pages of character responses before I ever try writing the first chapter.)
About seven or eight years ago, I’d finished my first short story with my students—a 30-page story about a dweeby 8th-grade orchestra member sitting in in-school suspension—and I loved how it turned out. So when I sat down and started a new character with my students the next year, I ended up loving this kid even more: he was funny, and self-deprecating, and stuck inside his own head all the time, and he lived and breathed basketball. He was Matt.
So before I ever knew where I was going with the story—before I knew I’d even attempt to turn it into a novel—I had this character, this voice, that I loved. (I’m still not sure I ever figured out plot.)
Emma: You must be so excited to be releasing your debut novel! What challenges have you faced as a writer in your journey to this point?
Jared: Ordinary, everyday life.
Besides teaching full-time, I also worked through a Master’s program in Educational Leadership, I’m an elected School Board member (in the district where I live, not where I teach), I’m on my town’s Recreation Board, and with two daughters (one a senior in high school this year), my wife and I are constantly volunteering for the music booster club and the theater booster club and going to concerts and practices and sporting events and Girl Scouts and…yeah. Life.
Definitely not a struggle—I love being involved in all these things—just full. So, especially with this first book, it was hard to dedicate so much time away from family to work on something that may never go anywhere. And that was one of the biggest challenges—just having the commitment to keep going. To assuage all the crippling self-doubt with the thought that, even if this never gets published, I’ll still be a better human being for having done it—that I’d regret never finishing way more than never publishing.
Emma: You have said that teaching inspired your love for young adult literature. How have your students influenced your writing?
Jared: My students have always kind of been my first readers, little snippets at a time. In my classroom, I never ask my students to do anything I’m not willing to do, too, so I am always writing with them, whether it’s memoir or poetry or fiction or whatever. I model with my own writing throughout the entire process, and, honestly, I’m usually trying to make them laugh. So if I can read a passage and make a roomful of 8th graders laugh, I know I’m on the right track. They’re not always the easiest audience.
They also keep me grounded into how teenagers think, what they want, how they talk. It turns out, besides some updated slang, it’s exactly the same as when I was a teenager.
Emma: If you could boil down the message of A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR into a few sentences, what would they be? What do you hope readers will take away from your story?
Jared: I love the idea in writing that in the specific lies the universal—that there’s beauty and emotion and connection in particular, ordinary, seemingly insignificant moments. In the book, that comes across as, “Any given moment just might be perfect.” Trick or Treat traditions, favorite candies, neighborhood home run derbies and Candyland with little brothers. Playing in the snow as kids. That shit matters, you know? How many of us, when we lose a grandparent, or a parent, or anyone that really matters to us, think “I really wish I could just go back and have one more cup of coffee together, munch on one of Grandma’s sugar cookies and talk”?
Okay, so I’m apparently not great at boiling down, am I?
Emma: What newfound wisdom can you share with all of the aspiring authors of the world?
Jared: Three things:
First, my all-time favorite writing quote, from Stephen King’s On Writing—I use this on day one of my classroom every year: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
Second, it’s okay to fake it. Seriously. I just finished writing my second novel, and I still feel like I’m faking it—like I still shouldn’t really call myself a writer. But even if you feel that way—and I bet most of us feel that way—go ahead and pretend like you’re a real-live writer anyway: join an organization like SCBWI, take a class or a workshop, find a writing friend or two, do your research, keep reading and writing, and pretend that you’re already so successful that you can write about whatever the hell makes you truly happy. (I wrote about Nerds, corked wiffle ball bats, and almost inappropriately good gravy.)
And third, where I’d go when I was struggling with self-doubt: One of my writing heroes, A.S. King, wrote a series of blog posts years ago about learning to write with your middle finger in the air. I still read them on a semi-regular basis—I’ll just leave them here with you.