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Take Five with YA Author Simone Elkeles
Jan 2nd, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

Here’s the perfect way to start 2011.

Snuggle up with a book by one of my most favorite YA authors, Simone Elkeles.

Want the chance to WIN a copy of one of her books? Leave a comment about this interview, and which book you would want to read. Winner will be randomly chosen Sunday, January 16, 2011 8PM CST. US and Canada only. (Be a Google follower of this blog for an extra entry.)  WINNER HAS BEEN RANDOMLY CHOSEN: CONGRATS – MINAS

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.

Enjoy this interview with Simone:

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!

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