November 30, 2010

What's in a name?

I've always been a little obsessed with names. Not exactly sure why. It's just one of my weird quirks, I suppose. For instance, I've always kept a list in my head of names I'd like to give my future son(s) or daughter(s). In high school, I loved the name Avery for a girl and the name Aidan for a boy. And in college, I was fairly certain I'd name my daughter Danika and my son Hayden.

Recently, I've really come to like the name, Lane, for a girl. It's short yet sweet. A little feminine yet a little masculine. Plus, I could call her Laney for short! Too cute! I'm not even pregnant, but I figure it's good to plan ahead. But alas! When I told Justin about my new naming obsession, he merely shook his head and said:

"Uh, that name makes me think about Lane Bryant. So, no...."

Blast! There goes my hopes for a little Lane Richmond. Ah well.

Fortunately though, I thought of a Shiny New Idea last night for a YA novel (inspired by my recent ten-year high school reunion) and I needed a name for the female protagonist...so I've decided to call her Lane! Perfect! If I can't use this name in real life, then I might as well use it in a book, right?

So how do you name your characters in your books?

November 29, 2010

Outfits For Every Occasion!

I had a ton of fun this weekend playing around with Polyvore, which is a shopping site that allows you to build your own online collages. What do y'all think?

First up, we have an outfit I put together for a fancy dinner out on the town. I'm actually thinking about buying this dress for my upcoming birthday...
A Night Out with Justin


Next up, I've put together an outfit for a fun afternoon hanging out with friends. Gotta love boots! 
And my personal favorite: an outfit and accessories for those times when I'm hammering out my rough draft. Sweatpants + chocolate cake + prescription pills = a real winner!


November 25, 2010

A Chinese Thanksgiving

If you haven't noticed, I'm Chinese.

Yes, it is true! Unbelievable, I know!

And because I am Chinese, my family's Thanksgivings are always kind of...interesting. For instance, we used to baste our turkey with soy sauce when I was a kid. Plus, we always serve rice with our meal. As my grandma says, "Chinese people need to eat rice!" So, rice it is!

This year's Thanksgiving was just like any other Chinese Thanksgiving in my household. Rice was served. Chicken livers were sauteed (my mom's creation). And my grandma sniffed at all of the strange American food. Even better, our meal was doubly amusing this year because my mom invited one of her friends to join us. This friend recently arrived in America from China and this would be her first Thanksgiving. Cue antics...

Chinese Woman: "What is this? Is this a grape?"
Me: "Uh...that's a dried cranberry."
Chinese Woman: "I see. What am I eating right now? Is this...bread?"
My dad: "Yes, those are bread crumbs!"
Me: "Uh...Dad, that's actually my stuffing." 
My dad: "Oh, yes, yes. That is what I meant."

Heh.

My poor husband. To be more precise, my poor white husband. You see, all of our conversations tonight were spoken in Chinese. Yep. Justin was kind of baffled the whole meal and had to excuse himself early.

But that's what you get when you attend a Chinese Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2010

The publishing industry may be SLOW...but take heart!

I often hear that the publishing industry moves at a glacial pace, yet I often find stories to the contrary. You know the ones...

* The writer who lands an agent within a week of querying.
* The agent who sells a book within three days of acquiring it.
* Or the editor who buys a manuscript for a six-figure deal seemingly overnight. 

It's enough to make you pull your hair out and wonder if you'll ever land an agent or if you'll ever find that elusive publishing contract. Fortunately, I found this piece of wisdom on Agent Jennifer Laughran's blog a few days ago and it has given me hope:

The fact is, publishing is a very slow business. Very. Very. Slow. As far as publishers go, it takes many people to make an offer, and to make a real book, and at least one of those people is ALWAYS on vacation or at a conference.

Yay! This made me feel better...and it also got me thinking. 

I think we as writers often memorialize such stories (Six Offers of Rep! A Seven-Figure Deal!) because they are so tantalizing. Who wouldn't want to be like Stephenie Meyer who had a dream about vampires and then went on to pen a multi-million dollar empire? But the problem with idealizing these stories is that we rarely hear about the slog and the suckage that came before the ever-so-shiny publishing deal.

For instance, a friend of mine recently received four offers of representation. Four offers! Doesn't that sound wondrous? But most people don't realize how hard it was for her to get to this point: breaking up with her first agent, re-writing her entire book, and then re-writing it again. All in all, it took her two years of suckage before she went on submission again.

And for another example, my own agent has sold books overnight but he has also sold a book three years after putting it on submission. Holy waiting times, Batman! But hey, it happens.

So I guess what I'm saying is this: Writers, Take Heart! We may be surrounded by Cinderella stories where a writer gets fifteen offers of rep and goes on to secure a billion-dollar deal in two weeks, but you know what? That's okay! Chances are, that lucky writer went through years of rejection and dejection before she hit it big. And chances are, we will go through the same thing before we reach our own goals.

At the end of the day, the publishing industry is a slow industry. There are times it may move like a cheetah, but more often than not it runs at the speed of a sloth.

Take heart, this Thanksgiving weekend! Lord knows, I need to take this advice!

November 20, 2010

What I've Learned from NaNoWriMo

Dear Heavens!

National Novel Writing Month is taking over my life! At every free moment, I hunker down with my little netbook in my lap and I force myself to type, type, type. I hit 31,000-words last night (huzzah!) but I still have 20,000-words to hammer out before the end of the month (wahhhh!). Poor Justin...he keeps nudging me to get of the house but I shake my head and tell him I still need to write 1500-words to meet my daily count. Thank God for patient husbands!

Anyway, I still have 10 days left for NaNoWriMo but I've picked up a few lessons in the past few weeks. If I decide to tackle this again next year, I hope I can remember these points to save myself some grief:

1.) Outlines are your friends, especially for NaNo. 
Truth be told, I'm totally a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of writer and it works for me since my stories tend to unfold organically. BUT, the pantser method doesn't work well when you're trying to churn out 50K words in the span of four weeks. As I've entered the middle of my novel, I really wish I had an outline to refer to because I have no effing clue as to how Point B should lead to Point C. Blargh!

2.) Healthy competition is a good thing. 
I attempted NaNo last year but I gave up early because I didn't know anyone else who was doing it and I became distracted by shiny things, like cupcakes and peacoats.

This year, however, I've registered with the official NaNo site and I've added about 15 friends to my buddy list. (Some of these people have no idea who I am. I just lurk on their blogs and I wanted more buddies so I added them. Bwahaha!) It definitely fuels my fire when I see my buddies hitting the 30K or 40K mark---and I realize how much I need to make up. So...make friends when doing NaNo! It has helped me feel less lonely and it has lit a bright fire under my ass to crank out more words.

3.) Try to write something every day, even if it's only 50 words. 
Yep, sometimes it gets hard to motivate myself to write 1500- or 2000-words per day. Why? Because there are so many things that are more fun to do than churning out words: Watching movies! Taking a nap! Shopping for hats! Cleaning toilets! But I've quickly learned that I can't slack off on NaNo because then I have to make up a lot of words, which causes me to give up because I don't think I can do it. A little each day goes a long way! (Hehe, that rhymes.)

4.) Accept the fact that you will write crap.
Whoo boy, some of these chapters I'm writing are incredibly stinky! Like, really really stinky. And should be deleted right away. But you know what? That's okay. NaNo is all about quantity rather than quality---it's about getting your rough draft finished so you can get to work on editing the darn story (yay! I love editing!).

Admittedly, it has been really tough for me to turn off my inner-editor, but I know it's for the best because it'll take me another year to finish this draft if I revert to my normal slow-ass pace. Go crappy writing!

How are you guys doing with your NaNo projects? Any lessons you've picked up along the way?

November 19, 2010

Falling in Love with Harry Potter

I am dragging Justin to watch "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" today. Dragging him! I've been bursting to watch this movie since last summer and I'm absolutely giddy to watch it.

Uh, can you tell that I'm a huge HP fan? :) I much prefer Robert Patts as Cedric Diggory, thank you very much!

So...all of this Potter-mania has made me think about the first time I read the books. Ready for a slightly boring story? Well, here you go!

Back in December 2000, I was a freshman in college and I had recently flown back home to Maryland for winter break. Imply put, I was pretty bored. My break stretched over three long weeks and I didn't have much to do except watch TV and annoy my little sister.

One night, I was moping around the house and I saw a copy of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" sitting on the coffee table. I had perused the HP books at my local B&N but I thought they looked rather silly. See, I was too good for children's literature back then---by God, I was going to be an English major! But, like I said, I was really bored so I picked up the novel and turned to the first page:

Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard.

Holy opening paragraph, Batman! I was hooked from the first page. I read, I read, and I read through the night. The next morning, I went to the library and checked out Books 1 and 2. Then, I stopped by the bookstore to pick up the newly-published Book 4 since I couldn't find a copy at the library.

Yep, it was pretty much love at first read. I absolutely adored the world of Hogwarts and I absolutely loved Harry. Even now, ten years later, I still look back fondly on my first encounter with Harry Potter and I totally credit the series for helping me land an agent. After all, I re-read Book 3 numerous times while I drafted my sci-fi book because I wanted to capture the magical essence that J.K. Rowling injected onto every page.

So are any of you watching the HP movie this weekend? If so, let me know what you think! And what was your encounter like with the Harry Potter series?

November 17, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Wednesday Evening

1.) Justin recently got us memberships to our local gym. Wahoo? I really need to start working out, but I'm also as lazy as a sloth.


2.) So I went to a beginner's yoga class on Tuesday at the gym...and it was SO hard! The instructor kept coming over to chide me how I was doing the "Downward Dog" pose all wrong. ("You cannot lock your elbows! Your hands should be splayed like this!") And then in the middle of the class, this woman totally starts doing a headstand! Turns out, I had totally attended the wrong class. Whoops...


3.) Tonight, I met with my lovely agent-sisters Robin Talley and Jessica Spotswood for dinner and it was a blast as always!  Both of their WIPs sound really awesome and I'm sure we'll be hearing about their publishing deals in 2011. 


4.) My birthday is coming up in a couple weeks (I'm turning 28. Yipes!) and I'm debating if I should ask for a gift certificate to Anthropologie or to Amazon.com. Anthro is, like, my favorite clothing store ever but my reading list has grown exponentially in the past month. For instance, I really want to read the non-fiction book "The Emperor of Maladies" and I also want to tackle "The Lonely Polygamist." Hmm, decisions decisions! 


5.) My NaNo project is going pretty well but I need to make up a few thousand words. So far, I've written over 25,000-words, which is a feat in it of itself since I'm the slowest writer in the world. Plus, I'm easily distracted by shiny things. Gotta keep chugging along though! 


6.) Is anyone else a fan of the new HBO series, Boardwalk Empire? I'm kind of in love with it! The Roaring Twenties is my favorite era of history and it's really cool to watch a TV show rooted in this period. If I ever give up on this fiction writing thing, then I plan on getting a PhD in American history and focusing my dissertation on the flappers. Flappers are effing awesome, yo!

November 16, 2010

A weekend at the beach!

This past weekend, I flew down to Folly Beach, South Carolina to spend a few days with my critique group. So fun! All of us met at an SCBWI retreat back in April and we've made it a goal to get together as a group twice a year. Fortunately, one of our members, Kathleen, was able to score us a beach house (for free!) so we packed our bags and headed down to Folly.

Ta da! The lovely beaches of Folly!


Here we are: Debra, me, Kathleen, and Rebecca

I spent most of my time with my ass in this chair, hammering out my NaNo novel.

And sometimes I'd get out of my chair and take a stroll.
                           

Huzzah! It was really wonderful to re-connect with my critique group and to spend time talking about books, writing, food, our first kisses, and our greatest fears (spiders! clowns! torture!). Since we didn't have wi-fi access, we also had a lot of time to focus on our writing. But, of course, I found other non-internet ways to distract myself... Hmm, maybe I should delete Solitaire and Hearts from my computer! Haha.

All in all, I great weekend. But now, back to work! Must crank out some freelance articles and catch up on my NaNo count. Need...to...finish...this...book! 

So how do you guys distract yourself from writing? Blogs? Writer's forums? Solitaire? Stuffing your face with mint M&Ms, like me?

November 11, 2010

Friday Five (A Day Early!)

Since I'll be out-of-town tomorrow, I thought I'd post my "Friday Five" a day early. Annnnd, here we go!

1.) We got back early this morning from Justin's grandfather's funeral. The service itself was lovely---a military burial, beautiful flowers, and funny remarks during the eulogy. Justin's family shared some awesome, border-line irreverent stories about Grandpa Ingersoll but I know he would've loved it. 

The day after the funeral, we headed to Grandpa's house to clear things out and we found some amazing old photographs, including a picture of Justin's great-grandfather in his WWI fighter plane. (World War I is one of my favorite periods of history so I thought that was very cool!) Below, you'll see a picture of Justin's grandpa during his pilot days in WWII. Isn't he quite dashing?


2.) Ugh, I ate so much junk food while we were gone. This always happens when I'm traveling. McDonald's. California Tortilla. Subway. Pizza. Man, my poor tummy... I think I'm going to have a gigantic salad tonight.

3.) My NaNo project is coming along well, but it's been on hiatus during our trip to the funeral. I have a lot of catching up to do, but I've hammered out 14,000-words so far! That's a lot of writing for me because I am a S-L-O-W writer. I'm going to have to churn out my output to reach 50K though. I can do it though! I think I can, I think I can! 

4.) Right now, I'm reading the middle grade novel, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, and it is amazing. Amazing! If this book doesn't win the Newbery this year, I will be flabbergasted. The book is about three sisters who spend a summer in Oakland with their mother, who abandoned them years before. Since the story is set in 1968, there are some fabulous historical details in the novel: the Black Panthers, the assassination of JFK, hippies, etc.


5.) Early tomorrow morning, Justin will drop me off at the airport (again) and I'll be heading to Charleston for a writer's retreat. Wahoo! I'm meeting up with three members of my critique group and our schedule this weekend will be simple: write, read, talk, eat, and drink. I'm super excited! 

So what are you guys up to this weekend? Any plans? And whatcha reading right now?

November 9, 2010

Writerly Playlists


Do you listen to music when you write? 

If so, how do you do it?!

I'm one of those writers who can only write in silence. I suppose my poor little brain operates on one single frequency: I can work on my book OR listen to music but I certainly can't do them both. If I try, my mind gets all addled and my writing turns into mumbo-jumbo like this: 

"Delphine the zebra traveled to the watering hole one morning in hopes of taking a long drink. Before she arrived at the watering hole, however, she ran into Captain Picard who decided to beam Delphine aboard the Starship Enterprise. Delphine couldn't believe her luck! You see, she had watched Star Trek on her jungle television for many years and now she could finally travel through the stars with gorgeous Han Solo by her side." 

Yep, mumbo jumbo. 

So...what do you like to listen to whilst penning your novel? Or are you like me and require absolute silence while writing your masterpiece?

November 8, 2010

Have you read the Best Books of 2010?

On Friday, Publishers Weekly posted their list of the "Best Books of 2010"...

...and I haven't read a single one of them.

*Hides*

Granted, the list is comprised of adult fiction and non-fiction titles and I read mostly YA/MG/astronomy books these days. But, but, but. This is no excuse! As a book lover, I need to start feeding my brain with some of these books. Frankly, they sounds pretty awesome! Here are three that I really want to tackle: 

The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee

PW's Review:
"Grim, but so is Dostoyevski. Lee, who can craft a sentence, follows several decades in the lives of an American soldier and a Korean orphan whose paths cross during the Korean War, the reverberations of which, Lee shows, are now deeply woven into the fabric of what it means to be American."

My take:
Oh, I'm a sucker for beautiful writing and novels woven with history. Sold.


The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

PW's Review:
"Golden Richards, a fundamentalist Mormon with four wives and 28 children, flirts with infidelity in this tragicomic family saga with a cast of flawed, perfectly realized characters. Don't mistake this for the Great American Mormon Novel—it could just be the Great American Novel of the year."

My take:
I've actually been meaning to read this books for months since it's gotten amazing reviews but I haven't wanted to pony up the $20 to buy it. (I'm cheap, yo.) But..."Great American Novel of the Year"? Yeah, I need to read this book pronto!

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

PW's Review:
"Wilkerson's sprawling study of the flight of six million blacks from the humiliation of Jim Crow to uncertain destinies in the American North and West is expansive in scope, pointillist in focus, and a triumph of scholarship and empathy. Anchoring her narrative in the suspenseful stories of three who made the journey, Wilkerson humanizes the migration that reshaped American demographics, art, and politics."

My take:
Back in September, all of the newspapers and magazines I read lavished praise for this book. New York Times! Newsweek! Washington Post! Every reviewer adored it. I've been hesitant to read this book, however, due to the subject matter. I've always had a hard time reading about racism but I think I need to satiate the inner history geek inside me and pick up a copy of this book. Plus, isn't the title awesome? It's perfect.

So what's on your To-Be-Read list?

November 7, 2010

My book has a new genre?

When my agent emailed me last week, he referred to my little book as a "space opera."

A space opera! I don't really know what that means, but it sounds cool. Like Luke Skywalker or Captain Picard speeding through the galaxy and breaking out in song. Awesome! 

Anyway, I decided to look up the definition of "space opera" on trusty Wikipedia and here's what I found:

Space opera is a sub-genre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic adventure, and is set mainly or entirely in outer space. Perhaps the most significant trait of space opera is that settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale. Unlike conventional opera, space operas do not usually feature people singing.

What?! No people singing? I guess no genre can be perfect...

Interestingly enough, I've finally found a genre that encompasses my book to a tee! My novel is set almost entirely in space and it features a plethora of battles and spaceships and sharp weapons. (A Trekkie's dream!) But alas, it does not feature people singing. Perhaps I should pen some ditties and insert them into a few of the chapters? Maybe something like "Meet Me at the Asteroid Belt" or "I'm Goin' Off to Fight Aliens" or "I Left My Heart at a Cafe on Pluto."

I also thought it would be fun to see what I could find when I typed "space opera" in Google Images. Some cool stuff came up, as well as some super-weird things.


Pretty awesome! I love the vintage, Star Wars feel of this poster. If my book could be distilled into a single image, it would look a lot like this: sleek space vessels, crazy-looking aliens, and a backdrop of stars. But no spandex-clad women. This is a middle grade novel for goodness sake!








Ahhh! Why do space opera women have to wear skimpy clothing? Don't they have proper apparel in the future? 






Look! They're totally singing! 





I'm weird, huh?
:o)

November 6, 2010

Don't fret, Caroline, you'll get published one day (Um, maybe?)

Rejection. Hmm, it sucks, doesn't it?

It always leaves me feeling deflated and depressed. A little flattened, if you will...as if someone has taken a mallet and pounded my heart into a fleshy pancake. And I hate pancakes. (No, really, it's true. I also hate waffles and French toast. I'm weird.)

When rejections come my way, I often do three things: 

1.) Eat unhealthy amounts of ice cream and Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
2.) Work on a new book to focus on something else. (Jim told me he thinks my WIP sounds "FABULOUS!" And he actually typed it in all caps!)
3.) Re-read Shannon Hale's biography on her website. 

I love me some Shannon Hale. She's the author of books like The Goose Girl and Princess Academy, and her blog is funny, funny, funny. Additionally, her path to becoming a published author has taken some interesting twists and turns that I find oh-so-inspiring. Here's what she wrote about getting an MFA at the University of Montana: 

Unfortunately, I wasn't offered a teaching assistantship [in my MFA program].  Those with teaching assistantships teach undergrad classes and get free   tuition. When I asked the department head how they chose which students got to be TAs, she told me they were granted based on who they thought were the best writers. She looked away politely while I tried not to cry.
By my second year, I was the only one in my group who wasn't a TA--effectively, I was considered the worst writer in the program. This stung, yes, quite a lot. (Incidentally, I believe I'm the only one of the group now to have published multiple books by a major publisher, let alone spend time on the New York Times Best Seller list.) All I'm saying is, I was never considered the best or the brightest at any stage in my education, and that's never a good indication of whether or not you've got what it takes. 

Wow, good for her for not giving up, eh? And here's another snippet that I find oh-so-inspiring too: 

By summer of 2001 I'd found an agent to represent my novel--a real miracle in and of itself. Amy thought it was a young adult book and she began to shop it to the big children's publishers over the next several months. They rejected it again and again--nine rejections in all. It was an exciting and emotionally exhausting year. I had an agent! And she was sending out my novel! And everyone hated it...and said no, no, no...
Now seven years later, The Goose Girl remains my most popular novel, has gone through many printings, translated into several languages, earned several awards, and inspired three sequels. I think it goes to show that rejection doesn't always mean "You stink!" It can mean, "You haven't found your home yet. Keep looking.

Ahhhh. Thank you so much for sharing that, Ms. Hale. It brings some warm fuzzies into my heart on this cold November morning. 

November 5, 2010

Friday Five, In Memoriam

Well, I probably won't have enough bullet-points for a Friday Five today. More like a Friday Three. But here goes. 

1.) A very close member of Justin's family passed away yesterday. It wasn't entirely unexpected, but it happened so quickly that it shocked us both. We'll be flying out on Monday to attend the funeral. Suffice to say, there's kind of a gray cloud hanging over us today. While we're grateful that everything happened quickly and with little pain, it's still hard to lose someone you love. 

2.) I used to think that I could prepare myself for certain kinds of death. (Oh, the naivete!) Specifically, I thought I could ready myself for my grandmother's death. You see, my grandma---or Popo as we called her in Chinese---had Alzheimer's for many years and had lost the ability to walk or feed herself. After visiting her in the nursing home for two years, I really believed that I would only feel peace when she died. There would be no more suffering. No more pain. And no more nursing home food, which I'm sure my grandma hated. 

Yet, when my grandma finally passed away last fall, I felt like someone had punched me in the throat. I started crying at traffic stops and at trips to the grocery store. She was really gone, and I didn't know how to process that.

So here's one thing I've learned about death: you can't fight the grief. It will inevitably come, even if your loved one has led a long life and even though they were sick for a very long time. It still hurts like hell but it's better not to fight the pain. Let it roll through you. Let everything sink in. Grief is the price we pay for the greatest kind of love.

3.) Next weekend, I need to make it a point to visit my surviving grandmother, my Nai Nai. She always gives me a big hug whenever she sees me and she never lets me help her with dinner, even though it's getting hard for her to move around. She makes the yummiest Chinese food, especially these meatballs cooked with cabbage that I scarf down in five seconds flat. 

I need to visit my Nai Nai and spend some time with her. I need to tell her how much she means to me...

November 3, 2010

On Bribing People to Become My Friend

I have a question for you guys.

Justin is leaving for Afghanistan in a few months and I'm faced with a quandary... How do I make new friends when he's away and when I work from home all day? 

Man, making friends used to be so easy! Back in the day, I'd chat with the girl sitting next to me at school and invite her to my house to play Legos. Voila, instant friend! But now that I'm 27 and have moved back to my hometown, I realize most of my high school friends have left for New York and my college pals live on the other side of the country. What's a girl like me to do?

I've been fortunate enough to have met some wonderful, wonderful people through blogging and various writerly forums. Thank you, Lynn, for our marathon lunch sessions! Thank you Jessica and Robin for our Gallery Place adventures! And thank you Alexa and Ellen for being so cool and not thinking I'm a crazy person! Yes, I count myself as very lucky to have met these great women.

But...my newfound friends have very busy lives to lead and I'm sure they don't want me calling every evening to ask, "What are you up to? Mind if I come on over? Aw, why not?!" Thus, the question remains: where do I find more people to add to my friend collection? At the mall? At the park? Just around the river bend? 

I've thought about getting more involved at my library, maybe join a book club if they have one. Or I could do some volunteer work. Or I could take a class while Justin's away (perhaps painting or web design). Or...something else! 

So how have you guys made friends since college? Any advice for me? :)

November 1, 2010

Why I want my daughter to read The Mockingbirds


On Friday evening, I headed to the bookstore and bought Daisy Whitney's new novel, The Mockingbirds. By 1AM, I had blazed through its pages and had breathlessly finished the book. 

All I can is this: the book is powerful, honest, and just plain good. Even though I don't have kids, I plan to read this with my future daughter because the issue of rape is something that we need to talk about. Frighteningly, 1 out of every 6 American women will be a victim of sexual assault.

In the novel, high schooler Alex Patrick has too much to drink one night and wakes up in the morning next to a guy she barely knows. Even scarier, she slowly realizes that the guy had sex with her while she was passed out. Consumed by guilt, Alex wants to forget what has happened but her friends convince her that she has been date raped. They urge her to enlist the help of The Mockingbirds, a secret society at their private school that's dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow students.

When I finished the book, I had one thought coursing through my mind, "Teenagers need to read this. They need to read this right now." Why? Because when I was a teen, I always thought rapists lurked in dark alleyways and shadowy parking lots. They were older, sleazy guys with slicked-back hair and a leer on their lips. They looked scary and dangerous. 

Thus, I could avoid them.

But the truth of the matter is that 73% rape victims know their assailants. It can be a friend or a neighbor or a relative or a boyfriend. In Alex's case, it was a student at her school--an athlete who shared a class with her. He wasn't old and scary looking. Instead, he played water polo. He didn't attack her in an alley or a parking garage. Instead, he took her to his dorm room after a party.

It scares me to realize that this sort of thing happens every day on campuses like Alex's school. And it scares me even more that victims often blame themselves for what has happened ("But I drank too much." "But I let him into my room.") Yet, I take comfort in knowing that there are supportive women (and men) out there like Alex's friends. Even though Alex put herself in a bad situation, her friends never let her take blame for the assault. They tell her it's never okay for a guy to sleep with a girl who is physically unable to give assent. They tell her that rape is rape is rape.

Man, it really terrifies me to become a mother one day...but at least I have a book like this on my side. Because of The Mockingbirds, I'm going to have some meaningful discussions with my kids.

Thank you, Daisy, for writing this.

*Statistics found here and here.