“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Summary from Goodreads:

A resonant debut novel about retreating from the world after losing everything—and the connections that force you to rejoin it.

Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.

Details:

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara will be released by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on November 13, 2012.

This looks like a haunting, heartbreaking debut. I’m always excited to read books about slightly older protagonists, and I’m curious about how setting will play a role in this story. Plus, a little romance never hurts.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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I feel like I’m becoming a bit of a connoisseur of Cancer Kid books lately. This year has been packed with them–The Fault in Our Stars, Me & Earl, The Probability of Miracles, and Gone, Gone, Gone all come to mind immediately. These books have been varying levels of funny and touching, and they have been books told by kids with cancer and by friends and relatives of kids with cancer. The amount of variation has managed to keep me from getting totally worn out on this topic, but I do think it has also raised my standards.

With all that said, Sarah Wylie’s All These Lives was yet another interesting twist on the cancer kid premise, but it left me feeling emotionally underwhelmed. In Wylie’s debut, sixteen-year-old Dani believes that she has nine lives, while her twin sister only has one, which is currently being threatened by cancer. If Dani uses up a few of her lives, maybe they will go out into the world and help Jena.

Dani’s unlikeability makes her an appealing narrator. She’s snarky and bitchy; she takes her confusion and anger out on the people around her. Yet, her actions show that she is not the pain in the ass of a person she makes herself out to be. This dissonance between thought and action makes Dani a character I wanted to get to know better. Jena, on the other hand, is not all that fleshed out, and I didn’t exactly find myself rooting for her. Similarly, the rest of the family’s coping mechanisms intrigued me, but I failed to really connect with any of the other characters.

The premise of All These Lives reminded me of Hannah Moskowitz’ Break, but I found the latter more engaging. In a YA market saturated with cancer books, I continue to be pleased by the the diversity that sets each book apart, yet I sadly didn’t feel like All These Lives resonated with me enough to leave a lasting impression.

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I’m excited to welcome Gwendolyn Heasley back to the blog to celebrate her new book, A Long Way From You. Last time you visited my blog, you said you were sure being an author would hit you once you saw your books in bookstores and met readers at signings. So, has it hit you?

It doesn’t hit me on a day-to-day basis, but it does hit me when “fans” email me. I’ve been very fortunate to hear from quite a few readers, and I love it when they relate the book to their own lives. Since WHERE I BELONG is a recessionary novel, it’s especially moving when a reader says that the book has helped them adjust to a job loss, different lifestyle or a new town

How has your experience as an author compared with what you imagined?

Being a 21st century author means that you’re actively involved with your readers, especially through social media. As a reader growing up, I didn’t have access to my favorite authors. I think that’s the coolest part about being both a reader and a writer today. However, doing social media is almost like another job for an author. It’s a fun, exciting part of the job, but takes more time than I ever imagined. But I love how as an author I get to wear several hats. I’m a writer, a publicist, a movie producer—okay fine, a trailer producer!! It keeps everything fresh. I might get bored if I only wrote 24/7. (I also teach college in the fall, which I love and I think it helps my writing.)

When you set out to write Where I Belong, did you plan to write Kitsy’s story as a companion novel or did that decision come later?

When I sold WHERE I BELONG, I sent a sample for MOCKINGBIRDETTE IN MANHATTAN, which later became A LONG WAY FROM YOU. There was a period when I was working on another project, but then it became clear that Kitsy’s story should be my next novel! I loved, loved writing this most recent novel.

How did writing book two compare to writing book one? Did you feel a little older and wiser this time around, or do you feel like each book has its own learning curve?

I’m a bit nervous because I want Kitsy’s story to be as read as Corrinne’s. I think her story is equally (if not more) exciting and relevant to teens, so I’m really hoping that she reaches readers. That said, I definitely learned a lot about editing, publicity, etc. when WHERE I BELONG came out, so I feel more confident with that…but I still am obviously checking the Internet to see what people think! Some authors don’t care what readers think, but I do. And I think that information helps me become a better writer.

I gather from your blog that you are a Friday Night Lights fan. I’m a bit obsessed myself. Dish away: Who are your favorite characters? Were you happy with how things ended?

Confession: I haven’t watched the final season. I feel like once I do watch, it’s really over. I’m waiting for a really good rainy weekend, so I can’t comment on the ending. But I can comment on how hot Tim Riggins is, which is incredibly hot. And I think the story was very well written. It showed teens both at school and at home, which I thought was a great balance. No character on that show is flat in my opinion.

What lessons do you think writers can take away from FNL?

Making your characters gray (rather than black or white) was a smart decision on the FNL writers’ part. Many readers didn’t like Corrinne from WHERE I BELONG, especially at first, but I think that’s mostly because she broke the mold of the likeable main character. I don’t want my characters to be static just so readers “like” them. I think FNL had many characters (especially Tim and Lila) who did things that weren’t great, but that made them more real, not less. Although I sometimes didn’t agree with characters’ decisions on FNL, the characters always moved me, which I think is more important than liking a character.

What’s next for you? Do your characters from Where I Belong and A Long Way From You have more stories to tell, or will you be moving on to something different?

I’m going to be moving onto something different. I feel bittersweet about it, but think it’s time. My next novel is about the Internet, friends, and mothers and daughters. That’s all I’ll give away right now!

I’m a pretty big fan of the Internet, so it sounds like a winner already. I’m very much looking forward to falling in love with some new characters. Thank you so much for stopping by and I hope we’ll have the chance to reconnect again for book three!

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In Gwendolyn Heasley’s companion to Where I Belong, small-town Texan teen Kitsy Kidd takes center stage. When Kitsy is accepted into a prestigious summer art program, her friend Corrinne’s family offers to pay for her course and allow her to stay in their Manhattan apartment. Kitsy has always dreamed of being an artist. but she can only dream so big while stuck in a town the size of a NYC block (but with not even half as much in it).

Kitsy leaves her family behind and takes off on a summer that is, for once, all about her. While finally having the opportunity to take her art seriously, Kitsy must also learn to take herself and her ambitions seriously. A summer of museums and freedom and other artists forces Kitsy to consider if what she wants from life might be more than Broken Spoke can offer, or if the best art comes from the places you know most intimately. Maybe it’s true that you can’t go home again, but is Kitsy really ready to make it in NY?

Though Heasley’s newest book, A Long Way From You, is a companion novel, it does not require that you have read Where I Belong. There is plenty of back story woven in to hit the ground running with this book, and I ultimately enjoyed this novel even more than its predecessor.

A Long Way From You is a feel-good story with a charming narrator and atmospheric setting. Kitsy Kidd’s enthusiasm is infectious. Seeing the world through the lens of her naivete when she arrives in NY is refreshing, as is watching her character grow like a fish relocated to a very big pond. Kitsy is just delightful, and her Texan phrases and sense of humor made me giggle out loud repeatedly as I was reading. (And giggling is not something I do often.)

The setting of A Long Way From You featured prominently in the story. NYC is a classic location for coming into your own, a location perfect for this tale of self-discovery. Kitsy’s early attempts to navigate the city on her own were all too relatable for me, and I couldn’t help but laugh when Kitsy accidentally took the subway into NJ and was beside herself trying to figure out how she ended up in an entirely different state. Plus, the NYC setting provided the opportunity for me to vicariously visit some of my favorite museums with Kitsy, which was a real treat.

Like many of my favorite stories, I appreciated that the romance in A Long Way From You is not about losing yourself in someone else, but about loving yourself enough to be a little bit selfish. Loving yourself enough to strike out on your own to pursue your dreams, even if that means leaving some people behind. Despite its cover, this is not so much a love story between a boy and a girl as it is between a girl and a city, her dreams, and herself.

From the setting to the art references to the upbeat and adorable Kitsy Kidd, A Long Way From You is a fabulous summer read. I couldn’t have asked for a better NYC tour guide than Kitsy, and I’ve never enjoyed NYC in the summer so much as I did from my air-conditioned bedroom.

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