IMG_0918A couple years ago, I asked Patricia Briggs to write a novella for our anthology On the Prowl. We wanted something either about Mercy Thompson, the car mechanic coyote shifter heroine of her urban fantasy series, or set in Mercy’s world. But when she said, “I think I’m going to write about Charles,” it took me a moment to place Samuel Cornick’s half-brother, a werewolf of few words who makes a brief appearance in Moon Called.

Well, after reading “Alpha and Omega”, I never forgot who Charles was again. In fact, I fell so in love with him and his mate, the werewolf Anna Latham, that I asked Patty if she would want to write more stories about Charles and Anna. And thus, the Alpha and Omega series was born–an action-packed urban fantasy series that is also the heartfelt story of Charles and Anna’s relationship.

With Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer, they tend to be trouble shooters, called in to deal with problems, and rarely catch a break. In Dead Heat, Charles and Anna travel to Arizona for personal reasons…or at least it starts out that way. Soon, they find themselves in the middle of a whole lot of trouble. The cold war between the fae and humanity is about to heat up, and the werewolves may have to choose which side they’re on.

I freely admit that I have a thing for werewolves. The pack structure, the human / animal dichotomy…it’s a concept that that is ripe for storytelling. And Patricia Briggs writes some of my absolutely favorite werewolves, who may be able to change their shape, but are always human.

Dead-Heat-Patricia-BriggsIt’s a pleasure to share Dead Heat with you, and I hope you fall in love with Charles and Anna the way I have.

Explore the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs!


Malice 2014 me and teapot 2“Where do you get your ideas?” a reader asks, at nearly every book event. “From my characters,” I say, aware that this makes me sound like a crazy woman. But before you call the men in the white coats, let me explain.

The heart of every story is the characters. Even in a mystery or a thriller, where plot is critical to a story’s success, the characters are the key. When someone raves to you about a book, they don’t say “it’s about a bomb ….” They say “it’s about a woman who ….” When readers fall for a series, they remember the characters as much as the individual plots—sometimes even more.

Character is both a person and a person’s essential nature, revealed by decisions and choices, especially those made under stress. It is those choices and decisions that create the plot.

And so, for me, it’s crucial to get to know my characters before I start writing their story. Because I write series, I know my recurring characters, but they are always surprising me. I knew that Pepper Reece, the main character in my new Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, got her nickname not from the shop but from her baseball-crazy grandfather, who dubbed the fiery three-year-old “Pepper” after the legendary Pepper Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals. But not until her mother Lena returns from Costa Rica for a visit in the third book, which I’ve just begun, did I know for sure what her real name is. (And no, I’m not going to tell you until then!) I knew she was raised in a communal household along with Kristen, her BFF and part-time employee. But I had no idea that in their early forties, these closer-than-sisters friends would discover that each had kept a secret or two.

Turns out that secrets are a theme to this series, as are questions about identity and the fine line between protecting someone and interfering. In Assault and Pepper, the first installment, Pepper finds a homeless man named Doc dead on the Spice Shop’s doorstep. The discovery rocks Pepper right down to her bay leaves. Nothing in her first year selling spice or her fifteen years managing staff HR at a giant law firm prepared her for the shock—or the consequences.

(Although being a cop’s wife for thirteen years did expose her to the seamier side of life. Especially when she discovered her husband and a meter maid—she still can’t say “parking enforcement officer”—in a back booth in a posh new restaurant practically plugging each other’s meters when he was supposed to be working a shift for a friend. Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s the bike cop on the Market beat.)

What’s even worse is when the homicide detectives—Spencer and Tracy, and yes, they’ve heard the jokes, and no, they’re not amused—focus on one of her trusted employees. She considers herself a good judge of people; after all, in both HR and retail, her livelihood depends on it. How could she have been so wrong? The only other suspects seem just as unlikely. Pepper investigates in part because she can’t believe her employee is guilty—or that the young woman would withhold the truth from her. The investigation forces her to confront the limits of her own judgment and her ability to work with other people. In the process, she learns new skills and draws on internal resources she didn’t know she had.

Plot unfolds when one character acts and another responds. And so as a writer, I ask my story people to tell me what they most want out of life. To show me their struggles, internal and external. To reveal how they respond when someone stands in their way. In the planning phase, I sometimes struggle until I identify the core conflicts between the victim and the killer—but also between the victim and other characters who fall under suspicion, and between the sleuth and those who would stop her. Ultimately, the characters’ actions and responses come together like the channels of a braided river.

Assault-and-Pepper-Leslie-Ann-BudewitzGetting there can be messy. It’s a kinetic process, always changing until I reach “the end” for the last time. It’s a lot of fun. I hope that it flows on the printed page, that it keeps you reading and asking questions. I hope my stories introduce you to a cast of folks you want to know, who show you a little something about life—and character.

Discover more about Assault & Pepper by Leslie Ann Budewitz!


Brooke_Davis_cAilsaBowyerI grew up on ten acres in a quiet bush town called Bellbrae. It was pretty idyllic: the air smelled of eucalyptus, we were friends with all our neighbours, and we had the space and time to play and imagine and create. My mum was always a great reader, and my dad became one when he had kids. I have lovely flashes of book-related memories that I sometimes catch as they float by: being read to by my parents, reading on long car trips and trying not to give into car sickness, being told off by Mum for reading in the dark, the treat of visiting a bookshop, reading well-loved books over and over. I was so proud to own books and would always ‘borrow’ my mum’s and put them on my bookshelf. She’d take them back without telling me, and I’d do the same. It became this silent, funny, ping-pong kind of game that we had with each other and didn’t acknowledge.

I look at all my childhood books now and I can feel the magic of that time, the feeling they gave me. I can’t remember not feeling like books were important. I don’t think this is something I could have explained as a kid—now I can attach language to the feeling, and suggest that perhaps it was something to do with the way reading tapped into my imagination and my love of learning and the need I might have felt to develop an understanding for the way people are. But as a kid, it felt natural and I loved it and I didn’t know why. It was just something I thought everyone did, like the way we all did colouring-in, and played the recorder, and dressed up in Mum’s old bridesmaid dress and glittery shoes. It was all play to me.

Roald Dahl was my all-time favourite, and still is. His stories were funny, imaginative, rude, and pretty violent, in a cartoonish way, and it seemed like my parents shouldn’t be encouraging me to read them. I didn’t feel like I was being patronised when I read Roald Dahl. I also loved Judy Blume, Robin Klein, John Marsden, Emily Rodda, Katherine Paterson and L.M. Montgomery. Their writing felt honest and real—even when it was wildly imaginative. I was also really taken with Tim Winton’s ‘Lochie Leonard’ books—he captured the sound of the Australian accent so beautifully and I hadn’t realised you could do that in writing, that you could give a character the sound of your own voice.

I’ve kept journals since I was quite young, and there’s a line in one when I was eight years-old that says, pretty precociously, ‘I’m determined to become a writer.’ And then, when I was nine or ten, I wrote this nonsense poem in the style of Roald Dahl in primary school about my little brother called The Pest. My teacher asked me to read it out loud in front of the class—my classmates laughed in all the right spots, and I was urged to do a sequel. The sequel was terrible and didn’t have the same impact, but I remembered the feeling of my writing giving people pleasure. I wanted more of that feeling.

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Brooke Davis is the author of Lost & Found, her debut novel about the wisdom of the very young, the mischief of the very old, and the magic that happens when no one else is looking.


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Seema Mahanian is an editorial assistant at Pamela Dorman Books/Viking. She isn’t ashamed to say that she will read any Kennedy family bio and can recite all Oscar best picture winners since 1927.

 

 

 

 

 

bonepeopleThe Bone People, by Keri Hulme

I ugly cried on a bus while reading The Bone People. Hard. But I was determined to finish, and I had zero regard for the fact that strangers were witnessing my heart being ripped out. So do I need to add that Keri Hulme’s debut, Booker-winning novel is devastating? Set in New Zealand’s South Island, three outcasts—Kerewin, a hermetic artist; Joe, a spiritual man and abusive alcoholic; and Simon, a mute, precocious orphan—form a family of sorts. Hulme, weaving in myth and legend, uses her characters to explore the intersection of Maori and European culture in contemporary New Zealand. The Bone People examine states of isolation, the desire for connection, and violence as communication. Raising the subjects of Maori displacement, and cultural survival, The Bone People is warm but brutal; it’s beautiful.

 

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Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal

As an Australian, I have limited knowledge of Midwestern cuisine—I think cream of mushroom soup and casseroles involving marshmallows. I was wrong (sort of). This smart, hilarious, touching novel that reminds me of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, revolves around Eva Thorvald—a lonely young girl with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the legendary, mysterious chef of the most difficult dinner reservation in the country. She finds solace and salvation in the recipes and ingredients of the Midwest. Each chapter is the story of a single dish and character in Eva’s orbit, set against the backdrop of church bake-offs, hot pepper eating contests, and the opening weekend of hunting season. J. Ryan Stradal captures the zeitgeist of the Midwest, and with joyful, wistful prose, examines how food can create both community and identity, while highlighting the bittersweet nature of life. I’m so excited for this to come out in July 2015. Everyone who’s read it has fallen in love with it. So get ready, because you will, too.

interestings

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

As a twenty-something living in New York, where my friends are like family, tell me a book is about a group of twenty-something friends in New York, and the narcissist in me will devour it immediately. But I didn’t expect to fall for this novel so completely. The Interestings traces the friendships of a group of six—from fifteen-years old into adulthood—and how they, and their friendship, changes over the years. For me, few books about the passage of time  have captured both youthful idealism about art and potential, alongside the harsh realities of adult success, jealousy, and failure, with such insight. Some characters are so well-realized that it felt more like investing time with new friends just made between the pages, than reading a book.

 

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On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

Oh, Zadie. She gives an examination of race and gender in contemporary Britain and the US, with rich lush characters that spring off the page. She ties in elements of Rembrandt and the way we construct meaning and significance from art, while looking at the seemingly simple difficulties of contemporary relationships, both romantic and familial. This novel accomplishes so many things at once, and with such ease, I half-expected it to cook my dinner and clean my apartment as well.

 

 

 

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The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster

We’ve all read detective novels. We start as children, then we grow up, go through a post-modernist phase, and read Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy. These three interlocked novels are incredible. Auster uses elements of classic and hardboiled detective fiction mixed with experimental and meta-fiction, littered with references to 19th century American authors, to explore the many layers of identity and reality. I was so enamored that I once chased Paul Auster around a city trying to get his photograph. Sorry not sorry, Mr. Auster.

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page.

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IMG_3238American publishers often hear the grousing that we bring out vanishingly few novels in translation.  While I think things are getting better thanks to the inspired work of outfits like Dalkey Archive, Europa and New Directions, and while I know that in fact some of my own defining editorial experiences have been with fiction in translation, including W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz and Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, let’s face it, there’s some truth to the problem.  Not that it’s a mystery as to why.  We’re a fairly monolingual lot, or at least I certainly have no faith in my literary discernment through the haze of my schoolboy French and Spanish.  Publishing debut fiction, period, is hard enough, and falling in love is everything.  How do you know?

In the case of Daniel Galera’s Blood-Drenched Beard I had some help.  First, John Freeman, then editor of Granta and a reader of beautiful taste, curated a Granta “Best of Young Brazilian Novelists” issue, and he led the issue with a story that was in fact the first chapter of this novel.  It made the skin on my arms stand up: a father has called his son to his side to say that he’s literally sick to death of his lingering illness and is going to end his own life; and so he needs his one obedient child to look after his beloved old dog.  Our narrator cycles through emotions from incredulity to outrage to sorrowful acceptance.  And then his father drops his final whopper: his own father didn’t die of natural causes in the beach town of Garopaba: he was murdered, in effect lynched by the town.  Oh, and, we figure out soon enough that our narrator suffers from face-blindness – he is incapable of remembering who people are by sight.

So begins one of the wildest, coolest, slinkiest, most moving existential mystery novels you’ll ever experience.  It’s like nothing else I’ve ever read. If there is a love triangle in this novel, it is between a man, his dog and the ocean, and “oceanic” is the word that comes to mind to describe its power.  The novel’s protagonist is isolated from other people in such a way that every human connection touches us to the quick.  And the novel builds to a furious climax that left me reeling.  Talking sweepingly about national characteristics of prose invites ridicule, usually deservedly – what do “Americans” write like? – but at the same time I have to say that there is a sensuous musicality to Galera’s voice, a velvety toughness, both sophisticated and laced with physical menace, that, while it’s certainly all about the genius of Daniel Galera, somehow also makes me feel connected to the novel’s setting in the way only very special fiction can.  Part of the credit goes to the great talent of translator Alison Entrekin, translator of City of God, and of Chico Buarque, and many other Brazilian novelists.

Speaking of translators, another thing that gave me heart was that Daniel himself is one of Brazil’s most famous literary translators, translating Zadie Smith, David Mitchell, Jonathan Safran Foer and others into Portuguese.  It’s not that this is dispositive of anything in terms of his own fiction in any obvious way, but it’s a good augury on a number of levels.

9781594205743HOur publication also has to do with the trust and friendship Ann Godoff and I feel for Daniel’s Brazilian publisher, the great Luis Schwarcz, the founder and head of one of the world’s most indispensible publishing houses, Companhia Das Letras.  Luiz told me in no uncertain terms that this was going to be one of the best novels he’s ever published, and Daniel a truly giant talent.  And lo and behold, he was exactly right.  I envy anyone the experience of reading Blood-Drenched Beard for the first time.

 

Start Reading an Excerpt!


photoIt was during the ambiguous time before the impending holiday office closure that I first heard about Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski. I was at a holiday party, in fact, standing in a small circle chatting with friends when I was introduced to a new face—a literary agent who, as it turned out, was someone I’d for months been trying to schedule lunch. How serendipitous. We made small talk about holiday plans and promised to see each other in the New Year. As I moved away to say hello to some other friends, he casually mentioned a novel he was getting ready to send out. Would I be interested in seeing it? His pitch was The Wire meets Winters Bone. How could I say no?

The next morning my inbox greeted me with an email containing the promised manuscript. I began reading that day and was hooked within the first five pages. Very early on in Watch Me Go, the reader learns about a sealed oil drum whose contents weigh enough and smell bad enough to contain a human corpse. One of our main characters, Deesh, is headed with two buddies up the New York State Thruway, far north of their Bronx hometown, to take on a seemingly standard junk-hauling job—to dispose of this oil drum. It’s only after they collect their $1,000 and dump the drum in an empty field that they begin to suspect there may have been a dead body inside that steel barrel. It’s from there that Deesh’s life begins to spiral out of control: After a fatal confrontation with a police officer, he’s on the run, the prime suspect of two homicides.

As I turned the figurative pages of my old e-reader, I realized that I’d read only a hundred pages. I was barely knee deep into Deesh’s heart-pounding story and I already had that exhilarating feeling that this was one I had to have. This bold, gritty novel really got me! When it comes to fiction, I look for books that will make you forget what you’re doing—whether it’s because of the beautiful writing, the power of the story, or the lasting impact of the characters, and in a perfect world it’s all three of these. So by the time I got to the end of Watch Me Go the following morning, I knew I’d just read a novel that brilliantly mixed all the elements the best fiction is made of. Watch Me Go perfectly blends suspense, family drama, and love story, while movingly speaking to today’s important issues like racism and social inequality.

WatchMeGoIt didn’t hurt that Mark Wisniewski is a Pushcart prize, Tobias Wolff Award-winning writer who’s been in the literary scene for decades. After an unforgettable initial conversation with Mark, I learned that the genesis for Watch Me Go was a short story he wrote a few years back that received such amazing praise, Salman Rushdie chose it for 2008 Best American Short Stories, calling it “irresistible.” I sure couldn’t resist Watch Me Go and I bet you can’t either!

 

 

Watch Me Go is an edgy, soulful meditation on the meaning of love, the injustices of hate, and the power of hope.

Start Reading an Excerpt from Watch Me Go!


ZODIAC_EditorsDeskPhotoEvery morning at seven on the dot, an astrology website sends me an automated email containing my daily horoscope. Rare are the days when my fortune doesn’t begin with a caveat reminding me that, as a Sagittarius, I’m “known for [my] outspoken views and habit of saying exactly what’s on [my] mind,” or that I’m “the one who normally tells it like it is, regardless of others’ sensitivities,” or that “truth arrows are [my] negotiating tools.”

Well, I’d like to think that I’m more conscientious and have better self-control than my team of Internet astrologers seems to suggest, but when it comes to Zodiac by Romina Russell, I can’t help but be blunt. So, here’s a truth arrow for you:  Zodiac is breathtaking. And its debut author, Romina Russell, is a force to be reckoned with. The first novel in an epic YA series that reimagines the twelve zodiac signs as a galaxy divided into twelve distinct solar systems, Zodiac takes everything I love about astrology–the fun personality tidbits and dishy discussions about good fortune, bad omens, and romantic pairings both heaven-sent and disastrous–and marries it to thrilling sci-fi suspense and drama of big-screen blockbuster proportions. Add a quirky, charismatic cast of characters who hail from gleaming courts of Libra to the hot and happening streets of Aries, a mystifying villain, and a crazy-swoon-worthy yet completely out-of-the-box love story, and I’m in the biggest, coziest wingchair in Editor’s Heaven.

There’s so much that I, an unabashed astrology nerd with a weakness for adventures set in space, love about the Zodiac concept, but my favorite aspect of Romina’s stellar debut has got to be its heroine: the complex, compassionate, and exquisitely fallible Rho, a sixteen-year-old Acolyte from House Cancer. Rho has an unusual way of reading the stars–instead of calculating their positions to make practical predictions about her world, she looks to them the way a poet might, weaving stories out of the swishes of comet tails and using stardust patterns and pulsars to tell fortunes for her friends.

A true representative of House Cancer, which embodies such traits as nurturing, intuition, and loyalty, Rho thinks with her heart and acts from love. She’s a generous and open-minded friend (her bestie is an outgoing firecracker from House Sagittarius), and would do anything to help her home and her people. Still, softie though she is, Rho harbors haunting memories of a childhood marred by the sudden and unexplained departure of her mother. So instead of wearing her heart on her sleeve like the rest of her kind, she’s formed a shell to protect her sensitive soul–just like the Crab that rules her constellation. But when the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend returns to exact revenge on the Galaxy, the stars call upon Rho to lead House Cancer, and our girl rises to the occasion, hunting down evil with passion rather than wrath; instinct instead of instruction manuals. And guess what? In the end, she messes up. She messes up big time, and boy are there are consequences, and if I were to say more I would need to insert a big red SPOILER ALERT right about here. All I can say is that that Rho–a naïve and fallible dreamer from the most conflict-averse constellation in the Galaxy–is not your average heroine.

And then there is Romina. Romina and I actually first met as undergrads at Harvard, in a huge lecture class that may as well have been called “Math for English Majors,” back when Zodiac was still just one tiny twinkle in the constellation of Great Novel Ideas. Out of the couple hundred kids in that class, Romina–an infectiously charming and completely adorable young woman with a big smile and a razor-sharp wit–was randomly assigned to be my partner for a final group research project. We instantly hit it off, and it didn’t take long to decide on the irresistibly juicy human interest topic of Trends in Online Dating. And it turned out, we made a great team. Romina, a meticulous and ultra-organized Virgo, was the yin to my shoot-from-the-hip, incurably optimistic Sagittarian yang, and as we spent hours together interviewing couples, recording their personality types and measuring their predicted compatibility scores against their actual compatibility scores, a beautiful friendship was born.

ZodiacSeveral years later, a beautiful book was born. Romina presented me, armed as always with my quiver of truth arrows, with a stunning story about a girl from the galaxy of my dreams. And then something in the universe just clicked.

Start Reading an excerpt from Zodiac by Romina Russell!


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Caitlin O’Shaughnessy is an Associate Editor at Viking and works with Clare Ferraro. She acquires and edits commercial fiction, nonfiction and illustrated books, including Sarah Lazarovic’s A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, which was recently featured on the Today Show.

 

 

 

 

unbecomingUnbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm

This mesmerizing psychological suspense novel follows an irresistible femme fatale from small-town Tennessee to the glamorous art worlds and seedy underbellies of New York and Paris. The perfect follow-up for anyone who’s ready to move on from Gone Girl.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Poser, by Jacob Rubin

When Allison Lorentzen first brought The Poser to our editorial meeting I read a good chunk of this submission and  loved it. Now that it’s finished and is coming out in March 2015, I can’t wait to reread it and see how its evolved through the writing and editing process. The main character, Giovanni Bernini, is able to imitate anyone he encounters and becomes famous for his talents.  Rubin is a great writer with a long career ahead of him and his debut novel  is one to look out for.

 

 

 

secretplace

The Secret Place, by Tana French

This isn’t technically literary fiction but The Secret Place is the kind of book that’s so well-written you stay up all night to finish it. This is Tana’s fifth book (Viking also published In The Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, and Broken Harbor) and I think it’s her best one yet. She captures the dialogue of teenage girls and their text-filled romances in an uncanny way and it’s like a smart, literary version of spending a Saturday afternoon watching Mean Girls.

 

 

 

inventionThe Invention of Exile, by Vanessa Manko

This is a Brooklyn writer who lives up to the hype – Vanessa Manko’s heartrending novel about immigrant struggles in the early 1900s is hard to put down. Incredibly well written and  based on Vanessa’s own family history, it’s a great read and equally good to pass along to a mom or aunt.

 

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


9780399163241_large_Pennyroyal_AcademyPlaying make-believe as a kid, I usually dreamt up that I was one of two people:  “the grocery store checkout lady” or “the guy that cleans your windows at the gas station.” Not on the list: the princess. Maybe because I’d never seen one up close? Maybe I was just exceedingly practical? No, it definitely had more to do with princesses being, to my mind, fine but boring. What do they really do all day? Nothing as cool as wielding a squeegee.

Then I read A Little Princess. And not long after that, The Princess Bride. Suddenly, I’d found two “princess stories” that I would read again and again. They were funny, moving, and a little scary, with princesses I cheered for and loved to spend time with. So it felt a little magical when three years ago, Pennyroyal Academy crossed my desk, a submission that instantly reminded of these cherished books. Only then, it was called Pennyroyal’s Princess Bootcamp. It was hilarious and charming, and we knew immediately that we wanted to publish it.

Then in a twist befitting the best fairytales, something even more magical happened: debut novelist M.A. Larson shaped Pennyroyal’s Princess Bootcamp into the extraordinary Pennyroyal Academy, a novel that’s not only sharp and funny, but is a clever Grimm-like fairytale (starring a heroine Sara Crewe and Buttercup would definitely be proud of). The tongue-in-cheek is still there, but so now, too, is an incredible warmth and heart, and a memorable cast of characters, from princesses and knights, to witches and dragons.

We first meet our heroine, Evie, stumbling through an enchanted forest, wearing a dress made of cobwebs, desperate to make her way to the famed Pennyroyal Academy. For the first time in its long history, the academy has lifted its blood restrictions and all are welcome to enroll at this premier training ground for princesses and knights. The school has no choice. With the threat of witches growing stronger every day, they need all the help they can get. But for Evie, life at the academy means enduring a harsh training regimen under the ever-watchful eye of her fairy drillsergeant, while also navigating a new world of friends and enemies. I hope you’ll have as much fun falling into the world of Pennyroyal as I have–this is a story that is surprising, tender, and inspiring, with the affirming message: “You get to decide what you want to be. No one else.” No matter what your make-believe preference, there’s something here for everyone.

ps. If you have 5 minutes (of course you do, you’re reading this!), check out the Pennyroyal website for our Princess Maker and to discover your true princess name:!


sdn1As soon as I finished reading the manuscript of Cristina Moracho’s Althea and Oliver, I knew I had to buy it for Viking. Even in its raw form, it was stunning—a coming-of-age story that combined lyricism and grit, humor and hard truths, and absolutely nailed life at the end of high school, when your tether to family and friends is beginning to fray. I couldn’t believe it was her first novel.

Neither could my colleagues. The word spread from Editorial to Design to Sub Rights to Marketing to Sales, and to my delight I watched every reader become an evangelist. Althea and Oliver is that rare book whose appeal crosses generational lines, and here’s why: It’s not a YA novel so much as a work of literature with teenagers in it.

It’s set in North Carolina, in the mid-1990s. Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since age six. Now, as they come up on their senior year of high school, Althea realizes that she wants more than just best-friendship. Oliver, for his part, wants things to go back to normal—because his body has begun to betray him. When he falls asleep in class and wakes up at home three weeks later with no memory of what has happened, he is finally forced to admit that something is seriously wrong.

And then Althea, who even at her best is an instigator, makes a very bad decision, and their relationship is shattered. Before they can talk it through, Oliver leaves town for a clinical sleep study in Manhattan, resolving to repair whatever is broken in his brain; Althea gets into her battered Camry and drives up the coast after him, determined to make up for what she’s done.

A plot summary can tell you just so much. Molly Templeton, from WORD Bookstores, can tell you more: “I loved it, to the point where I’m a little bit speechless.  I love that it’s a love story that isn’t a romance, and a coming-of-age tale that doesn’t have any too-tidy epiphanies; it felt intimate, accurate, and vivid, like I was living the book along with the characters. I can’t wait to tell people about this one. It’s mind-blowingly good.”Althea&Oliver

And others agree. Althea and Oliver has already gotten three starred reviews, been selected by the Junior Library Guild, has publication deals in six countries—and counting!—and I’ve just received the finished audiobook.

But, of course, the proof is in the prose. If you want to start reading Althea and Oliver right now, EW.com has made it very easy for you. Just click here!