Posts Tagged ‘Weightless Review’

Sundays With Writers: Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

I have been so blessed to have such a great Sundays With Writers line-up this month. I hope you are enjoying this series half as much as I am!  I have another incredible writer to feature today and I think her book should be mandatory reading for parents of teens and also a great book for older teens to read.

Today I am sharing a virtual cup of coffee with Sarah Bannan to talk about her debut novel WeightlessThis book was an eye-opener for me about bullying today and how different it is from when we were kids… and, yet, in many ways how it is still the same. This is not a feel-good book today, but an unsettling look at how teens bully one another. I find her use of narrators (read more in our interview below) is what makes this book so compelling.

Weightless by Sarah Bannan

When Carolyn Lessing moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the juniors at Adams High. Gorgeous, stylish, a great student and gifted athlete without a mean girl bone in her body Carolyn is gobbled up right away by the school’s cliques. She even begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a make-out video of Carolyn and Shane makes the rounds, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut in an instant, with Brooke and her best friend responsible for the campaign.
Carolyn is hounded and focused on, and becomes more and more private. Questions about her family and her habits torture her. But a violent confrontation with Shane and Brooke in the student parking lot is the last attack Carolyn can take.

Bannan sheds light on how bullying happens now that kids have access to social media and creatively utilizes an undisclosed narrator who acts as an observer and participant in the bullying of a new girl at their school. Well-written and unflinching, it would be a great read for your older teen or for parents who want to see how bullying occurs today. I highly recommend this one! 

Grab your cup of coffee and let’s settle in with Sarah Bannan to learn more about the story behind this story!

Sarah Bannan

What prompted you, as a writer, to tackle the topic of bullying? Were there any real-life cases that were an inspiration to you when telling the fictional story of Carolyn?

When I was thirteen, my family moved to a small town in Alabama. I was in eighth grade at the time, and the move was something of a culture shock. My school was full of football and cheerleaders and cliques and the high school had an honest-to-god beauty pageant. We voted on class favorites and our cheerleaders and homecoming court. Everything seemed like a looks or personality contest, and that was a contest I knew I would never be in the running for, let alone win.

I had fantastic friends, and a great experience all through my time in Alabama, but I think I always knew that there was something in the town and the atmosphere of my high school that might lend itself to fiction. I’ve also found that my high school years and my friendships from that period still stick in my mind, all these years later. I’ve done a lot of reading about this – our obsession with our teenage years – and apparently it’s a time when you make some of your most lasting memories, in large part because this is the very time in which you are shaping and determining your sense of self, your individual identity. It’s also a time of firsts – first kiss, first drive, first break-up, first time away from home. And firsts are always a little easier to remember than second and third and fourth times. It’s one of the things about WEIGHTLESS that’s worth remembering, the degree to which it’s a document of memory: the narrators are looking back and trying to cobble together a shared truth of what happened over one school year. But they’re being really careful in the way that they do it, as they’re paranoid about accepting culpability or blame. Or defining themselves by what happened during the year.

Phoebe Prince

When I started writing WEIGHTLESS, I had my high school in the back of my mind. But I was also reading a lot about bullying, and cyber-bullying, in the news. I was very much haunted by the story of Phoebe Prince, the young Irish girl who moved to South Hadley, MA when she was 15. She was bullied, and ultimately took her own life. I read a great deal about her story, and the complexities that surrounded it, and also about similar, less high profile cases back in Ireland, and I started to get a picture of what it looks like to be a teenager now, in the age of social media. This frightened me, to a significant degree, but it also made me feel that this was exactly the story I should be telling.

The narration in your story is told in first person plural.  If that wasn’t unique enough, you don’t ever know the names of these narrators as they observe (and participate) in the bullying of Carolyn. Why did you choose this type of narration and why do you think this angle was the best way to capture the story?

I’ve said before that WEIGHTLESS began as a voice in my head that I just couldn’t shake. And that’s totally true. I had this chorus, in my head: a group of girls, sitting back, watching cheerleaders perform in front of them. They’re obsessed with the girls – with their childhoods, their appearances, their sex lives – and they seem to want to be them as much as they want to tear them down.

I tried, when I was first drafting the novel, to put it in first and third person voices – but it just didn’t work or, perhaps, I just didn’t have access to any voice else except this group of girls. They are watching from the outside, and passing comment on what they’ve seen, what they’ve heard, what they think they know.

It was only after I finished the novel that I realized what an effect the voice actually has and I think that’s why I felt I had to keep it, sustain it. Why I felt like it was the right way to go. The voice underlines the role of gossip in a town like this. Group-think. Rumor. Memory. Dissipation of responsibility. Avoidance of guilt.

Readers will notice when reading the book that it’s intercut with other forms of narration: Facebook feeds, newspaper articles, transcripts, committee reports. This was all in an effort to layer the narrative (the “we” can be awfully claustrophobic!) and highlight how the way in which what we hear often contrasts to what is reported. I wanted readers to feel as if they were picking up a kind of unofficial scrapbook for the year.

 There are so many moments in this book that feel like you are inside the head of a teenager; in fact, I had a few flashbacks of my own moments when I was young. For example this line: “We sat outside Sbarro’s and ordered cheese pizza and we took off the cheese and blotted it with our napkins. We would eat frozen yogurt later, topped with Oreos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and M&Ms.” I REALLY remember doing this as a teen and had completely forgot about it.  How did you capture these teenage voices so perfectly?

It’s sad: it was eerily easy for me to access the actual teenage mentality, as I have not entirely matured, despite being 37 years of age! I don’t know. I mean, I just remember the boredom and contradictions of that time very clearly, and the same insecurities that plagued me then, still plague me today, but they are (thankfully!) not so pronounced or life-consuming.

In terms of some of the detail, one of my sisters is a high school English teacher in California and very kindly gave me advice around some technical things: brand names, technology in schools, cultural preoccupations. My other sister lives in Connecticut is the mother of two teenagers, and she was also able to give me insight into those matters – and her daughter kindly helped me with a number of important details, as did a cousin of mine. In some earlier drafts there are a few clangers – I think I may have even referenced a Nokia ring tone somewhere!

Raising compassionate kids is a really big thing for me as a mom. After all your research on cyberbullying, could you offer just one piece of advice for parents on how we can help our kids stand up to bullying?

Well, this is advice coming from a fiction writer…but I think we just need to encourage kids (and adults!) to be kinder to one another. When I went to school, I feel like there was a huge emphasis on self-confidence and achievement, and not much on character or empathy. I’m not saying we need to drop the first two, but we need more attention to the latter…and I think the best way to do this is to… read more literary fiction. I’m sure you’ve seen the countless studies about how reading literary fiction increases empathy and I know this to be true. It’s one of the few ways in which we can really get into somebody else’s shoes, imagine things from somebody else’s perspective. So…my advice is, surprise, to get kids to read more!

Were you ever bullied as a child or did you ever feel like you contributed in some way to the bullying of another? Was there one character in the story, in particular, you really related to?

I think there’s a distinction between bad behavior – or meanness – and bullying, and I was both the victim and the perpetrator of the former, but not the latter. I think this is the case, at least. I’m not sure that makes it better, but I think it’s worth making the distinction, and one of the things in WEIGHTLESS that emerges is the way in which we are sometimes a bit too quick to point fingers and apply labels of ‘bully’. And then ‘bullies’ end up being bullied and round and round and round it goes.

As I mentioned, I moved around a lot growing up, and every place we lived seem to contain these rituals and traditions that were almost designed to make kids, especially girls, compete against one another. And not in a healthy, esteem-boosting kind of way. In retrospect, it’s shocking to me that more shocking things didn’t happen, that there wasn’t more bullying. Kids, by and large, tried to be kind to one another, but only within our set little cliques. There wasn’t much mixing.

I love Carolyn the most, of course, of all the characters, but I was nothing like her in school: I was awkward and nerdy and of zero interest to guys. In many ways, in retrospect, I can see that this was a blessing. I wasn’t a threat to anyone at my school or in my town.

I suppose I identify with the narrators the most, and I’m sure this will make readers think I’m a horrible person, but I think young people, and adults, can be scarily lacking in empathy. And I was probably happy in the fact that I was rarely outwardly mean to anybody, but I also wasn’t in a position of power within my high school to do so. The narrators are neither as cool as they’d like to be, nor as lame as they think they are. They occupy this very important place in the middle of high school hierarchies, and I’m pretty sure it’s the place I occupied myself. I was never bullied, or not really, and I never bullied anyone, or not really. But I watched a lot of things happen. And I talked about it. And, in retrospect, I wish I had done more.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

I think that’s almost impossible for me as I read constantly, and I am forever discovering my newest favorite novel…So, I’m going to choose my novel of the moment, which is Sarah Crossan’s ONE, which will be published by Bloomsbury in August. It’s a verse novel for young adults, and it’s a beautiful story about conjoined twins. It’s completely consuming and unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

(I should also say that I reread, every summer, Meg Wolitzer’s THE INTERESTINGS and Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP. Two completely amazing feats of literary fiction and coming of age…I know this is cheating but it’s hard for me!)

You can connect with Sarah Bannan on GoodReads, on Facebook, or through her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

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June 2015 Must-Reads

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

June 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

 

June flew by, didn’t it? I had hoped to tackle a ton of books this month, but we have had so many fun projects going on for the site that I found myself barely able to stay awake for my evening reading routines.  These kids are just wearing me out this summer, I tell you! I have a huge list of books that I would like to work through this summer and I am also trying to read some advanced readers so I can get great new books on your radar before they come out!

Did you see this list I have been working on just for you? After each of our Sundays With Writers interviews, I finish the interview by asking our featured author to share one book that they think everyone should read (other than their own). After a year of responses, I thought it was time to start sharing those answers in one post with you. This list will be updated WEEKLY as we have new writers on for our interview series so be sure to bookmark it for your library visits!

This month I tackled two historical fiction, one incredible YA book, a thriller, and a romance! All of these books are beach bag worthy so let’s dig into my picks for June!

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

What a fantastic read this was! Macallister writes a beautiful story of a female illusionist, something that was rare and provocative during the turn of the century, in this historical fiction debut. The story shows the reader things are not always as they seem even when it comes to the illusions we create in our own lives.

When a man is killed during her jaw-dropping act of sawing a man in half, The Amazing Arden is arrested and accused of the murder. The thing is, Arden has a story to tell about who that man really is and this murder just might be an illusion too. The story unfolds as she makes her confession to the officer who has arrested her as she confesses to the real crimes that have been committed in her life. There are some great plot twists in this one that kept me flipping the pages until the end and I really enjoyed it- I can’t wait to read more from this author!

If I had one critique on this one, I felt that the ending was a bit rushed and the book could have really benefited from an epilogue. With that tiny tweak, it would have been a really perfect read for me. I am still giving it a high rating for most perfectly written evil character and for tackling the topic of a female illusionist!

I have invited Greer Macallister to join us in our Sundays With Writers series and I look forward to sharing more behind this fantastic story!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Weightless by Sarah Bannan

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to preview this month and I have to say, I have been thinking a lot about this book since I finished it. This is an incredible YA book on bullying today and the ramifications of what can happen when a child is pushed too far.

When Carolyn Lessing moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the juniors at Adams High. Gorgeous, stylish, a great student and gifted athlete without a mean girl bone in her body Carolyn is gobbled up right away by the school’s cliques. She even begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a make-out video of Carolyn and Shane makes the rounds, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut in an instant, with Brooke and her best friend responsible for the campaign.
Carolyn is hounded and focused on, and becomes more and more private. Questions about her family and her habits torture her. But a violent confrontation with Shane and Brooke in the student parking lot is the last attack Carolyn can take.

Bannan sheds light on how bullying happens now that kids have access to social media and creatively utilizes an undisclosed narrator who acts as an observer and participant in the bullying of a new girl at their school. Well-written and unflinching, it would be a great read for your older teen or for parents who want to see how bullying occurs today. I highly recommend this one!

I have invited Sarah Bannan to join us in our Sundays With Writers series to discuss cyberbullying and her inspiration for this incredible book.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

I have never read Barbara Delinsky before, but got the opportunity to assist with promotion for this book and so I toted this one back and forth in my beach bag. I didn’t realize how many of my readers do read her books though so I apologize that I haven’t read these books before to share them with you here!

On Caroline MacAfee’s 56th birthday, she is told that she is too old to continue hosting the home improvement show, “Gut It!” that she has been a part of for years. Her replacement doesn’t want to tell her about the switch. I mean, how do you break it to your own mother that her replacement is…well, her very own daughter? There is, of course, conflict knowing that the job that Caroline loves and knows so well is being taken from her and there is sadness as Jamie finds the relationship she has with her mom is slipping away from her in this new role. When a traumatic death happens in their family, not only do these two realize that they will have to work together to pick up the pieces of their loss, but their entire life has went into a different direction than either of them expect.

Since this book tells the story of Caroline, at the age of 56, and Jamie, in her thirties, it is a book that you could share with your own mother and will appeal to women of all ages. The story of friendship between this mother & daughter duo made for a beautiful read and would be a great beach read escape this summer. The story particularly shines as Jamie learns to find herself and finds love for the unexpected family she has been shouldered with. Caroline’s blossoming relationship between her and her longtime pal also builds into a beautiful love story in the golden years of life.

At the heart of it all, this story is all about how the blueprints of our life change over time. We all have plans, but let’s face it… they rarely work out the way we expect them to.

I would recommend this book for fans of Kristen Hannah and Diane Chamberlain, two of my favorite authors for a fun escape from the heavier books.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens (available for pre-order, hits stores on July 7th)

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to preview this month.

Chevy Stevens delivers another fast page-turner that will leave you on the edge of your seat. It’s the type of thriller you devour quickly, flipping pages until the wee hours of the morning, and perfect for your summer beach bag.

The story centers around three sisters growing up in an abusive home who must escape with no food or money to avoid the foster care system. When their car breaks down on the side of the road, two boys pull over and offer to help fix their car in exchange for work at the family ranch. Despite the bad feelings, the girls go along with these two….and their lives will never be the same again. Switching from all different perspectives, this dark thriller is a well-woven game of cat and mouse from start to finish!

I spent two glorious nights with this book and even woke up in the middle of the night to sneak a few more pages in. Now I will have to wait impatiently for Chevy Stevens next twisty thriller!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to preview this month.

If you have been waiting for the next The Help, friends, this is it. I really want to get this book on your radar because the story is so beautifully told and it is about something that happened in history that I was never aware of. A perfect balance of fact and fiction, you will get swept away in the storm that hits Heron Key in 1935.

It is hard to believe that this was a debut novel- it was so perfectly executed. I love when I am transported into time in a historical fiction novel and learn something I have never known before and that was the case in this one. This well-researched book perfectly combines fact and fiction into an incredible story about a hurricane that ripped through the Florida Keys. The racial tensions of the people combined with a camp of misplaced disturbed war veterans creates an incredible conflict within the town when all of their safety is at risk as a hurricane approaches. I just know you will fall in love with this perfectly woven story (and learn a lot about the 1930’s in the process!

5 Out of 5 Star

 

Amy’s 2015 Bookshelf (join me on GoodReads):

Books I Have Read in 2015

 

June 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year:

January 2015 Must-Reads

February 2015 Must-Reads

March 2015 Must-Reads

April 2015 Must-Reads

May 2015 Must-Reads

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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