Contemporary YA about theatre, kindness, and '80s rock
Hello! I have written on and off for years, but have really been committed to my writing since I made a New Year’s resolution at the start of 2019. Outside writing and reading, I love musical theatre (I’ve always said Les Mis and Wicked are tied for my favorite show, but Hamilton is right up there too). I enjoy baking, although I don’t think I’m particularly good at it, and am always happy when I’m eating good food.
Contemporary YA is my favorite genre – I love John Green and Becky Albertalli. The voice is what draws me in. If a novel includes theatre, baking, books/bookstores/libraries, or Christmas, I’m intrigued. I also enjoy themes of found family and love in all its forms (friendship, family, romance, LGBTQIA+). I appreciate the challenge of telling a story unconventionally (alternating POVs; using letters, etc) and am often drawn to these types of books as well.
Because I don’t read or write it, I’m not interested in sci-fi, fantasy, or horror.
Sixteen-year-old Rae Ballester loves movie musicals and—because of her dad—’80s rock. It’s her only means of feeling close to him since he died a year ago—because of her. If he hadn’t been speeding in order to hear her choir solo, he would still be alive. And as if losing her father weren’t bad enough, her inability to move on has cost her even her closest friendships, leaving her very much the “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” So, when a stranger commits an unexpected act of kindness and tells Rae to pay it forward, she sees an opportunity to do good for others as a small way of making up for failing her dad.
A charming boy named Mac with a passion for theatre convinces her to audition for the school play and, together, the cast starts committing kind acts around school, all while planning a fundraiser for a charitable foundation run by Jon Bon Jovi, Rae’s dad’s favorite of rock gods. But as she gets closer to Mac and starts to open up again, she makes herself vulnerable and exposes herself to more heartbreak, to Mac’s “Bad Medicine.” After a humiliating game of 7 Minutes in Heaven, Rae’s instinct is to withdraw, returning to the comfort of Tommy and Gina and the familiar figures on the silver screen. But her castmates are counting on her to organize a sleep out for the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. Struggling to find “Something to Believe In,” Rae must decide whether to return to her safe but solitary world or put herself out there one more time—to hold onto her new friends, take a second chance on love, honor her father’s memory, and maybe even forgive herself.
“Never Say Goodbye”
I like to pretend my father’s mortician was Jon Bon Jovi’s grandfather. Granted, we didn’t go to Bongiovi Funeral Home because we don’t live in Raritan, New Jersey, and Bon Jovi’s grandpop is probably dead too, but if somehow Mr. Bongiovi had buried my dad, it would have made him happy.
He loved ’80s rock. (My dad—I don’t know about Mr. Bongiovi. But I gotta figure if your grandson is the front man of a famous rock band, the music can’t help but grow on you.) Journey, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC—they were all regular fixtures in my house growing up. But none more than Bon Jovi. They were Dad’s favorite.
Shamelessly, he took every opportunity to tell people about the 23 times he’d seen them in concert. My mom and I would roll our eyes at each other whenever he started in. But it was an eye roll of loving indulgence, which is why I stop outside Mom’s room at the sight of a Bon Jovi shirt on top of a pile of clothes on her bed.
“What are you doing?”
She doesn’t answer. When I step through the doorway, I see the earbuds. Moving closer, I wave my hand to get her attention as she drops another shirt—the Slippery When Wet Tour—onto the stack.
Startled when she finally notices me, my mother wipes quickly at her eyes and then stops whatever she’s listening to.
“What are you doing?” I ask again.
Looking tired, she sits on the bed. “Going through your dad’s stuff. I figured it was time.”
“What are you doing with it?”
“Donating what I can. Pitching the rest.”
Noting a hole at the collar of the SWWT shirt, I stare at the pile in horror. “Is this the trash?”
Mom sticks her finger through the seam. “Does this look like something I can donate?”
Rifling through the rejects, I see countless (23) Bon Jovi shirts, along with a bunch paying homage to other rock gods. “But how can you get rid of these? They’re Dad’s Bon Jovi shirts.”
I write contemporary YA and have two projects in the works.
The first is about a sophomore English class that is tasked with writing a letter to Juliet while they’re reading Shakespeare’s classic. Only the letters don’t make it to Verona – they get posted online. And then someone starts responding.
The second project is a road trip story – seven kids who are just learning the others exist and their journey to meet the biological father they share before he dies.
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