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Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college–and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain–or finally heal their heartbreak?
Praise: “PLAYING HURT is a delicious, tantalizing love story that will captivate you until the final, satisfying sigh.”–Kristin Walker, author of A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL
Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler (March 2011)
Fans of Simone Elkeles MUST read Playing Hurt! It’s a beautifully written, emotional YA romance. You won’t be able to put it down. Holly’s writing is masterful––setting scenes you can see in your mind. She creates tension and desire in a realistic, honest manner, and the characters are so relatable! I have a feeling Playing Hurt will go on a lot of people’s lists of favorite YA novels for 2011! Is already is on mine!
Holly Schindler is an author to watch! (Well, I did say this back in 2011, and I was right. Holly has had several more awesome books published since PLAYING HURT. Make sure to check her out on the sites posted above. 😀 )
View all my reviews
The opening of FERAL centers on a girl who has just died, who is being drawn from the window of her high school. A dead girl who still feels pain.
Unlike Susie Salmon of THE LOVELY BONES, Serena, the murdered Peculiar High student, is not the protagonist of FERAL. Instead, Serena serves as a setup for the rest of the book: Serena is stuck inside a broken body, unable to move yet still able to feel everything. This is reflective of where Claire, the protagonist, is as well. The previous spring, Claire suffered a brutal beating in her hometown of Chicago. As she crosses the city limits of Peculiar with her father (who’s on sabbatical), she swears she’s moved on from the beating…but she hasn’t. She’s stuck—and afraid. Just like Serena.
FERAL is, essentially, a classic psychological thriller—and one of the aspects of a psychological thriller is the quest to untangle what is real from what isn’t real. The spirit of Serena also helps put that quest into motion AND, in the end, helps to draw the line between truth and the imagined.
Many physical events in the book are undeniably real: Serena goes missing and is found dead. Her spirit is forced to let go of the earthly world, make its journey to the afterlife. The town police do overlook clues regarding her death. A former Peculiar High student has died in the basement. A car malfunctions. A feral cat follows Claire.
FERAL also includes what I would call malicious paranormal events: angry ghosts, soul-filled fog. Claire also witnesses Serena’s spirit invading a feral cat’s body. Unhappy with the gnarled, ugly look of the cat she inhabits, the spirit of Serena sets her sights on another body: Claire’s. But during a scene at the school dance toward the end of the book, these malicious events are revealed to be something else—namely, a horrifying truth about Claire. The spirit of Serena, as Claire has been seeing it, really reflects (again) Claire’s own unspoken desires—mostly, to be free of her own gnarled, post-beating body.
At the end of the book, Serena’s POV offers a sense of closure, but also emphasizes what has been real and what hasn’t: while Serena is a spirit, she denounces one last time any possibility of her having haunted Claire, claiming the story Claire tells her at the cemetery about seeing her inside a cat is “strange”—outside of her own experiences.
What I most love about Serena’s voice and spiritual character, as she appears in FERAL, is that she serves to both propel the action and illuminate Claire’s internal story.
The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.
It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.
But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.
But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….
Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.
FERAL falls squarely into the realm of the classic psychological thriller. While the book features mystery, horror, and paranormal elements, the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller / action. The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). Essentially, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting. The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and here is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state). The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley. Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche. Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too. The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.
Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT(both YAs).
Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud. KirkusReviewscalled THE JUNCTION “…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.”
FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller. Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”
Schindler encourages readers to get in touch. Booksellers, librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits. She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and can also be found at hollyschindler.com, hollyschindler.blogspot.com, @holly_schindler, Facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor, and hollyschindler.tumblr.com
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It’s too late for you. You’re dead.
Those words float through Claire Cain’s head as she lies broken and barely alive after a brutal beating. And the words continue to haunt her months later, in the relentless, terrifying nightmares that plague her sleep. So when her father is offered a teaching sabbatical in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out of Chicago, away from the things that remind her of what she went through, will offer a way to start anew.
But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire quickly realizes something is wrong—the town is brimming with hidden dangers and overrun by feral cats. And her fears are confirmed when a popular high school girl, Serena Sims, is suddenly found dead in the icy woods behind the school. While everyone is quick to say Serena died in an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it—for she was the one who found Serena, battered and most certainly dead, surrounded by the town’s feral cats.
Now Claire vows to learn the truth about what happened, but the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to discovering a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley. . . .
With an eerie setting and heart-stopping twists and turns, Holly Schindler weaves a gripping story that will make you question everything you think you know.(
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.
August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.
“…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Axioms like ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ come gracefully to life in Schindler’s tale about the value of hard work and the power of community…
Auggie’s enthusiasm and unbridled creativity are infections, and likeminded readers will envy her creative partnership with [her grandfather] Gus.” – Publishers Weekly
The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky will leave you smiling and will have you seeing art through completely different lenses.
This novel will make students observe their environment and think about what they see around them. What is beauty? What is art? These are just some of the important themes. Family, friendship, forgiveness are three other concepts that fuel this novel, along with how we view others and judge them. People may live in poverty, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have pride.
The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky would be a perfect novel for MG teachers to read out loud with or to their students, and then give them the opportunity to create their own art garden with repurposed items. Can’t you see it? A place set aside outside a school for beautiful works that children made from discarded junk? I definitely can. I also could see teachers bringing in artists who would be willing to help spearhead the project.
Here are a few things that loved about this MG debut novel by the talented Holly Schindler:
1. Auggie’s relationship with her grandfather Gus. There is a lot of love and respect to their relationship and it was so much fun to see them collaborate on their art.
2. The relationship between neighbors, helping one another, supporting each other, and standing up for their community.
3. Chuck, the pastor. He played an important role in Auggie’s life, filling in a little of the gap that’s been missing because she has no parents.
4. An appreciation for used items and junkyards.
5. One man’s junk is another one’s art. Do we have a right to tell others they’re wrong to see it that way?
6. Who is a true friend? This novel explores this issue.
7. Even if a person is no longer present, her influence can still guide you.
8. Non-traditional families.
Definitely a winner for second graders and above. I hope teachers will utilize this novel as well.
Author site: hollyschindler.com
In THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, Auggie and Gus repurpose old items from Gus’s trash hauls; they turn toasters or junked cars into metal flowers and wind chimes and even figures they refer to as their “company.”
I’ve been going to auctions since I was a little girl—first, I went with my folks. These days, I go with my brother (an antiques dealer). Some of my favorite finds (especially at rural, farm auctions) are the self-made primitives, one-of-a-kind items. I’ve discovered all sorts of fun things—needlework on old burlap sacks, stools made from worn wooden Coke crates, quilts made from scraps of clothing.
I also do my fair share of repurposing old items myself. Some of my favorite repurposed items include pieces of jewelry made from broken findings. (The pendant of this one’s a pin with a busted clasp. And the beads all came from broken necklaces…You can always come across jars of busted jewelry at flea markets or auctions. They’re tough to pass up!)
You know, though, the entire manuscript of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY is kind of a repurposed item. When I first drafted THE JUNCTION, it was a picture book. But the first editors who saw it thought the concept of folk art was far too advanced for picture book readers.
So I did the same thing Auggie and Gus did in the book—I took the best, prettiest parts of the draft and I reinvented it as an MG novel. It wasn’t easy taking a 1,000-word story and reimagining it as a 45,000-word book. But neither is reinventing a copper pipe as a dancer! It takes serious sweat to make your artistic vision a reality—using old supplies doesn’t make the process any easier, either. In fact, you could say it’s tougher, because you don’t exactly have a blank page. You’ve got to use metal that’s already been bent, wood that’s already been cut and painted. You’ve got to alter your design to fit the materials.
I really think that whether it’s a necklace, a sculpture, or a book, repurposing materials gives the newer item more depth. It already has its own history—its own backstory, in a sense! (And we all know that a character with a rich backstory is a more three-dimensional character…)
Holly Schindler is the author of A Blue So Dark and Playing Hurt, two outstanding YA novels that I highly recommend. A Blue So Dark is about a girl dealing with her mother’s schizophrenia and Playing Hurt is about a girl and a boy finding hope and new beginnings after dealing with different losses. For Goodreads descriptions click here: A Blue So Dark and Playing Hurt.
Today, Holly revealed the book cover for her debut MG novel: THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, which is being published by Dial on February 6, 2014 – Amazon and Goodreads.
To learn more about Holly, her books and what’s coming next, check out her website.
What I love about this cover:
1. The bright colors.
2. The letters are made up of real stuff. The spoon, the horseshoe, bike horn – so cool!
3. The tree branches with the leaves and the fence. Makes me want to know what’s going on behind the sign.
Description taken from Amazon:
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR YA AUTHOR
1. From some of the things I read about you, it seems like you sacrificed quite a bit to become a published author, and if it hadn’t been for your family your dreams would not have come true. What’s the journey been like and what do you most want other aspiring authors to take from your experience?
My path to publication was long and winding—took seven and a half years to get the first acceptance! And it also took full-time tunnel vision to really learn the ins and outs of writing a novel (even though I already had a master’s in English). Without the incredible support—financial and emotional—I got from my family, I never would have gotten started. I never would have seen that first acceptance without having all that time to write. (I taught piano and guitar lessons part-time to pay my bills, but because of my family’s support, I didn’t have to seek full-time employment. My full-time job has always been writing.) I won’t lie—four, five, six years into my pursuit, I had my down moments, and I shed a few tears…but I never felt like I should be doing anything else. And in that respect, I don’t feel like I sacrificed at all. Actually, I feel as though the REAL sacrifice would have been to get the full-time job and not pursue writing! (The idea of that’s just so incredibly sad—I know I wouldn’t have been truly happy doing anything but writing.) The thing is, there’s a point in the pursuit of ANY dream when it feels like the dream is kicking your butt a little—it doesn’t matter what the dream is…maybe it’s to own your own business, or to become a surgeon, or breed ostriches. You’ll have days when you look at yourself and wonder what you’re doing. But I learned firsthand that’s the point at which it’s the most important to keep pushing.
2. Both of your novels are realistic fiction. What is the appeal for you to this particular genre and are there any other genres you see yourself writing in the future? What other genres do you enjoy reading?
I’m a fan of all genres—there’s nothing I won’t read: classics, contemporary, poetry, literary, romance. I even took a sci fi course in college, because that was the one section of the library I’d never spent much time in and I thought if I immersed myself in it for a while, I’d want to read more books in that genre. Now, no section of my public library goes unvisited! While my first books are realistic fiction, they do still differ slightly: A BLUE SO DARK is literary, and PLAYING HURT is a romance. And my writing interests are every bit as varied as my reading interests, so stay tuned!
3. As you know, I haven’t read A Blue So Dark, yet. It’s a YA novel that brings to light the difficulties of a teen dealing with her mother’s schizophrenia. From what I understand it’s very different from Playing Hurt, your second novel, which I loved. Playing Hurt is an older YA contemporary/romance novel. The main characters are out of high school and address issues such as death, physical and emotional injuries, identity crisis, choices, love, and sex. What, if any, are some of the similarities between your two novels, and what is it that you hope readers will take away from A Blue So Dark and Playing Hurt.
You’re right—on the surface, those two books are absolutely night and day different. But I think the quality I’m most proud of in both of those books is their honesty. I think both are pretty bare—BLUE maybe even more so than PLAYING HURT. I also love that the characters in both books are slightly flawed—they kind of bumble through their struggles—but they ultimately triumph. I think that’s the beautiful thing about YA, though—as a whole, I think what you’ve got are characters who are dealing with adult situations for the first time. Teen characters are in no way seasoned pros when it comes to dealing with the hardships of life. So they’re bound to make a bunch of mistakes. But they do succeed. Revisiting all those “firsts” in life is one of the reasons why writing YA is so much fun.
4. A huge congrats to you for your debut middle grade novel, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, which is coming out in 2012 and is being published by Dial. Please share with us what you can about this new novel.
Thanks for the congrats! THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY is still about a year away from publication. It’s about a young artist, and will feature original cover art—the first of any of my books to have original art! I’m really excited about that…
5. What has been one of the biggest life lessons you personally have learned and how has it helped you to grow as a person?
The absolute biggest lesson I’ve learned is the benefit of persistence. You don’t get anywhere in life if you don’t just dig those heels in and really learn the art of being a bit stubborn. That’s not to say that you should be bullheaded and believe that what you write is always perfect and that you should never revise anything when rejections inevitably come in. What I mean is that you can’t let the rejections make you think it’ll never happen. One rejection of one project is just that—one rejection. And an opportunity to learn and improve. Get to work; revise and submit again. I really believe that the only authors who never get to see their books on the shelves are those who give up.
A BLUE SO DARK: Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talent artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears. One of Booklist’s Top 10 Novels for Youth (2010) Silver Medal, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year (Young Adult Fiction) Gold Medal, IPPY Awards (Juvenile / Young Adult Fiction)
PLAYING HURT: Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family. As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?
For more information about Holly go to hollyschindler.com Holly’s blog: hollyschindler.blogspot.com, Twitter: @holly_schindler, and Facebook: facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor