by Jen Larsen
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Chick Lit, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, High School
Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.
Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is.
But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.
As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
Through her indecisions and doubts, Ashley’s story is a liberating one—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.
1. What elements do you think make a great story line?
I think a character who wants something, needs something, will collapse and melt away without something is my favorite element of a great story. A character propelled by something important—an idea or a wish or a dream that feels vital and huge. A character who makes you root for her and want that thing just as bad as she does, no matter what it is.
I also love stories with strong relationships between the characters, connections that feel real and as important to the story as the character’s motivation. It’s what makes a book feel alive and three-dimensional to me.
And no matter what genre or style or tone, some central Big Idea feels really essential to me. A heart for the story, a reason the story was written, a reason it is good and important that that story exists.
2. What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Trusting myself! Every time I sit down to write it’s a little bit of a fight with my own fear of messing up, of saying the wrong thing or screwing up this story I want to tell and writing something terrible and bad that I should just be embarrassed to even look at. I think anyone who writes has to be really, really brave to do what they do. Writers have to push past doubt and insecurity but also be brave enough to ask for support, and brave enough to listen to feedback. Mostly, be brave enough to believe that their story is important enough to be told.
Though maybe actually making myself get off the internet and sit down and write was the real hardest part.
3. What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
I’m a big reader and I buy way too many books and stuff my library hold list full of books and borrow books all the time. I also play a lot of video games—role playing and adventure games that are heavy on story and quests, and preferably with great female main characters who are awesome.
4. What is your favorite book? Favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
My favorite book of all time is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The way Douglas Adams used language and turns of phrase made me want to be a writer too. I loved his absurdity and silliness and the fact that his books were ridiculous and outlandish but there was also that central heart to them, a kind of pessimistic optimism about humankind.
The authors who inspire me are also my favorites right now—there so many SO MANY brilliant young adult novelists who are passionate about all the things, about writing and their books and the teenagers reading them, like E. Lockhart and Nalo Hopkinson and Tahereh Mafi and Rainbow Rowell and Zen Cho and Lauren Oliver and VE Schwab and Stephanie Kuehn and Maggie Stiefvater and Maureen Johnson and Marie Lu and Julie Murphy and Nnedi Okorafor and and and.
5. Are you working on anything now?
I am super excited about my two current projects, both YA. One is about two ex-girlfriends, still very much in love but reluctant to admit it to each other or themselves, thrown together one violent night in San Francisco when riots break out during an All Lives Matter rally.
The other is based on the Princess and the Pea fairytale, about a con artist fairy godmother and a princess who doesn’t realize she is one.
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Jen Larsen is the author of Future Perfect and Stranger Here: How Weight Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed With My Head. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco and currently lives in Madison, WI. Find her at jenlarsen.net.
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