An Interview with Jamie Beth Cohen, Author of WASTED PRETTY
May 5th, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

Buying Links: For signed copies RIVERBEND COMICS |Book Depository |B&N | Audible | Amazon

About WASTED PRETTY From Goodreads:

Wasted Pretty is a beautiful, touching novel that I wish I had when I was all of the things Alice Burton was: a fierce, strong teenager learning how to navigate her changing body, developing heart, and powerful mind.” –Mayim Bialik, Big Bang Theory, Blossom, and founder of Grok Nation

During junior year of high school, star student and stellar lacrosse player Alice Burton grew four inches, and, thanks to her mom’s experimental health food products, shed twenty pounds. Alice has mixed feelings about her surprising transformation.

On the plus side: Chris Thompson, the hot college guy she has a crush on, talks to her.

On the minus side: Her dad’s creepy friend, professional athlete Karl Bell, lets his eyes, and his hugs, linger too long.

After a disturbing encounter in a dark hallway, Alice realizes the response some men have to her new body isn’t just disgusting, it’s dangerous. Her life is further complicated by her parents’ crumbling finances and the family’s entanglement with Karl.

Set in Pittsburgh in 1992, Wasted Pretty is about a girl determined to protect her body, her future, and her heart.


1. Share with readers a novel secret—something that readers will never know just from picking up the book.

Although Alice, the main character in WASTED PRETTY, is a sixteen-year-old girl in Pittsburgh in 1992, and I was a sixteen-year-old girl in Pittsburgh in 1992, nothing in the book happens the way it did in my life EXCEPT ONE SCENE: Like Alice, I once accidentally locked myself in a bathroom in the apartment of a boy I had a crush on, a boy whose apartment I really shouldn’t have been in in the first place. And he really did say to me, from the other side of the door: “Am I going to have to call your dad and tell him you accidentally got locked in my bathroom?” Mortifying. Also, Alice doesn’t like tea. I also feel that tea is just dirty water.

2. Can you share why it was important to you to show a relationship between your MC, a 16/17 year-old young woman and a 20/21-year-old young man?

Sure. It’s something that comes up a lot when I’m doing WASTED PRETTY book club chats (which I love doing, in person or via Zoom!). I like doing intergenerational ones the best — teens and their parents together — and it’s interesting to see who thinks this relationship is appropriate, even normal or familiar, and who thinks it’s inappropriate. It’s not always what I would expect. 

It was important to me to explore where lines get muddy. Because of Alice’s appearance, she has started to attract attention from guys, both her age and older. She knows the attention from her dad’s friend, Karl, does not feel good, and she also knows that Chris is older than she is, though not as old as Karl. Why does the attention from Chris feel good, while the attention from Karl does not. These are questions I think a lot of people can relate to and are worth thinking about. How does age relate to power? If someone has power and chooses not to abuse it, what does it say about them?

3. Can you tell us anything about the sequel? Where are you in the process?

Well, I can tell you that in July of 2019, I threw out 40,000 words of a draft of the sequel. It was hard, but necessary. I’m currently about 35,000 words back into it and I’m really liking where it’s heading. I can’t tell you much about the plot or characters (both because I don’t want to spoil it or WASTED PRETTY, and because who knows what might change before publication!), but I can say that (right now, at least) it starts the week Alice graduates from college. She has to make some decisions about what comes next for her and she has a lot of competing interests to sort out.

Bonus round: What do you prefer?

Laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming? None? But, if I have to choose: Laundry, though I have to admit, I usually lose steam when it comes to putting it away…at least it’s clean and folded!

Reading books on a tablet or a paper copy? PAPER!!!!!!!

Movies at home or movies in a theater? Before kids? Theater! After kids? Home!

Brisket, kugel, chicken soup? BRISKET!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dancing, yoga, walking, swimming? WALKING, preferably in New York City or a path in the woods. (“I contain multitudes.”)

About Jamie Beth Cohen:

From her website: I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and currently live in Lancaster County, PA with my husband, our two children and our cat. My seventeen years outside of the Keystone state took me to Fairfax, VA; New York City; College Park, MD, and Los Angeles, CA.

I am a graduate of The Ellis School for Girls and have studied writing at Long Lake Camp for the Arts, the (now, sadly defunct) Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts at Mercyhurst College (where I later served as the Assistant Resident Director), and George Mason University where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Writing with a minor in Art History. I have a Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration from Baruch College – City University of New York.

My non-fiction has appeared in The Baltimore SunThe Washington Post, TeenVogue.com and many other outlets. My poems have been published in Loyalhanna Review and Crossing Limits: African Americans and American Jews.

All I have ever wanted to do is write, but I have done a number of other things in the service of feeding, clothing and sheltering myself and my family. My favorite job was scooping ice cream when I was sixteen years old. I think everything about sixteen was wonderful and amazing, except all the stuff that was horrible.

Find Jamie Beth:

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