Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Just Another Book Crush (#13): Plus One by Elizabeth Fama (Blog Tour, Guest Post, and Giveaway!)

I am so excited to be part of Elizabeth's Plus One Blog Tour! If you haven't already read my review of Fama's sophomore novel, you should definitely check it out HERE - Elizabeth references it in today's post. Without further ado, let's invite Elizabeth over to the blog already, shall we? ;)
Just Another...Book Crush! is a monthly feature where I invite an author whose book I've recently reviewed and loved to write a guest post and share their three latest book crushes. It's a feature I'm starting mostly because I'm often very shy to approach authors, especially ones I admire, and also because I love reading guest posts since, more often than not, they convince me to pick up a book even when the reviewer cannot. 

Title: Plus One 
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Divided by day and night and on the run from authorities, star-crossed young lovers unearth a sinister conspiracy in this compelling romantic thriller. Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray. Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story.
I try not to obsessively read early Goodreads reviews when my advance reader copies are released. I try hard, but I often fail. It was particularly difficult this time around, because so few people seemed to be reading their ARCs of Plus One. (I blame the "Southwest Airlines safety pamphlet" ARC cover.)

That's when I saw Keertana's review. Poor Keertana! I craved opinions about this book so much that I threw Internet etiquette out the window and contacted her for a literary conversation. Thank goodness she didn't slap a restraining order on me.

I learn so much from readers' reviews. Often when a reader stumbles it means I didn't do my job. In this case, Keertana had problems with the romance, love, and sex, and I wanted to understand why. In short, she found 1. the main characters' relationship jumps too quickly from like to love after a particular revelation, 2. the two characters are rushed into protestations of love because their time together is limited, and 3. the sex feels rushed and less meaningful than it should, for the same reason ("bucket-list sex").

If Keertana didn't sense the characters' affection growing over the course of their adventure (problem #1), then I definitely needed to pause and study what I had done. Yes, there's the particular plot point that grounds some of their feelings, but she's right that by itself it's not enough, and there are at least supposed to be hints at burgeoning respect and compatibility before that point is revealed to them. Sol and D'Arcy start out as opposites, and at odds, but their characters are meant to be fundamentally similar where it counts: they're fiercely loyal and family-oriented, strong, smart, and decent. I wanted to show that slowly, privately, they begin to admire particular qualities in the other person. Keertana's struggle here made me realize that the tiny meaningful moments I thought I had embedded in the narrative along the way may have been too tiny. [See footnote 1 at the end of the post for examples--but they're spoilery.]  Each moment is small enough that perhaps even taken together they're "not enough." It gives me so much to think about, as a writer.

As for Keertana's problems #2 and #3, I was actually happy to see that she experienced discomfort with the pace of their relationship. Their relationship is rushed, and she's right: it's precisely because of the predicament they find themselves in, and it was not only deliberate on my part, but crucial to the theme of lost freedom that I was exploring. Because of an arbitrary, unjust government policy, their time together is precarious. Sol distinctly feels that it's running out, and she's taking the one and only opportunity she has to be with this person she cares so deeply about. There is a blend of healthy agency (she wants him, she initiates sex) and forced urgency (it must happen now). How might their relationship have progressed if they the politics of their world had been different? [See footnote 2 for spoilery speculation.] 

But why include the love and sex at all, if Plus One is about personal freedom? Or as Keertana said, "I am all for sex in YA but the short sex scene in Plus One didn't serve a purpose." I wanted readers to become invested in the romance so that they would internalize the political and social issues that made that love impossible. I wanted the reader to think about was how unfair that was--how the Day/Night divide has this ripple effect that takes away even the smallest rights from a person: the right to choose to be with the person you love, and at what pace to take your first sexual relationship, which I think are issues teens are highly attuned to (more than, say, which career paths are open to you, which is also an issue in the book).

Just Another...Book Crush! 

Here are three books that have filled my head recently:

1. Cress by Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles is joyful storytelling at its best. Marissa Meyer wants to take you on a delightful, sweeping ride and you should let her. I've been so impressed by how each book tells its own story, introduces new characters, but builds on the foundations of the previous books. Soon, we'll have four dynamic couples battling one evil Lunar queen, and I can't wait. In this third book, I adore the way Captain Thorne is metaphorically blind to Cress's simple goodness and love at first, and also literally blind.

2. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski. I read this and wanted more so I listened to it on audio. And then I listened to my favorite parts again. This book reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner's work, not just because of the geo-politics in a slightly ancient mediterranean-ish setting, but also in the way Marie Rutkoski shows subtle interactions between characters and trusts that we'll understand them without her own intrusion into the narrative. 

3. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. This is the most difficult book I've read in years--or perhaps ever. It was pure torture, like running a marathon--I read every sentence five times before I understood it. But at the finish line, sweating (and angry at what happened on the last page), I found I was enriched by the experience. It even inspired the language of my short story "Noma Girl," for Tor.com. (Which is to say: if my short story is incomprehensible because of lack of punctuation and stream of consciousness, you can blame it on Faulkner.)
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(Keertana: feel free to put these footnotes after the Book Crush segment...it's your call. What kind of author puts footnotes in a blog post anyway? A nerdy one, I guess.)

Footnote 1: For example, the way they instinctively, simultaneously step back behind the privacy line in the emergency room to give a very sick patient and his wife space shows a similar kind of consideration; the way Sol makes D'Arcy laugh when she says that she'll go to college at Dwight Correctional University (this joke is too regional, perhaps: Dwight is the women's prison in Illinois), and Sol notices the similarity of his belly laugh to her brother's; the way D'Arcy pauses, taken aback for just a second when Sol reveals why she kidnapped the baby (her reason is insane, but it's intensely loving); the way Sol observes without judgment D'arcy's concentration while wiping up the condensation ring, whereas before she thought it was machine-like; the way she admires the way he scrabbles his hair when he's thinking; the way Sol finishes D'Arcy's sentence for the first time under Wacker Drive; the way she wants to spare him when he drops her off at the yacht from being dragged down by her... I could go on and on, but listing them is showing me how very small they each are! 

Footnote 2: We already know, for instance, that Sol has never had a boyfriend, and D'Arcy has taken dating very slowly in high school, and has been thoughtful about what he is and is not ready for with other girls. For me, this is evidence that these are two people who, with the luxury of time, would probably have taken things much more slowly. In addition, D'Arcy's concern about hurting Sol during sex is strong enough that I believe it may have led them to delay intercourse, and to approach it with smaller steps. 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Keertana, and for embarking on the discussion of romance, love, and sex with me!

ELIZABETH FAMA is the YA author most recently of Plus One, an alternate-history thriller set in contemporary Chicago. Her other books include Monstrous Beauty, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection and an Odyssey honor winner, and Overboard, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a society of Midland Authors honor book, and a nominee for five state awards. A graduate of the University of Chicago, where she earned a B.A. in biology and an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in economics, she lives with (and cannot live without) her boisterous, creative family in Chicago.
Website Twitter Tumblr

Thanks for stopping by, Elizabeth! I adored the footnotes and I have a feeling readers are going to love your recommendations - I know I do! :)

Giveaway!
One Hardcover of Plus One - US/CAN Only
(Ends 4/9/14)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to check out the other tour stops as well!
March 31st  -  Fiction Fare
April 1st       - The Starry Eyed Revue
April 2nd      - Ivy Book Bindings
April 3rd       - Carina's Books
April 4th       - Presenting Lenore
April 5th       - Shae Has Left the Room
April 6th       - The Best Books Ever
April 7th       - Teen Librarian Toolbox
April 8th       - Love is Not a Triangle  (Release Day)
April 9th      -  The Bevy Bibliotheque

13 comments:

Jasprit said...

Oh this is such a fabulous post Elizabeth, I love how you took time to explain your reasons for what you did romance-wise in Plus One, thank you for giving me a much clearer understanding before I go into this story. I also loved The Winner's Curse, it was written so eloquently! Everyone I know loves Meyer's books, so I will definitely get back to them soon!

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

This post is fantastic, Elizabeth! I have PLUS ONE next on my radar, so I love hearing your reasoning for the romance portions of the novel. That's something that usually either hits or misses with me, so I'm intrigued to see which it will be! Great feature, Keertana! :)

Jenny said...

I love that she got in touch with you so much Keertana! She definitely went about it the right way, wanting to have a conversation rather than getting angry over a review, and isn't that why we all started blogs? To have conversations about books? <3

Also, yes to Cress and The Winner's Curse. Two fabulous books that I can't wait to reread!

Inis Ravishing Reads said...

This is a fabulous post, Elizabeth!! I really loved the reasoning of romance part. I Can't wait to read Plus one. (:

Tanja - Tanychy said...

LOL so funny but I really know how you feel Elizabeth! It's really hard to ignore Keertana's review and I know that, trust me. That's why I love her reviews and talking about books. So I get it :) For the book I have heard amazing things about it and I really want to check it out. It's my fault I never requested it in a first place so yeah. Anyhow about the picks I mean Cress!! I love it but I must say that Kai is my guy :D I still need to read The Winner's Choice. I'm not sure about Faulkner as his The Sound and the Fury was too much for me.
Great post and thank you Keertana for sharing :)

BURIED IN BOOKS said...

What a great post! I wish we could all have a conversation with an author when we didn't quite get it or didn't get it the way they intended. I feel like my reading experience will definitely be enhanced by this blog post from Elizabeth Fama! Thanks Keertana for writing your early review so that she reached out to you. And thanks Ms. Fama for breaking taboo and reaching out!

Heather

Blodeuedd said...

Great books :)
I love those books you mentioned too, they sound really good

Lily B said...

That was very sweet for the author to asses the tiny problems you had in your review about the book <3 I agree, she did go about it the right way!

The Bookish Manicurist said...

Fantastic guest post, Elizabeth! I've read Keer's review and I have no issue with sex between teens in YA, even if it's rushed, because teens do rush into things like sex, even in normal day to day life, let alone when in a situation like your characters.

I have my fingers crossed that Plus One gets published in Australia and soon!

Amanda said...

This is such a wonderful post! I loved that Fama really interacted with your thoughts and opinions as a reader. I'll have to return to this post again after reading my copy of this book. Which I really will start next haha.

Mary @ BookSwarm said...

I love this! How awesome is it that she got in touch with you, Keertana, because she appreciated your review! You really do have a way of explaining how/why you feel the way you do and it must have been interesting to discuss that with the author.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I love that you got in touch with her to discuss the book. I had that with an author and I so enjoyed it. I love how you could see how Keertana took things and was able to aptly explain why you did what you did to the characters. Love that. Also love your rec's! Great post!

Lauren D. said...

Wonderful guest post! I appreciate the thoughtful conversation you had with Keertana about the sex scene and seeing your discussion here and in her review definitely sheds a lot of light on the story and the characters' motivations. I'll definitely keep that in mind when I read this, and I can't wait to get some time to read my copy. :-) I definitely share your crush on Cress and The Winner's Curse too!