Subscribe in a reader
Theirs was the perfect love story.
After Emma Lorde’s parents’ divorce forces her to move halfway across the state of Arizona to live with her father, Emma must face her senior year in a new school knowing absolutely no one.
Then she meets Dillon Hobbs and something just clicks.
Dillon introduces Emma to friends she can call her own. He provides a refuge from the chaos of her past and the security of a commitment that he promises will last forever. And because circumstances of her messy life forced Emma to put aside her dream of pursuing archaeology, Dillon creates a blueprint for a future together.
He saves her, over and over, by loving her more than she thought anyone ever would.
But just when everything seems picture-perfect, Emma is offered an opportunity that will upend the future they’ve planned. Uncertainty grows, and fear spirals into something darker.
Now Dillon is the one who needs saving.
But how much do you sacrifice for the one you love? What if saving Dillon means losing herself?
Amy Fellner Dominy is a former advertising copywriter, MFA playwright and hula-hoop champion. Her novels for teens and tweens include Die For You (11/8/16); A Matter of Heart, Audition & Subtraction; and OyMG, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book. Amy’s first picture book, Cookiesaurus Rex, will be published by Disney, Fall 2017. Amy lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, various pets and two kids who occasionally stop by for free meals.
Die for You by Amy Fellner Dominy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Profound, painful, powerful. DIE FOR YOU is hard to put down.
Readers will get sucked into the lives of Dylan and Emma and watch what appears to be a beautiful relationship spiral out of control. Amy Fellner Dominy creates a story that could be going on at any high school. Yes, with different circumstances, but we’ve seen the headlines—teens so wrapped up in each other that one or both would be willing to die to keep the other or to make sure they stay together. Forever. In death. Not all relationships that are unhealthy take it that far, but here are some chilling statistics: One in three young people will be in an unsafe or unhealthy relationship. WOW!
Though this is a gut-wrenching, important topic, the story is gripping. The way Amy integrated Emma’s family history and Dylan’s family history brought an eye-opening understanding to the intensity of the relationship. Another very cool aspect was Emma’s love for archeology, which plays a central theme in the novel. I loved the story created around Pompeii.
Friendship is also explored. How loyal should a friend be? What constitutes disloyalty? And then there is family betrayal as well as loyalty to one’s family. What lines should or shouldn’t be crossed?
Without a doubt, DIE FOR YOU is the type of novel that will take you on a journey of reflection, and for some a mirror to look into and hopefully recognize before things get too out of hand. This kind of ugly love is not love at all. It needs to be revealed. It needs to be understood.
Brava, Amy! I highly recommend this novel!
This book started with an innocent question: “How did you and your husband end up together?”
I asked a friend that question about twenty years ago. I’ve always been a romantic and there’s nothing I love as much as a good love story. But what I got instead was a reply that sent shivers up my spine. She told me her husband had said that if she ever left him, he’d kill himself.
And she believed him.
So she married him.
I never forgot that over the years. How could a smart, talented, beautiful woman let herself be manipulated that way? I would never fall for that kind of emotional blackmail…or would I?
What if I loved someone and what if I worried for his life? What if he convinced me his need was love? What if I thought it came down to his life or mine?
What would I be willing to sacrifice?
What should I be willing to sacrifice?
I always say it was the search for answers that led me to write Die for You. But really, it began with a question.
Thanks so much for hosting me!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Junior high is where things really start to happen. Cliques form and break apart. Couples are made and destroyed. And a reputation is solidified that you won’t ever be able to escape. Everything you do and say, and everyone you spend your time with, matters.
Katie Mills knows that. She gets it. That’s why she tried so hard to get in with the cool girls at school. And why she was so devastated when those efforts found her detained for shoplifting and laughed out of cheer squad tryouts.
But Katie has more to worry about than just fitting in. Her parents are divorced and always fighting. Her sister never has time for her. And her friends all seem to be drifting apart. Even worse? The boy she has a crush on is dating the mean girl at school.
Everything is a mess, and Katie doesn’t feel like she has control over any of it. Certainly not over her weight, which has always topped out at slightly pudgier than normal—at least, according to her mother.
So when she happens to catch one of the popular girls throwing up in the bathroom one day, it sparks an idea. A match that quickly engulfs her life in flames.
Is there any going back once she gets started down this path?
And would she even want to if she could?
Someone very close to me struggled with bulimia from the age of 12 into her mid twenties, so I know exactly what the disease does to a person—both mentally and physically. I drew from my friend’s experiences as well as from some memories of how I felt in junior high to create Katie’s story.
Bulimia (as well as other eating disorders) is a complex disease with many different causes and no clear course of treatment. Every bulimic needs different things to heal and heals at her own pace.
Eating disorders are often not taken seriously as life-threatening mental illnesses, and those who suffer often feel too ashamed to seek help. To make matters worse, friends and loved ones of sufferers tend to have a hard time understanding that treatment is a lengthy process, so lingering symptoms often get swept under the rug. It breaks my heart.
Please keep in mind that everyone feels like they don’t fit in at some point. I know I’ve felt that way many times, especially during my teen years. Still do once in a while. When I was younger, I usually coped by confiding in a few close friends—friends I still maintain contact with (nearly 30 years later). And guess what? Nowadays, when I’m feeling like I don’t belong, I still turn to the same friends. Sure, there are times when they might not understand exactly what I’m going through, but it is amazing how calming it can be to confide in someone when I’m feeling self-conscious or anxious.
Another way to combat the feeling of not being able to relate to others is by discovering your passions. Be honest with yourself about what you like and what you don’t like, and don’t be afraid to do what you enjoy, even if friends aren’t interested. If you do what you love, you will eventually connect with others who love the same things.
Before I answer this question, I’d like to share a little bit about myself…Sadly, I know from experience what this feels like. I was held to extremely high standards as a child. As a result, I have struggled with low self-esteem, OCD-like tendencies and relationship issues. It has taken me a long time to realize that I am good enough just the way I am (flaws and all) and that it is IMPOSSIBLE to be perfect and unfair to expect others to strive for perfection.
Now for my answer…This is a tough question because there are different degrees of criticism that can affect a person’s self-esteem. Katie, the main character in Don’t Call Me Kit Kat is constantly subjected to comments about her appearance and her weight and is repeatedly compared to her “perfect” older sister. In my opinion, her mother’s relentless criticisms are a mild form of psychological abuse even though she is unaware of the damage she is doing to Katie’s self-esteem. However, some people might not consider criticism to be a form of abuse, especially since many teens go through much worse than what Katie goes through.
So, I think the coping mechanism depends on the severity of the issue. In a case like Katie’s, it’s important to speak up. If your parent repeatedly says things that make you feel self-conscious or critical of yourself, let that parent know. A lot of times, parents don’t even realize how harmful mild criticisms can be.
What if the verbal abuse is more extreme? Again, start by communicating to your parent how you feel. If this is not possible or if your parent won’t listen, talk to someone else. A friend. A sibling. A teacher. A guidance counselor. An aunt or an uncle. Do not hide it if you have a parent who constantly berates you or doles out harsh, unwarranted criticisms that attack you as a person.
I don’t pretend to be a perfect parent. Like I said, perfection is NOT possible. I have had to bite my tongue at times when my children have misbehaved or even when they’ve neglected to do something they way I taught them to do it. I’m only human. However, parents who have trouble biting their tongues or who think it’s perfectly fine to berate a child need help. Verbal abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, yet without marks to prove it, it often goes unnoticed, especially if the abused child doesn’t speak up.
First of all, according to the National Institutes of Health, the human body is made up of more than 100 trillion cells. Here’s what that looks like in numeric form: 100,000,000,000,000. Do you know how unique that makes you? With that many cells, it’s absurd for society to push an “ideal” body image on anyone. The extent to which each individual person is unique is absolutely mind-boggling. 100 TRILLION cells! Embrace your uniqueness and take care of yourself by making healthy choices because your body is a miracle. J
Secondly, have you ever heard this quote by Maya Angelou?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In my experience, people will also forget what your body looked like and what you were wearing. Honestly, the way you look right now won’t matter 20, 10, five or even two years from now. But the way you behave today—the way you treat people—will matter for the rest of your life. So love the miracle that is your body, but remember that it’s just a vessel. It truly is what’s on the inside that counts.
My advice is no different for boys.
Eating disorder patients often share a common thread; they feel the need to control something. As a result, they have taken control over the one thing that no one can stop them from controlling: the food they do or don’t put into their mouths. But the harsh reality is that the controlling habits of eating disorder patients become addictions, and addicts have no control over their addictions. So that’s why developing an eating disorder can be seen as both taking control and losing control.
Facts About Eating Disorders From the National Eating Disorders Association
Bulimia nervosa affects 1-2% of adolescent and young adult women.
Despite the prevalence of eating disorders, they continue to receive inadequate research funding.
Illness Prevalence NIH Research Funds (2011)
Alzheimer’s Disease 5.1 million $450,000,000
Autism 3.6 million $160,000,000
Schizophrenia 3.4 million $276,000,000
Eating disorders 30 million $28,000,000
Research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s Disease averaged $88 per affected individual in 2011. For Schizophrenia the amount was $81. For Autism $44. For eating disorders the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was just $0.93. (National Institutes of Health, 2011)
To learn more or to make a donation that will go toward prevention programs, rehabilitation and support for those who struggle with eating disorders, please visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.
Share five fun facts about yourself.
K. J. Farnham is a former educator turned author and freelance writer. She was born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee and now lives in western Wisconsin with her husband, three children and three cats.
In addition to reading and writing, Farnham loves road trips, beach outings, Body Pump, running, hiking and acoustic music. She hopes to convince her husband to drive across the United States in an RV someday.
During her tween, teen and young adult years, she devoured books by V.C. Andrews, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Nowadays, Farnham will read just about anything but still leans toward fiction. Her preferred genres include contemporary romance, humor, thriller/suspense, horror and YA.
When I read a book that I know may have a profound impact on a YA’s life, I have to share it with my readers. JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman is one of those novels. (I felt the same way about Gayle’s other books, IF I STAY and WHERE SHE WENT. If you haven’t read them, they’re a must-read too!)
So, that is why I am doing a giveaway for JOD. It’s open internationally if your country allows for free shipping through The Book Depository, so make sure you check that. Ends Sunday, February 14, 4:00 PM CST.
A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay
When sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.
Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!
1. Including Shakespeare’s plays in the novel: Gayle does an amazing job of breaking down the plays that, even if you’ve never read them or seen them, you’ll be able to understand what she’s referring to. And it just might inspire you to go and see one in person or rent one on DVD.
2. The settings: London, Paris, Amsterdam, NYC, and Boston – Gayle captures these cities so magnificently that even if you haven’t been to these cities, you’ll be able to visualize the sights and sounds and tastes and smells. I’ve been to London, Paris, Boston, and NYC and her descriptions brought me right back.
3. There are other books out on the market about how one day can change a person’s life. But what I love about JOD is that the one day Allyson and Willem share in Paris has its highs and its lows. It’s not perfect, which, in my opinion, is a reflection on real life.
4. This is a novel about stepping out of your comfort zone, self-discovery, personal growth. There’s plenty of pain and joy that goes along with these actions, but if there wasn’t, then they wouldn’t be significant. This novel encourages calculated risk-taking, which I am all in favor of at any time in one’s life.
5. Imperfect characters/no cliched characters: There isn’t one character who is perfect i.e. too handsome or gorgeous, too smart, or fits into a cliche. These are “real-life” characters and maybe you won’t identify will everyone (the family seder and how people interact was very different than my own experiences as an adult with my children – ours our fun. We laugh and people ask to get invited each year – they love my cooking, the telling of the Passover story etc. :D), but you will certainly find someone to connect with on a personal level.
6. Gives the reader a different perspective on what constitutes love. Most of the time, love is not about being swept off your feet and carried up the staircase. Love can be messy and strange and confusing and painful and amazing and inspiring and definitely life-changing. I deeply appreciate how it’s portrayed in JOD.
7. Friendship: Gayle shows the ups and downs between friends, an authentic portrayal of how one can grow close or be distant depending on the stage of your life. Instead of worrying about it, Gayle’s portrayal takes a healthy perspective.
8. Decision making/choices: I love how Allyson learns and chooses to do what’s best for her and not what’s best for her parents. It takes tremendous fortitude to buck the system and decide what is best for you rather than giving into someone else’s dream for you. DREAM big and TAKE ACTION! Love this.
9. Conquering fear: Who isn’t afraid? But if you’re not bold, if you don’t “Dare Greatly” (the title of a book I love by Brene Brown) then it’s very difficult to move forward. JOD epitomizes “Daring Greatly.”
10. The writing/storytelling: Absolutely captivating and brilliant. I love the minute details such as the watch that Allyson wears, the coins that Willem flips over between his fingers. These and many more add richness to the story.
11. The portrayal of adults/parents: Flawed, annoying, kind, welcoming, nurturing, selfish. That only captures some of their characteristics of the adults in this novel. Absolutely authentic to real life.
12. Use of foreign languages: French, Dutch, Chinese – you don’t have to know them to appreciate the language or get the nuance of what’s going on. Gayle clues in the reader beautifully when need be. There will be times when you learn along the way or feel clueless like Allyson does. It’s exactly how it should be.
For more information about Gayle Forman and her books visit her website: http://www.gayleforman.com
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note: There also is a helpful publisher’s readers guide in the back of the book. The questions created by me were done before I saw the guide. Use them both.
Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…
He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…
The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.
Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.
To see my Goodreads review, click here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/443052366
(Mature Young Adult/ New Adult)
Chelsea Rae Swiggett
CHELSEA RAE SWIGGETT
AN INTERVIEW ABOUT HER NON-FICTION YA BOOK
Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia
Brave, strong, gutsy –– I repeated these words over and over again as I read Chelsea Rae Swiggett’s non-fiction work for young adults (every parent and teacher should read it too), Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia. This candid, beautifully written personal history takes a hard look at the impact on how paralyzed a person can be when consumed by fears and absorbed into the hell created by the social interactions in middle school and high school.
Brave, strong, gutsy were words Chelsea would never have used to describe herself in high school. I definitely didn’t see them in her book. But the steps she took to CHANGE are no less than extraordinary. She continues to conquer her fears, live in the moment, and challenge herself to experience life to its fullest.
In the past, speaking in class could bring on an anxiety attack.
Now, Chelsea approaches strangers, even welcomes new interactions.
In the past, traveling anywhere brought horrific fears of death.
Now, she gets on airplanes and relishes in seeing new things.
In the past, going to school was a living hell. She eventually chose to be home-schooled to survive.
Now, she mixes it up with online classes and on campus classes at college.
In the past, Chelsea escaped real life by delving into books, writing reviews for her website – http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/
Now, she still loves to read and review books, but she utilizes this passion to meet others with the same interests. She has a social life, too.
In the past, Chelsea was obsessed with her weight – depriving herself of food. Her self-image was dismal. She was consumed by how she thought others people perceived her.
Now, food is no longer her enemy. More often than not her self-esteem comes from within and not based on how others perceive her.
So how did Chelsea do it? Without a doubt it has been a process, most importantly CHELSEA WANTED TO CHANGE! She faces her fears one at a time. She lives in the moment.
I had the privilege of speaking with Chelsea about her transformation. Here’s what she had to say:
I have had to remind myself to breathe, not to be overwhelmed. The world is not ending right now. I tell myself I can deal with a situation I’m in and can get past it.
I no longer obsess over different things. For example, if I coughed I would worry. Did I cough too loud? Or if fell down and others saw me, I worried about it for weeks. Do they think I’m a klutz? This constant worry was killing me. Finally, I realized no one else was worrying about these things. I saw that everyone messes up and it’s useless to obsess over what other people may or may not be thinking of me.
I realized I needed to just live. I realized there are only so many years to fully understand myself, so I decided to take the opportunity and do it now. What I learned was it’s important to do what you’re passionate about and don’t allow fear to stop you. If you want to travel, you need to travel. If you want to go to concerts, do it. It is important to find a way to live comfortably and follow your dreams. Don’t stop yourself from accomplishing something you want to do. Spend your time with your passion.
One needs to find balance. A person can hide behind their passion and use it as an excuse not to live. For example, I love to read so I used reading to stay away from others, hide from the world. I was comfortable, but wasn’t putting myself out there. I wasn’t living. But I turned my love for reading into a positive. Instead of letting my passion cripple me, I now use it to connect with people. Working on Coffee and Cliffhangers I‘ve been able to connect with the literary community. I’ve met so many amazing people including other passionate readers, book reviewers, and authors. At first the connections were through social networking, and then in person at different book events.
Through authors’ books, I gain insight into their perceptions. Authors put themselves in their work. It’s personal. I appreciate their vulnerability. I love getting into their heads and seeing what makes them click, how they view things. Books have helped me see that I am not the only one who has issues and problems and goals in this world. There have been so many times I’ve got caught up in my own problems. Reading has helped me see I’m not alone.
One of my goals? I would love to be a successful author, to be able to help and connect with authors and readers. It is the most amazing feeling in the world.
I first connected with Chelsea through Twitter where I learned about her website http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/ and about Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia. It’s been a privilege to get to know her better through this interview. She’s an extraordinary young woman, someone I look forward to meeting in person, hang out with at a book event, or talk with over coffee. She is brave, strong, gutsy – amazing. There will still be challenges – we all have them. But I have no doubt she will face them and turn any fear or weakness or anxiety into a strength. It takes work. It takes courage. It takes action. Chelsea epitomizes these qualities and so much more. She is a role model!
To learn more about Chelsea go to her website:http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/
For more information about or to purchase Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia go to: Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/4f4prgd
To learn more about Simone Elkeles, visit her author website: http://www.simoneelkeles.net/
Perfect Chemistry was the first Simone Elkeles novel I read, and I fell in love! (When I’ve browse YA sections at bookstores I’ve tell complete strangers to buy it and her other novels. I can proudly say that I’ve been successful!) I am hooked, hooked, hooked. I am sure you will be too.
Here’s a complete list of her novels: The sequel to Perfect Chemistry, Rules of Attraction, and the third in the trilogy, Chain Reaction is due out in May, 2011 – and boy would I like to get my hands on the ARC!) Leaving Paradise and the sequel, Return to Paradise, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin My Teenage Life, and How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation
I was fortunate to receive an ARC of Return to Paradise from Flux, so I’m including my review here.
Simone Elkeles’s Return to Paradise is an outstanding sequel to Leaving Paradise! I couldn’t put this book down. I rarely would describe a novel as exquisite, but it fits. Once again, Simone Elkeles draws the reader in by alternating between Caleb and Maggie’s narration, and it works beautifully.
Return to Paradise is a richly written, emotionally charged novel that will leave you satisfied, but also wishing that the last page didn’t come so quickly.
What makes Simone Elkeles’s books (including this one) so fabulous is the realistic portrayal of characters from all different life experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the tough issues that teens face today. She seamlessly integrates sexuality, disabilities, race, religion and faith, love, family dynamics, drug use, and divorce. All of Simone Elkeles’s main characters face difficult challenges and Caleb and Maggie are no exception. There is no sugar coating life, but love can make a person better, can help to overcome obstacles, and can give strength when you’re feeling weak.
1. Which one of your characters do you identify with the most and why?
I would say I am the most like Amy from the How to Ruin series. Her story is entirely fictional, but we do share some of the same experiences. I also went to Israeli boot camp as a teen and met my future husband there. I’m also like Amy because I like to solve problems and help people, but I’ve never signed anyone up for an online dating service!
2. If you could trade places for a day with one of your characters who would it be and why?
That is one of the toughest questions. I guess I would want to be Brittany Ellis from Perfect Chemistry/Rules of Attraction because Alex is the type of guy who would respect me and take care of me, but still let me be independent while being my forever partner in life.
3. Many authors read their published work and wish they could change something. Has this ever happened to you? What would you have changed?
Of course there are always little things I want to change, a word here or a detail there. But, I force myself not to think about any major changes. Mostly because I figure it would take too long to drive to every bookstore in the country with my red pen and make the changes I want. I do the best I can during my final rewrites and then let it go.
4. Many of your characters face adversity and become stronger human beings. Not everyone is able to do that. What qualities or attitudes do you think are crucial for a person to possess in order to utilize adversity and turn the experience or experiences into a positive?
All of my characters possess the desire to change. Most of them don’t know it in the beginning, but they all realize eventually that they want to better themselves and rise above their situation. Alex gets out of the gang for Brittany and Maggie chooses to make a bright future for herself even though she’ll never fully heal physically. Ultimately, I think it’s a result of loving someone and being loved; it makes you want to be the best version of yourself possible.
5. Another fabulous aspect of your novels is your portrayal of relationships, sex, and love. Just sex does not equal love. Instead, loving someone deeply is expressed in a respectful, meaningful, tender, and intimate way, connecting individuals. Why have you chosen to convey this message in your novels?
You are exactly right. Sex can be a beautiful and meaningful expression of love, but it isn’t always that way. I know teens are thinking about sex, talking about sex, and having sex. I want them to see that they all deserve someone really special to share that moment with. You would be surprised how many emails I get from teens telling me that because of my book, they’ve realized that they want to be treated as well as Alex treats Brittany. On the flip side, Amy in the How to Ruin series chooses to wait for marriage. It’s not an easy decision for her, but she sticks with it. Having or not having sex can be an overwhelming decision for many teens. The truth is that everyone feels that way!
When I was sixteen, I learned the value of stepping out of my comfort zone. I had spent the majority of my life in Anderson, SC going to school, hanging with friends, playing soccer. So when a teacher at my high school presented the opportunity to travel to China as a foreign exchange student, I wanted the adventure, and so did my friends. We had seven months to prepare.
But there were obstacles. Money was one – the trip would cost $2300 for two weeks. That would have been a big enough reason not to go, especially when you don’t have parents handing over the cash. If only it were that simple. The greater challenge was mental. The teacher had told us that traveling to China would not be easy. He told us that the food would be unlike anything we had ever tasted, that we would see extreme poverty, and that we would walk most places, so being in top physical shape was crucial. In other words, it was not going to be a vacation. This was going to be a hardcore trip.
I started fundraising for the trip, working at school to pay for the plane ticket. Family and family friends also helped out, which I deeply appreciated. Unfortunately, every one of my friends decided not to go. Sure, there were other kids from my school who committed to the program, but without my closest friends, I knew the experience would be harder.
The idea of leaving America was unsettling. I had never left the country let alone faced an eighteen-hour flight around the globe, which was how long it took to reach Beijing, China. To say I was stepping outside of my comfort zone is a super understatement!
Upon arriving in China, I immediately became the minority surrounded by millions of people who spoke only Mandarin, not English. That was one of the scariest parts of the experience – not speaking or understanding the language. The people stared at me as I walked down the street. They took pictures of me, and with me. Beijing was a nice city in comparison to the majority of cities in China, though it still had smog, litter, disease, and crime.
It wasn’t until I went inside the heart of the country that I truly realized that I had stepped into a whole different world, one of extreme poverty. I went from the grandeur of the Great Wall to the dirty rice fields of inner China. These people had nothing! I felt true compassion for the first time in my life. I had left my comfort zone so far away, and I didn’t even miss it. Sure, I missed a home cooked meal, but my eyes and taste buds were exposed to something completely out of my comfort zone, and I soaked it up.
At one point we traveled by mamu (a taxi cab, which is a motorbike with a cart) to a middle school – grades 7-9. We had printed cards with the address of our destination so that the driver knew where to take us. Some students from our group got lost and ended up arriving at our destination much later than expected, a frightening experience to say the least (some were even in tears). The school we visited was different from anything I have heard of or experience in America. It was a boarding school with thirty-five hundred students. There was no air conditioning, we were told not to even step into the bathrooms because they were revolting, and the English class we attended was crammed with fifty or sixty kids in a room way too small for that number of students. They attended school from eight in the morning until seven at night with a two-hour mid-afternoon break for naptime. Each day, from 7:30 until 8:00 A.M., the students were outside on their school field doing tai chi.
Food was definitely an issue. Some kids hardly ate anything during the trip, but I am one to try new things, including fish heads, scorpion, squid,octopus, and even snake. We stayed in a real nasty hotel – there wasn’t a vacuum cleaner in the entire place, we always walked with our shoes on, and bugs were crawling everywhere, even the beds.
If I had the choice to take that trip again, I would pack my bags and go immediately. Life is all about experiences. We learn through making decisions. From those decisions come experiences, and from experiences we can learn how to step outside our comfort zone. The comfort zone constrains us, while leaving that place of comfort defines us. My trip to China was definitely one of the most defining moments of my life, and I hope it inspires others to step out of their comfort zones.
While at first I was constrained by fears of all these things I had heard about China, ultimately I wanted to experience it for myself to know the truth. The experience changed me, changed my perspective on the world. I had never seen so much poverty in a nation, except for on TV, and experiencing it touched me in a much more personal way than seeing it on TV.
Renowned video game developer Steven Coallier once said, “Attack life, it’s going to kill you anyway.” He couldn’t be more right! Life is about experiencing all that you can, but if you are held back by your fears then you will stay stuck inside of your comfort zone forever. It takes true courage to take that leap, but once you do you’ll never look back and miss it.
Before I left for China, I was perfectly content staying where I was. There was no reason for me to go on that trip other than the desire to leave my comfort zone and experience all the differences that China had to offer. I ate some of the grossest (and best) food I’ve ever tasted. I made friendships that will last forever. And most of all, I kicked my comfort zone to the curb, and now try to live every moment as if it were my last. I am more willing to help others, more up for personal challenges and try new things.
All of life’s experiences, whether good or bad, define who you are. Challenge yourself – completely revolutionize your future. It doesn’t have to be by traveling to China, though I recommend it! You could challenge yourself by taking a harder course in school or not smoking dope when everyone else is doing it. Desire to have more, do more, and see yourself as someone who can be different by stepping out of your comfort zone. If I had passed up this opportunity to go to China, I don’t know if it would ever have come up again. One thing is for sure, my life would not be the same.
“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” – Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist and lyricist
About Jeremy West: Jeremy is a student at Full Sail University in Orlando, FL studying film. He’s a photographer, writer, designer, and Apple computer lover. His blog, NOVEL THOUGHTS, is another way he shares his creative side with the world – reviewing YA novels, interviewing authors, and providing cool opportunities to win awesome giveaways. Find Jeremy through his blog at www.novelthoughtsblog.com
Kristina McBride, author of The Tension of Opposites, understands that in every relationship there are complicated layers. Loyalty and love. Fear and insecurity. Now imagine that your best friend vanishes most likely kidnapped with no leads and the strong possibility that she may be dead.
Kristina has done a masterful job of weaving the story of Elle – a teen who returns home to her family and best friend Tessa two years after her abduction by a pedophile – with the complications of friendship and relationships. Imagine separated hands – one represents friendship, and the other the kidnapping and safe return of your BFF. Now weave the fingers together. This is precisely how Kristina integrates these two different ideas to create an amazing YA novel.
This interview focuses on friendship, what we can learn about ourselves from the people we hang with and a special rule that Kristina uses, which can help us decide if the people in our lives are good for us. To enter a drawing for a signed copy of The Tension of Opposites please see instructions below.
A: Any type of relationship is difficult unless you can be a friend to yourself first. That might sound cheesy or cliché, but it’s true. You must listen to your inner thoughts and not go against that little voice inside your head. It also is essential that you feel appreciation for who you are as a person. I was so shy and unsure of myself when I was in high school, and even into college. One thing that helped me appreciate who I am was looking at myself through the eyes of my best friends. I always thought my closest friends were pretty cool, so if they liked me maybe I was okay. If you can’t learn to appreciate yourself you’ll begin comparing yourself to others, resenting others, and become an all around sticky mess. It took me a VERY long time to get to the point where I loved myself as much as I love my friends. That’s the goal to strive for. When you get there, you’ll feel a freedom unlike anything you’ve ever known. You’ll stop feeling afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. You’ll automatically hang around people who accept you for who you are because you’re not so busy trying to be whatever it is you think they want you to be. And you’ll have a much better life because of it!
Beyond this, I think friends must share common ground, a sense of safety (including honesty and respect), and tons of laughter.
A: I believe that Elle is so broken after spending two years with her kidnapper that she can’t be much of anything to anyone when the book begins. Tessa is fiercely loyal and protective – to a fault actually. She lets her relationship with Elle become too much of a driving factor in her own life. This friendship is difficult because there is no balance. Tessa has to give and be understanding, even as she’s hurt by this new version of her friend.
The reason this friendship works is that Tessa is so loyal and patient. Tessa feels that if she gives Elle enough time, she’ll come around. Not too many people could have that kind of patience or devotion to another person, and that’s definitely admirable. If it had not been for the kidnapping, Elle’s behavior as a so-called friend would be inexcusable and Tessa should give up her quest to have Elle in her life. It’s Tessa’s loyalty, however, that helps Elle find her footing again. I appreciate the journey these two friends take together.
The lack of balance we see between Tessa and Elle is evident in many types of relationships. There is a natural sway of give and take in some relationships that last for a long period of time. You must, however, be sure that the sway is there – that one person isn’t constantly giving while the other is constantly taking.
A: I believe that this goes back to my statement that you first must be a true friend to yourself. You have to protect yourself and respect yourself in the same manner you do your best friend.
We’re all searching for the people we can be our true selves with and not worry about judgment, right? That was my struggle as I made my way from young adulthood to adulthood. I learned that I have some incredible friends who will stick by my side through anything, others who kind of flit in and out of my life, and yet others who I cannot trust at all. Look at the people who come into your life as if you’re “dating.” Ask yourself the following: “Do I want this person in my life? Does this person make me feel positive and bring out the best in me?” If the answer to either question is no, then you give yourself permission to “break up” with the people who are not healthy energies in your life. If you can understand that most people will not stay in your life forever, if you take from each person what you can to make yourself a better person, there won’t be so much pain as you move through the important relationships in your life.
I think if I had to do it all over again, I’d just chill out a bit and realize that it’s all a process. It would have been so much easier early in life if someone had spelled it out for me by explaining the following: This is the way life goes – you meet people – some stay in your life and others go. It’s okay no matter what happens with each person because you’ll always have you. You’ll figure out who’s important to your journey and who isn’t as you move forward.
A: DRAMA! I was a very intense high-schooler and I played into the whole relationship game too much. I have learned something VERY important about relationships. It’s the 90/10 Rule, and I live by it. Here’s how it works: If you’re not having fun and feeling good about yourself 90% of the time you’re with the wrong person (whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship), stop hanging out with them. You can do this gradually by pulling away, or make it a clean break. There are a zillion people for you to spend your time with, and you shouldn’t waste a minute of your life with anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. Ever.
It was a huge “Ah-Ha!” moment for me when I realized that though a breakup (with a friend or boyfriend) might stink, it was happening for a reason. I learned to allow myself a few days to feel depressed if I needed it because I had to honor my feelings. Then I found something to help me move on – like an art class – something special just for me.
A: I believe that the relationship between Tessa and Max works because there is a mutual respect and compassion between them. (Okay, Max might have to take more weight in this because of all the issues Tessa is going through with Elle.) It’s important to be able to put yourself in another person’s situation, and to treat them kindly based on their individual situation. But you have to create boundaries and not allow anyone to cross them. Tessa certainly tests Max’s limits, and she’s not sure if or how long he’ll stick around. (You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens between them!)
Q: Looking at your own high school years and the friendships that worked and didn’t work, please share a story or two about the lessons you learned from those relationships.
A: I’ve already talked about my 90/10 Rule, which I have had to put into effect for several relationships in my adult life. I’m not talking about bad people, just people that didn’t make me feel positive about myself and what I was thinking/saying when I was around them. I only wish I’d lived by this rule when I was in high school.
The most important thing I have learned is that the only person who will be with me every second of my life is me. I have to be true to myself first and foremost, and the rest will fall into place. I spent a lot of time being afraid of what others think about me, and it’s the coolest thing to be able to say, “This is me, and I’m not ashamed of any part of me. If someone likes me – cool. If not – that’s okay too.” This is much easier said than done!! especially as I move into the public eye with the publication of my book! I just take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s all about my perspective. I do my best to stay positive.
A: Be careful. Don’t throw something out there that could be hurtful to someone, because it’s not worth it and you’ll never be able to take it back. Be the person you want others to remember later in life. Think about your actions and their consequences. Above all, strive to be kind in every situation. That’s what it’s really all about.
There are many lessons readers can take away from the relationships in The Tension of Opposites. What have been the most powerful for you and why? I’ll take this full circle and end where I began. It’s essential to build a positive relationship with yourself. You must learn to be comfortable with you – all of you – even the stuff that’s not so great. If you can do this, you’ll learn to open up, as Tessa struggles to do throughout the story, and the rewards will be plentiful!
Entries for this drawing will close on July 1, 2010 at 8:00 PM CST and are open to individuals in the United States and Canada.
To learn more about Kristina McBride please see her website: www.KristinaMcBride.com. For more information from the publisher go to: http://tinyurl.com/24ceaus To order or read reviews of The Tension of Opposites check out Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/2bgbfb2 The book also is available at any bookstore near you.
Beauty is not only skin-deep. We’ve all heard it, and many believe it. Some, however, are so focused on the body that they’ll do anything to alter their appearance.
My eighth grade photo.
It’s what drives many to cosmetic surgeons.
So, I confess. The summer between eighth grade and high school I had a nose job! Yes, it’s true. I didn’t like my nose.
I despised what I saw in the mirror. I didn’t see my beautiful brown eyes, the flawless olive skin (which is huge at any age), or my big, bright smile. It was the NOSE! There was a huge lump in the middle – but it wasn’t all genetics. I was a certified klutz and broke it seven times. Yup, you read that correctly – 7x!
Ice skating and bicycling were my two most dangerous sports. (Actually, they were my only athletic activities – except gym class, which I dreaded!) Once, I decided to see what it would be like to close my eyes while riding my bike down a hilly street. I know, it wasn’t the brightest idea I ever had, but hey, I was eight years old. I ended up smashing into a tree. I also flew off my bike several times, ‘cause as a lefty I had a tendency to grab my left hand break, which stopped the front tire. This didn’t stop me from riding my bike, though. I had a tendency to pedal my ten-speed without holding onto the handlebars. Once, riding without hands, I hit a patch of gravel and ended up flying into a ditch. I left my bike and walked to a friend’s home and by the time I got to her house the entire block was swarming with police. Someone had seen me walking and thought I had been beaten up. At our local outdoor neighborhood ice-skating rink, it didn’t take much before I’d end up flat on my face.
My septum was so deviated that I could barely breathe. Sometimes I’d wake up gasping and coughing to catch my breath because my throat was as dry as burnt toast and constricted like someone was choking me. Allergies didn’t help.
My high school graduation photo.
So, my parents found a plastic surgeon who would repair my nose. Because of the damage it wasn’t such an easy surgery. It took much longer than expected and for about a half-hour, I was semi-conscious and I could feel what was happening too. There had been a reason, something about the amount of numbing medication… It’s hazy now.
During recovery I spent a lot of time with a bag of frozen peas on my face to reduce the swelling and bruising. It helped. I’m certain I was on pain meds, but I have no recollection of what I took, ‘cause I slept a lot.
I love my nose, mostly because breathing is a necessity of life. No one has ever walked up to me and said, “Wow, you’ve got a perfect nose.” It just fits my face and that’s the way it should be. Breathing is important – duh, but having the rhinoplasty also impacted my self-esteem. I stopped focusing on my nose every time I looked in the mirror and the difference wasn’t so dramatic that others noticed. Perhaps having the surgery over the summer made a difference.
I’m no super model and I certainly don’t think I’m a beauty. I’ve got a tummy that sticks out and even when I weighed a mere 92 lbs people would ask when the baby was due. (GAH! Never ask a woman that!) But I do appreciate the fact that I’m imperfectly perfect – flaws and all – doing everything I can to utilize my talents to make a difference.
The following story, in my opinion, shows the essence of true beauty. Over winter break I walked into a hip and trendy store to buy a pair of UGG boots. I was the only customer. A gorgeous blond young woman eventually came up to me after finishing her conversation with a co-worker. Within two seconds she had weighed and measured me – figuratively – and I guess I didn’t pass with my paint stained top and jean skirt. “Do you have this in a size six in black?” I asked, pointing to a pair of boots.
“No,” she replied curtly.
“How about these?” I asked, pointing to a different pair.
“No,” she said again.
“Will you be getting a shipment in?”
“Okay,” I said. “Is there any other place that might sell them?”
“Not around here,” she replied with her attitude.
I walked out truly disappointed, but mostly because this absolutely stunning YA was so incredibly unpleasant to be around that she actually was UGLY!
A few weeks later, I still really wanted to buy the boots. This time, I called the store before venturing in. A man answered and I inquired about their stock. Sure enough, they had several UGG styles in my size and color selections. I was excited, but dreaded the idea of facing that girl again. So I listened to my gut and asked if he owned the store. He said that his family did. I boldly decided to share my experience with the man, describing what happened and exactly what the girl looked like. “She’s gorgeous,” I said. “Thin with blond, curly, long hair.”
“I know who you’re talking about,” he said.
“I hope she’s not family?”
“No, and we’ve had to speak with her before about her attitude. I’m really glad you told me about this.”
Within a half hour I was paying for the new pair of UGG boots that were happily on my toasty warm feet.
“You know,” I said to the pleasant, handsome young man behind the counter – the one with whom I had spoken to on the phone and the one who went out of his way to help me – “it doesn’t matter how beautiful you are on the outside, if you’re ugly on the inside. Then, the way you look hardly matters.”
“You’re absolutely right,” he said. “I hope that message will sink in.”
I wonder how long it took the beautiful blond to find another job? I hope she learned a valuable lesson.
I may have a perfect nose – but what’s most important is who I am as a person. Kind words and generous actions have tremendous meaning. I hope to be judged by those things. You don’t have to go under the knife or be stick-thin to be beautiful. If you judge people by appearance alone, then you’re missing the very best of what a human being can be. Appearances can never truly make a person happy. Ask anyone who wants meaning and love in his life what the most important values he seeks in another person and I’d bet that looks don’t make the top three. Why? Because looks are not a personality trait. So give it a try. Ask someone to write down a list of five values he seeks in another person and see if looks are one of the top three. I’d really like to know.
Oh, and you might be wondering if I ever broke my nose again. Yup, four weeks after the surgery I was riding my bike, not paying attention, and I flew off my handlebars and broke my nose. The plastic surgeon reset it carefully and I healed completely. You might be wondering if I still ride a bike… Well, I’m not telling, but I’ll give you a hint: My nose is perfectly intact!
The Lenses We See Through Might Leave Us Blind To What's Around Us
There are people in this world that just get under my skin. You know… grrrrr, the proverbial experience of nails trailing down a chalkboard – highly grating and definitely frustrating.* I’m certain there are people who feel the same way about me.
But here’s something very important for all of us to remember.
We all come to each and EVERY moment looking through different lenses. Every experience is filtered – our perceptions, reactions, beliefs all stem from our experiences. Situations that occur in our lives are based on those filters.
When we become aware of our filters, it becomes easier to ask questions, questions that we may not have readily known to ask because we are only looking through our “lenses.” Sometimes we have to look deeply at what we perceive and why we react so strongly.
How does this affect you? Does it make you angry? Sad? Does it make you laugh? Is it no big deal? Does it make you feel sick to your stomach? Would you go to the party? Would you stay home or still go out, but not to the party? – What experiences have you had that makes you react the way you do to this post?
What if you hated** Maxine? What if Maxine was your BFF? What if your BFF hates Maxine, and you have no idea why – you just go along with it? What if Maxine just broke up with Ron? What if you are Maxine?
What are your lenses that have shaped you to see the world as you see it or react the way you react to a situation or to behave in a certain way – good or bad? Once you know, then the next time you feel like a complete idiot or you get upset or make fun of someone else or continue to make the same mistake over and over again, or on the flip side you stick up for someone or you say no when you feel pressured to say yes, realize what lenses you came to the experience with and how those lenses have shaped you. And hopefully, you would never, ever post something that would be hurtful or interpreted in away that causes another person pain – cause those lenses are ones no one should ever have to look through.
If you don’t like what you’re seeing through your lenses, the way you react, or the way you treat others or how they treat you, then recognize that it’s time for a new prescription. Ultimately, you’re the optometrist!
*Though I might feel frustrated with someone, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t MY issue. Most circumstances relate to how someone is treating a child or a peer! I just can’t stand it when someone is horrible to another person!
**Hate is a very strong word, and I don’t use it lightly. If you despise someone soooo much that you would act in a hurtful way toward another, please stop. Think about it. Hatred is always a vicious cycle. No one ever wins. It is a painful, destructive emotion that needs to be transformed. It’s perfectly normal not to get along with everyone. But targeting someone and justifying it is never okay! There is always a price. It could be someone’s life, it could be someone’s freedom, or self-esteem. Hatred – anger – destruction. That is not who you want to be!