Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Honestly YA!

Our regular blog posts will return Monday, January 2nd.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fab Friday Giveaway!

Melissa here, wishing you a happy Friday and announcing Honestly YA's very first giveaway! Today's prize: a gorgeous, hardcover copy of Haven, by Kristi Cook. (I loved this book, and I can't wait to read the sequel, Mirage, when it comes out in June.)

So how can you win? It's easy-peasy, lemon squeezy! You must:

1. Be a follower of this blog. (Click the blue button on the upper right-hand side of the page that says "Join this site.")

2. Leave a comment to this post and include your contact information. (yourname (at) email (dot) com) I promise not to use your email for any nefarious purpose, such as framing you for murder or adding you to a newsletter.

3. Due to the high cost of international shipping, this giveaway is only open to US residents. By participating, you agree to the rules set forth on our contest disclaimer page.

4. That's it! The contest closes tomorrow, Saturday, December 24th, at 5pm EST. At that time, I'll assign each comment a number and use to choose the winner. If the winner doesn't respond within 48 hours, I'll choose another winner, and so on.

Feel free to share the news with your friends...just know it won't earn you extra entries. We're all about keepin' it simple here at Honestly YA.

Okay, go!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WELCOME WEDNESDAY: Alicia McCalla's High School Hell: Interracial Romance Ending in Tragedy

It's my pleasure to introduce Alicia McCalla to this week's Welcome Wednesday Post. Alicia writes fantasy, futuristic and paranormal stories in color. Take it away, Alicia...

My First Interracial Romance Ended in Tragedy:
A SciFi Writer Discusses the Interracial Relationship in her Novel

When I was in high school, I had my first experience with an interracial romance.  Sadly, it ended in embarrassment and violence.  I often think back on the experience and wonder what I might have done differently.  For sure, I realize that I was unknowingly involved in a love triangle.  I’d just broken up with my African-American boyfriend. I thought that the relationship was over.  In some ways, my interracial romance was a rebound but it gave me a sense of comfort. 

These two guys were polar opposites. My former boyfriend had been a football playing jock who dumped me because he wanted to “play the field.” I simply didn’t fit his mold. I was “too” intellectual. The other was a deep intellectual who engaged in discussions about Jean Paul Sartre and existentialism.  He was a poet who spiked his hair with gel and wore black because he mourned the world.  Our conversations were spiritual, inviting, and soulful.
The relationship ended abruptly when the football player beat the living daylights out of my poet.  The beating was violent, cruel, and demeaning.  
It was so bad that people who witnessed it refused to speak to me again.  They despised me. They felt I should’ve known better.  I was embarrassed and crushed.

When it was all over, I went to my poet to console him but he shrank away from my touch.  He didn’t look at me. He quietly told me that our relationship was over.  My heart sank.

I left him to find the football player. When I found him, I asked him “why” when he’d already told me that he didn’t want me. His answer was plain. “I couldn’t lose you to a white boy.”

In my upper YA novel, Breaking Free, I have an interracial relationship between XJ and Brandon. There is a love triangle. Things get messy in my novels. For one, Brandon has to deal with his stalker ex-girlfriend who happens to be his same race but is the perfect mate designation type. Brandon cares deeply for XJ and despises his ex-girlfriend, but in their genetically-enhanced world, the relationship between XJ and Brandon is illegal.  This relationship may not be able to survive.

Breaking Free tackles issues that deal with race, class, and gender.  In fact, the series is filled with real controversial issues, just like in life.
Alicia McCalla is a native Detroiter who currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia. She works as a school librarian and enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

Visit to sign-up for e-updates and sneak peeks about her upcoming novel, Breaking Free. 

Thanks so much, Alicia. This post was both wonderful and powerful. I can only image how horrible you felt when your wounded poet rejected you. 

Okay readers, now it's time for your input. Alicia would like to know if others have experienced an interracial relationship that had similar challenges.  She's interested in knowing your stories and how you handled them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Tyranny of Conformity

Okay, I'll admit it. This post on High School Hell had me panicked. Because you see, I was lucky. Generally my high school experience was pretty decent. I don't have any of the obvious stories of being bullied, hazed or slushied in the face. 
No Slushies were sacrificed during
my high school experience.

For sure, those memories would be truly horrific to revisit, and I'd never wish them on anyone, but let's face it, they'd make a killer blog post.

Instead, my lack of Big Hellish Moments has had me thinking about the more nuanced ways that high school was a demonic experience. And honestly, I don't like what I've remembered.
This is me in my senior year. Cute huh? I'm really rockin' the 80s asymmetrical wedge cut, aren't I? And here's me with my friend, Doug in our Class Actors photo from our year book. Aside from being a major thespian, I was also a classically trained singer and could belt out an Italian aria or a Barbra Streisand tune on command. Basically I was the original Lea Michele, just a little less annoying. And I had friends, got good grades and occasionally had a boyfriend. Sounds pretty great, huh?

Yeah, in hindsight, I'd say so, too. But oddly enough, despite these major accomplishments, I was pretty insecure. No matter what, I didn't think I was pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough or popular enough to compete with the big kids. There was always an unrelenting drive to be better, cooler than I was. And that led me to do some pretty uncool things. Like sometimes I dumped a friend in favor of hanging out with more upwardly social kids, jerks who never really accepted me anyway. Probably because I wasn't being true to myself, and they saw me for the fraud that I was.

All this introspection got me thinking about the messages teens get from popular culture and what drives this insidious insecurity and aspiration to be something we're not. For the record, I know there are plenty of books, movies and television shows that explicitly drive home the point that--girls especially--should be happy in their own skin and just be themselves. Those notwithstanding, insecurity still grips teens and shakes their self esteem, driving them to succumb to peer pressure and conform to other people's idea of what's cool. So where do these notions come from?

We've all seen movies where the popular girl takes a dorky loser under her wing and gives her a make over. Once she's "beautiful" she fits in with the popular crowd, gets the guy and lives happily ever after. 

Remember Clueless? Alicia Silverstone's character, Cher Horowitz adopts the "tragically unhip"Tai Fraser, steers her away from the stakeboarding slacker she likes and teaches her the mysteries of popularity. We root for Tai as she climbs the social ladder and in fact, surpasses her teacher, relegating Cher from queen bee to a mere member of the popular court. 
Too cool for school.
Tai goes from Tragically Unhip to...

And who could forget what the Pink ladies do to Olivia Newton John's Sandy in Grease? Sandy starts out the perfect goody-two-shoes square. After a brief summer fling, John Travolta's Danny Zuko, the coolest, leatherest wearing guy in school, has broken her heart. Once school starts, they can't be together because he's a bad boy and she's...well, definitely not a bad girl. At least until the pink ladies pierce her ears, teach her to smoke and squeeze her into some spandex pants.  
Then it's all, "You're the One that I Want" do wop do watty waah and everyone's happy. Well, everyone but poor pregnant, unwed Rizzo, but that's another story.

These movies are undoubtedly entertaining, but I can't help but wonder how much they contribute to lowering teens' self esteem. Sure, they're fun and make us root for the underdog, but at what cost? The only way the underdog becomes the top dog is by changing who she fundamentally is and "climbing up" the social ladder. Who does she leave behind in favor of her new "friends"? Are Cher and the Pink Ladies worth it? Unfortunately it took me way too long to decide they weren't.

In my book, THE HOODOO APPRENTICE, my heroine, Emma isn't a popular girl. In fact, beside her secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and brother, Jack, she doesn't have many friends. Shy and artistic, she spends a lot of time on her own, sketching nature. Her unusual familiarity with herbs and plants is one reason the old Gullah root worker takes her on as an apprentice when Jack is stricken with a wicked flesh-eating curse. If Emma hadn't been true to herself, and instead given up her unique talents to join some dumb group of populars in school, she wouldn't have the skills she'd need to help save her brother. I for one am glad she didn't. I'm sure Jack appreciates it too.


Lea Nolan can be found at her website, on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.  She is represented by the astonishingly fantastic Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.  

So what do you think? How does popular culture shape teens' perspectives on themselves and their self esteem? Did kids at your schools relentlessly strive to climb the social ladder? What did conformity cost them? 

Friday, December 16, 2011

FABULOUS FRIDAY: Lea's 3 Book Deal and The Season's Reading Blog Hop and Giveaway!

Welcome to Fabulous Fridays, a new feature on Honestly YA where we shamelessly jump for joy over our own phenomenally great news and offer fantastic freebies to our lovely readers. This week I'm stealing the spotlight because I've got a whopper to share with you all. Are you ready?

Um, for your safety maybe you should take a step back because I'm 'bout to get loud up in here... Ahem:


That's right, baby! I'm beyond thrilled to announce that THE HOODOO APPRENTICE, a story featuring an 18th-century hidden pirate treasure, a wicked flesh eating curse, soul-snatching and Gullah Hoodoo magic has been acquired by Entangled Publishing as their first middle grade/young adult crossover. 

And I didn't just sell one book. No, I sold THREE!!! So now I've got a whole lot of pages to fill with Emma and Cooper's adventures in the South Carolina lowcountry, along with a mess of supernatural demons to vanquish. I can't wait! 

So, how does one celebrate such great news? Why with a super fantastic give away, of course! But this one isn't just from me. Along with Carey Corp, another of Honestly YA's brilliant writers, I'm pleased to be a participant in the Seasons of Reading Holiday Blog Hop.  
Click HERE for the Blog Hop's Main Page
This blog hop was put together by our friend Jo Ramsey and features 14 authors discussing favorite books they either gave or received as gifts, 14 prizes AND 14 book donations to local libraries or school. Since my book isn't on the shelves yet, I'm giving away a FREE $10 Amazon gift certificate. Other writers are giving away free copies of their books. 

All you need to do is visit our individual author pages from the main blog hop page, follow the entry rules and leave a comment. How easy is that? And guess what? Entries are low so you've got a great chance at winning!

And because Jo's so kind, she's given each of us a special spotlight on her blog.  Here's my spotlight; and here's Carey's spotlight. Check us out.

So help me celebrate the holidays and *squee!* my first sale by entering. I hope you win. Seriously, I gotta give this Amazon gift card to someone, why not you? 


Check me out on Facebook, website and on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Welcome Wednesday Guest, PJ Sharon - BFFs: the good, the bad, and the lessons learned

Do you remember how many times your mother told you that you needed “better friends?” Well, at least mine did—countless times. She seemed to have this view of me that I should know better than to hang out with anyone who wasn’t a straight A student, didn’t come from a two-parent “normal” family, or otherwise address her like Eddie Haskell with “You look lovely today, Mrs. Cleaver.” Not surprisingly, those “perfectly nice” friends were the ones who had the
most issues. They were also the cliquey kind of “fair weather” friends that I had no desire to be associated with—no matter what status they held in the high school food chain.
What my mother didn’t understand was that the friends I chose were friends because they weren’t trying so hard to be perfect and fit in. They were real, they were genuine, and they made me feel like I belonged. Now I won’t pretend that they didn’t often lead me down some precarious roads, but they were the kinds of friends who stuck by me and wouldn’t ditch me when times got tough. I learned a lot from them—both good and bad—and I think they learned a lot from me. 

When I created BFF’s for Penny, my character in ON THIN ICE, I wanted to show both sides of the friend fence. We have sweet, innocent Katie on the one hand, and troublemaking, seventeen-going-on-thirty Sami, on the other hand. Both girls have their issues and it’s clear that neither has a perfect life no matter what it looks like on the outside, but what strikes you throughout the story is how the three girls stick together and support each other in spite of their differences. The lesson learned is that friendship is not so much about what we share in common but that we share the common bond of love and loyalty.

Since I was fortunate enough to have some BFF’s from grade school right through high school, I can tell you that my mother was both right and wrong about them. Maybe my home girls didn’t catapult me into the sphere of Ivy League colleges, but I also didn’t end up a streetwalking hussy as my mother feared. The girls I hung out with were as different from me and from each other as girls could possibly be. I think it was our differences that attracted us to each other as much as anything we had in common. We balanced each other out. What I did learn from the friends I chose was loyalty, honesty, and acceptance. Lessons I’m sure every mother would like her daughter to learn. For better or worse, the lessons we learn from our friends will be lessons we take with us through life. So quit biting your nails, moms, and as my smooth-talking young adult son once said, “You did a good job raising me, Mom. Trust that I can make good decisions.”
Okay, readers, what did you learn from your BFF’s?
PJ Sharon is author of several independently published, contemporary young adult novels, including HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. Her stories have garnered several contest finals, including two awards for ON THIN ICE, and a place in the prestigious Valley Forge Romance writer’s contest for SAVAGE CINDERELLA.
Writing romantic fiction for the past six years, and following her destiny to write Extraordinary stories of an average teenage life, PJ is mother to two grown sons and lives with her husband and her dog in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA.
ON THIN ICE is about a 17yo figure skater dealing with her mother’s cancer while trying to live up to the expectations of her family. Penny has to face issues like anorexia, a teenage pregnancy, and family secrets that threaten to change her life forever. The story is a complex, richly woven tale that deals with the consequences of hiding the truth of who we are, and making sacrifices for the ones we love. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy. Standard contest disclaimer applies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What Do Adults Know About Teen Friendships?!

What Do Adults Know About Teen Friendships?!
I’ll answer that question in two small words.  A lot. 
Don’t forget.  We lived through it already.  We survived that time, and, if we’re willing to talk about it, teens should take advantage. 
One exercise in junior high school helped me a lot, and I’d like to share this experience.  I went to a small Christian school, and in eighth grade I got mixed up with a girl who might not have been a great friend.  Apparently, it was obvious to adults, but I was clueless.
I don’t remember the lesson that day.  I just remember the exercise itself and the aftermath.  We were talking about peer pressure, and Mrs. S asked for two volunteers.  Lots of kids threw their hands in the air, but she picked Kerri and me.  We came forward and she had me stand on a desk.  She told me to try my hardest to pull Kerri up with me.  Try as I might, it wouldn’t happen.  It was too difficult. 
Then, Mrs. S asked Kerri to bring me down to her level, and, with one small jerk on my arm, she pulled me right off that desk. 
We all laughed and giggled and thought it was a fun exercise.  Then I told my mom the story, and she stared at me.  She began asking questions about my friend.  What kind of person is she?  How does she act around boys? How does she dress?  I was confused.  What could that possibly have to do with the exercise that day? 
Kerri was the friend I kind of envied for her edginess.  Her parents made her wear pleated skirts to school, so first thing in the morning, she changed into her tight pants in the girls’ bathroom and flaunted her body around the eighth grade.  She boasted of smoking.  She batted her eyes at the boys.  I was in awe.  In truth, she might not have been a terrific choice for a friend.  I know that now.
But, it took that one exercise for my mom to point this out to me.  Mrs. S was trying to show me something.  I may have missed it, but my mom didn’t.  And my mom was a pretty quick study. 
Now, as a mom myself, I try to steer my kids away from the frenemies and the kids who aren’t a good influence.  Unfortunately, there will be many of them.  The important thing is to avoid them.  At all costs. 
If adults are willing to share their personal stories, listen.  My mom once told me how this one popular girl started asking her group of friends to come over to my mom’s house, and how my mom (not a popular girl) bent over backwards to be a part of that crowd.  Finally one girl approached my mom and quietly told her that these new “friends” were stealing my mom’s records and putting them under their sweaters every time. 
It hurts to hear the truth, but it’s better than not hearing it.  We’ve all been hurt by people pretending to be friends, but if somebody has a reason for warning you away from a certain person, listen.
Unfortunately, growing up doesn’t mean you won’t still run into these types of situations.  I used to trust too early and too much.  Now, I evaluate.  I listen.  I don’t tell people secrets unless I know they can be trusted.
More than anybody, I trust my mom.  I trust her judgment.  When she told me someone couldn’t be trusted, I listened.  Nine times out of ten, she was right.  She was right even a year ago about a “friend” of mine. 
I hope my children listen to me the way I did to my mom.  I hope they trust me.  I hope they appreciate the stories I have to tell about my experiences and my mom’s experiences.  And I pray that they meet wonderful friends who will help them through their lives. 
Life is too short not to have wonderful, trustworthy friends. 
At any age.  At every age.
When have you been disappointed by a friendship? 


Nikki DeLoach's Carefrontation to 15-Year-Old Self, #AWKWARD

Hi All,

Kim let me jump in this week with a very special followup to my Thanksgiving post HIGH SCHOOL, LIKE LIFE, IS AWKWARD.

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the MTV show AWKWARD. Imagine my surprise when actress phemon, Nikki DeLoach, reached out to me on Facebook.

Nikki DeLoach: Hi! I checked out your blog and I LOVE it! How fun! Thank you so much for your support of the show. It really means so much, and I will definitely complete the carefrontation to myself.
 Carey: *jaw drops*

What Nikki shared with me is too good-too wise and empowering-not to pass along to others...

Nikki DeLoach: Dear 15 year old self,
Here is a list of things that someone (thanks loved ones) told me and other things that no one told me (thanks loved ones)...
1. Life is too short. Laugh a lot! Don't sweat the small stuff, and don't want to grow up faster than life wants you to.
2. Stand up for yourself and those who can't stand up for themselves. You will look back one day and be really proud of yourself.
3. Dump that boyfriend who you think is the one but who treats you like you are one of many. Puh-lease. You deserve better and when you are older, you will find it.
4. Forgive your parents. Love your parents. Be patient with your parents. Most of the time, they are doing the best they can. And they just want what's best for you.
5. Study hard. Work hard. People who live very fulfilling lives are those who understand that you have to give a care. So care.
6. Treasure your friends. Be a good friend.
7. Be yourself. Be who you are. Even if you think that "who you are" will not be accepted in the cool crowd, be yourself. You are perfectly wonderful just as you are.
8. No matter how hard they try, don't let your mom and nana convince you that a perm looks good. It doesn't. (*This is definitely an amendment to rule number 4 where I say your parents just want what is best for you. In this case, they don't know what is best and I have the pictures to prove it).
9. Be kind. Treat people the way you would want to be treated. The Golden Rule is golden for a reason. Always solid advice (Thanks Dad).
10. Pretty is as pretty does. Outer beauty is just a reflection of your inner beauty. (Thanks Mom!)
11. Life is an extension of high school. Start loving yourself today. You are worth it.
12. Stand up for yourself and those who can't stand up for themselves. You will look back one day and be really proud of yourself.
3. Dump that boyfriend who you think is the one but who treats you like you are one of many. Puh-lease. You deserve better and when you are older, you will find it.
4. Forgive your parents. Love your parents. Be patient with your parents. Most of the time, they are doing the best they can. And they just want wants best for you.
5. Study hard. Work hard. People who live very fulfilling lives are those who understand that you have to give a care. So care.
6. Treasure your friends. Be a good friend.
7. Be yourself. Be who you are. Even if you think that "who you are" will not be accepted in the cool crowd, be yourself. You are perfectly wonderful just as you are.
8. No matter how hard they try, don't let your mom and nana convince you that a perm looks good. It doesn't. (*This is definitely an amendment to rule number 4 where I say your parents just want what is best for you. In this case, they don't know what is best and I have the pictures to prove it).
9. Be kind. Treat people the way you would want to be treated. The Golden Rule is golden for a reason. Always solid advice (Thanks Dad).
10. Pretty is as pretty does. Outer beauty is just a reflection of your inner beauty. (Thanks Mom!)
11. Life is an extension of high school. Start loving yourself today. You are worth it.
Thanks Nikki!!!

(In case you missed Kim's post WHAT DO ADULTS KNOW ABOUT TEEN FRIENDSHIPS?!)

Carey Corp is the author of THE HALO CHRONICLES: THE GUARDIAN.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Back in high school I was a happy go lucky science student who got along well with both classmates and teachers, well with the exception of one teacher, that is. In grade 12 I had an English teacher who had a total dislike for science students. One day in the middle of class he held my paper up and pointed at me. I knew in an instant nothing good could come from that. He told me in front of the entire class that “I write like someone from behind the lunch counter at Woolworths talked.” Yeah, he actually said that. He also said some other things but that’s a topic for another day.
Now, I might have considered myself a science student at the time, but I always liked to make up big elaborate stories to entertain my friends. Of course, they preferred to think I was a big fat liar, rather than a story teller.  I was also an avid reader but I certainly didn’t see myself growing up to be a writer. But a few years later, after deciding a science degree wasn’t for me, I switched degrees and decided I wanted to write books.  In the back of my mind, however, I always remembered what that teacher said to me. Regardless, I wasn’t about to let it stifle or stop me. In fact, it pushed me to succeed all that much more. 

I wanted to prove him wrong. 

I worked hard, learned the craft, wrote every day, joined critique groups, went to conferences, and did what I had to in order to succeed. What I didn’t do is let anyone tell me I couldn’t.

When I sat down to pen my first Young Adult Novel PRIDE’S RUN, I knew I wanted to create a heroine who was strong. A survivor. I gave her a problem, a big one, and despite what anyone said to her, I knew she was going to do whatever was necessary in order to achieve her mission.    

When I think about strong heroines, I think about the teen movies I like to watch. I love to see the heroines take charge; love to see them do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals.

I remember watching Sixteen Candles a few years back with my daughter, and while I truly loved the movie I kept thinking why doesn’t she just come out and tell her parents it’s her birthday. Why is she playing the victim!! I hate when people play the victim. 
During a movie marathon weekend my daughter and I also watched the movies She’s the Man, House Bunny and Legally Blonde. In She’s the Man, the heroine wanted to play soccer so she pretended to be her brother, dressed as a guy and worked her butt off until she made the team. I loved that!
Now I know you’re all thinking House Bunny and Legally blonde had bimbos for heroines but think about it. They were strong, they were survivors and they both did what they had to in order to achieve success, no matter how they defined that success. You have to give them credit for that!

Cat Kalen is a multi published author in the romance genre under two pen names, Cat is a wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend. She loves dogs, sunny weather, anything chocolate (she never says no to a brownie) pizza and watermelon. She has two teenagers who keep her busy with their never ending activities, and a husband who is convinced he can turn her into a mixed martial arts fan. Cat can never find balance in her life, is always trying to find time to go to the gym, can never keep up with emails, Facebook or Twitter and tries to write page-turning books that her readers will love. A maritime native and former financial officer, Cat has lived all over Canada but has finally settled down in her childhood hometown with her family.

Seventeen year old Pride is a tracker-a werewolf with a hunger for blood. Taught to trick and to lure, she is the perfect killing machine. 

To purchase your own copy of PRIDE'S RUN, click HERE. 

Thanks, Cat for such a great post! Pride sounds like a fierce heroine.

Cat has graciously offered to give one free copy to a randomly selected commenter. Follow the Honestly YA blog and leave your comment below for a chance to win. Standard contest disclaimer applies. 

Now it's your turn: What are some of your favourite books or movies that showcase strong heroines? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Am I Going to Prom, or to Hell?

No, this post isn’t about prom, but it is about ...the hells of high school. Honestly, I had a hard time narrowing my post to one topic, because looking back, high school was the worst, most miserable time of my life. (Think HEATHERS, minus the cute boy with a sexy voice and all the murder.)

So, in analyzing my high school years through the 20/20 lens of retrospect, I came to the conclusion that it all boils down to identityor lack thereof. I’m no psychologist, but I would venture to guess the lens through which we view ourselves guides every aspect of our lives. As adults, most of us take for granted that we know exactly who we are, and conversely, who we are not. For example, my current identity stems from my faith, my roles of wife, mother, daughter and friend, and of course, writer. But I also know my own limitations, so I’m fairly certain I’ll never climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, or teach ballroom dancing, or be a contestant on Project Runway.

But in those hellish years of high school, where insecurity, zits and raging hormones rule, most of us drifted from one group to another, seeking that one thing to make us feel unique and valued. To complicate matters, this is also when we pull away, with every ounce of our strength, from our families, as if we’d rather die than admit we have parents.
Me with Drama Club in NYC
In high school, I was friendly with everyone, but didn’t fit anywhere. My core group of friends were all in The Drama Club, but since I was too shy to audition for any of the school plays, only volunteering for various crew jobs like make-up and costumes, I was never fully accepted as one of them. My other friends were a group of popular girls, who seemed to accept me at face value, until I dared to invite the drama geeks to hang out with us. Of course, my Cure-listening, poetry-reading drama friends could not fathom why I would ever want to spend time with superficial fashion plates. I tried my best to be Switzerland, but instead, ended up lost.
Dance with 'popular' friends

I envied people like my good friend Ann, who found her identity in academic achievement and wanted to be a doctor since she was a fetus. (BTW, she became our class salutatorian and is now a successful pediatrician – Go Ann! J) Or my buddy Brian who caught the acting bug our junior year and spent his every waking hour in pursuit of his dream. (He lives in NYC and does commercials and off-Broadway productions—you rock, Brian!) Or my husband, who cruised through the entirety of his teen years safely ensconced in the same tight-knit group of friends he’d had since elementary school. (I’m pretty sure this is why he’s so well grounded today—love you, Tom!)

And then there were the girls who found their self-worth in boys. Cruising from relationship to relationship, they were never alone for more than 24-hours. It always mystified me how this occurred, when I couldn’t even score a date to homecoming! Maybe because I wasted all my time pining after a certain rapping football player in a Santa-suit (see my September 12th blog for that humiliating story).

But I think my hellish high school experience had a purpose. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d have such a passion for writing novels that empower teen girls. Specifically, stories that provide hope that there is life beyond the impenetrable doors of high school. And that afterlife is amazing!

So how about you? Did you have a strong sense of identity in high school? What defines who you are now?


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WELCOME WEDNESDAY GUEST POST: Renee Pace's Being Poor in High School Sucks

(Carey here. I am so happy to welcome ya author Renee Pace to Honestly YA. Although she lives far away from where I grew up, her universal topic is close to my heart.)

High school is hell. If you think it’s not, just remember that at no other time in your life will you feel like all eyes are watching you. Everyone observes your behavior—your parents, the teachers and even your BFFs. And just when you think it can’t get worse it will. Trust me, I know that from personal experience it will.
 My book Off Leash highlights poverty. I did this because in my small fishing community there were hard times. Did that matter to me? You bet. Hard times meant going without. Trying to get through high school on second-hand clothing from your cousin’s closet from two years ago? Whenever I saw her she always made a point of saying I looked good in her clothes. She lied. I didn’t look good in them. Out-dated and with my five foot-four frame compared to her five-nine model-thin body, the clothes made me look strange. My mother never cut the hem off the pants. She always tacked them up, just in case I had a growth spurt.  That never happened. Sweaters became my strategy through high school. If I put a sweater on over one of her shirts I’d be okay, but the minute that bulky sweater came off I was overly conscious of my flat chest. She filled out the shirts and I definitely didn’t.  To say I hated gym class would be an understatement. I think gym teachers live to embarrass teenagers. I was so self-conscious back then I resorted to changing in the washrooms.
What was worse than gym? Ah, you guessed it—the cafeteria. I always brown bagged it. Not because I didn’t have food but my food was usually the same—some type of homemade stew. You might think my parents were trying to be health conscious, try again. Homemade stew usually made from some type of wild creature my father hunted (think rabbit, deer and bears here) could get you through a lot of school days but it was embarrassing as hell. I always got teased. When it became clear I was soon going to be nicknamed the “soup lady” I stopped taking lunch.
I lived off coffee in high school and waited until I got home to eat. Like Jay in my book I pretended I was full and all was okay. I started working when I was 16 at my local drug store and to me it was the best thing ever. That first pay cheque I got I went into the cafeteria line and ordered French fries with gravy. Still to this day I can remember how they tasted—hot, slightly mushy and omg great.

Today as an adult I know those memories seem silly but whenever I see anyone from my high school days, which thankfully doesn’t happen a lot, I cringe. I’m 42 now but in their eyes I always feel like that awkward self-conscious teen, and that totally sucks.

Renee Pace is a young adult writer who likes to tackle real teen issues in her nitty gritty series. Mother of four children she calls Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada home. She loves coffee, living near the Atlantic Ocean and believes strongly in volunteerism. She is a member of Romance Writers of American, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, the Society of Children Writers and Illustrators, and the Nova Scotia Writers’ Federation. To find out more about Renee Off Leash, or her December release Off Limits please visit  
Great post Renee! Thanks so much for stopping by Honestly YA. Off Leash is is at the top of my TBR pile and I can't wait to read. Today, Renee will be giving away one digital copy of Off Leash. Follow the Honestly YA blog and leave your comment below for a chance to win. Standard contest disclaimer applies.

Your turn: Was poverty a noticeable issue in your school? If so what side of the tracks/median income did you fall on?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Makin' Up Is Hard To Do!

Melissa & Heather, circa 1989

When Jennifer introduced the topic of best friends, I knew I’d be telling you about my bestie, Heather. That’s a no-brainer. What I didn’t know was specifically what I’d tell you. We go way back, people. I’ve got more than twenty years of material to choose from!  Do I share the tale of our epic—and semi-nude—adventures backpacking through Italy and Greece? Nah. Who wants to see topless photos of eighteen-year-old girls? Perverts, that’s who. And our readers aren’t perverts.

So, instead, I decided to tie in the topic of friendship with something every writer (and BFF) knows well—and that’s conflict.

All friends fight. I maintain you’re a freak of nature if you don’t.  But many years ago, Heather and I quarreled over something stupid, and we didn’t speak for nearly three years afterwards. Yeah, you heard that right. Three years. I’ll woman up and claim responsibility—it was my fault.

I’d been dating Heather’s older brother, and when the relationship ended and she sent me an email asking why, I lost my shit and got defensive. I told her it was none of her business, or something equally rude and un-BFF-like. She did the logical thing and backed off, and then it began: The Silence.

Nothing suffocates friendship like The Silence. Because each day you don’t speak, the “what if’s” grow louder, planting doubts in your mind like, What if I reach out and she snubs me? What if she hates me now? And after years have gone by, What if it’s awkward between us? What if we can’t get it back?

I was an emotional wussy, choosing silence instead of growing a pair and apologizing. But luckily for me, Heather’s got some serious brass berries. One day, she sent me an email, basically saying, “Look. I don’t remember why we’re fighting, but this is stupid, and I miss you.” I snatched that olive branch with both hands and never looked back.

Now we’re like this again ::crosses fingers:: separated by time zones, not conflict. In fact, my husband complains that Heather and I sound like a pair of lovers when we post Miss you! or Love you! on each other’s Facebook pages. We stay in touch and get together once a year, usually each spring, for a BFF getaway. Speaking of which, I could use that vacation right about now!

Posing with our anatomically-correct snow couple. (1990)

As for my writing, I’ve noticed themes of fractured friendships in both my books. In OUTWORLDERS, my YA sci-fi, the main character and her best friend don’t speak for months. And when they finally make up, they’re quickly separated again…by galaxies. In my adult romance, the main character is reunited with her best friend after a ten-year rift…and that best friend happens to be her super-sexy first love!

(I should probably disclose that my BFF is super-sexy, but I don’t swing that way. Love ‘ya, Heather!)
Melissa & Heather, circa 2009

Now it’s your turn! Tell me about a time you fought with a good friend. Or better yet, tell me how you reconnected with one!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


When Lea Nolan invited me to guest  post here and told me that the topic was “high school hells,” my first thought was, “Wow…I can definitely talk about that.”

Not that I want to. I don’t think anyone should have to go through hell, in high school or otherwise. Unfortunately, it happens. When I was in high school, I was the kid who was bullied by the kids who were bullied. Lowest in the pecking order. Beginning in kindergarten, every day that I went to school I was teased, picked on, or bullied in one way or another. I was what you might call an easy target.

Most days that I went to school, I didn’t want to be there. I perfected the art of playing sick so I could either stay home or be sent home. When all else failed, I hid in the school library. I did have a handful of friends, but they were far outnumbered by the bullies. Added to that, I was very shy and afraid to talk to most people, and I think that contributed to my being bullied. After graduation, a few people told me that they had wanted to be my friend but thought I was “stuck up” because I didn’t talk to anyone.

One of my clearest memories of high school is wanting to slam a cheerleader against her locker—preferably many times—after she shouted at me, “Hey, elephant girl, why don’t you learn how to walk?” I’m not normally a violent person, and I didn’t actually touch her, or even respond, but that day I really, really wanted to do something. I was a senior then, and after twelve years I’d had it. I was sick and tired of being treated like crap.

Come on, you know you want to punch them too.
Nothing changed after that day. No one knew how close I’d come to actual physical violence. But I did start forcing myself not to care what people said about me. I was almost finished high school, and I would go on to do things that the kids who put me down wouldn’t be able to believe. I didn’t have to live my life based on their snippy little comments and insults. After all, they were only putting me down to make themselves feel better, and that was kind of sad for them.

Of course, I’m far from the only one who’s ever been through hell in high school. Pretty much every teen movie ever made deals with one kind of hell or another, from Emilio Estevez’s character in The Breakfast Club bragging about duct-taping a kid’s buttocks together to the over-the-top but not completely unrealistic sniping and bullying in Mean Girls. 
Lets see if he likes having his butt taped together.
There are so many books that deal with kids being teased or bullied, or having friends turn on them or stab them in the back, that I can’t even think of any to name (too many titles rushing through my brain). High school, with hundreds or even a couple thousand kids crammed into one building, is a fertile ground for conflicts of all kinds to occur.
The Plastics...ruling the school one insult at a time.
When my editor at Featherweight Press started working on my new novel Cluing In, one of the comments he made to me was, “All this happens to one person? I don’t remember this much drama at my high school.” My response was, “You’re lucky, then.”

The “drama” that Jamey Mandel, the main character in Cluing In, experiences is little compared to what some of my high school friends, and some of the high school students I’ve worked with, have dealt with in real life. Jamey has things pretty good for the most part. There are a few students at his high school that he doesn’t get along with, but most of the time he avoids them and they avoid him. The biggest problem in his life at the beginning of the book is that his girlfriend Tina is pressuring him to have sex. Jamey’s parents were only eighteen when he was born, and his father had moved out of state by the time Jamey’s mother learned she was pregnant, so she raised him alone for the first five years of his life. He has good reasons to want to wait for having sex.

After he breaks up with Tina, things get worse. She starts dating one of the guys Jamey doesn’t get along with. Then the rumors start. Rumors, unfortunately, are a big part of high school life (at least in the high schools I’ve been in), and Jamey’s school is no exception. Rumors go around about him being a virgin, which isn’t so bad since it’s true, but that isn’t something he wanted everyone to know about.

Rumors also go around that Tina’s pregnant by her new boyfriend, and that he’s dumped her because of it. And that’s also true.

Not being able to take the entire school knowing about her pregnancy, and not wanting to risk them finding out that she’s terminated it, Tina takes her own life. Some of the school blames Jamey, who entirely blames himself since Tina had come to him for help and he’d turned her away. Other students blame Tina’s new boyfriend, to the point of calling him a murderer, and the only thing that keeps him from taking the same way out as Tina is some quick thinking by Jamey.

High school can definitely be hell. Especially if you’re the target of bullying or rumors. Fortunately, it can also be a support system, as Jamey finds out.

Cluing In is available from Featherweight Press and from third-party retailers. To find out more about Jo Ramsey and her books, please visit

Great post, Jo! Thanks so much for stopping by Honestly YA. CLUING IN looks like a fantastic book. So how about you, gentle readers? Did you weather any bullying in high school? Evil rumors? Ever land a punch in retaliation, or just wish you had? Unload in the comments section below.