Today I'm posting an interview that has been a long time in the making. I reached out to do this interview with Laura before You Asked For Perfect came out, and then things got busy so it's been a minute since doing this interview, but YAFP is one of my favorite books all year. If you haven't read the book, it is an absolute must read for anyone involved in high school, heading to senior year, in education, or is a parent. I've never read a book where I yelled "That's me!" so many times. Here's my review to catch up so that you can have a little context for that.
1. Where did you get the inspiration to write a book about the reality students today face? I love how you delve into the intense pressure to take as many APs as possible, and, as the title implies, to be perfect.
I went to an academically competitive high school where we were encouraged to take as many AP classes as possible and to sign up for extra electives, which led to things like zero period classes, online classes, and forfeiting lunch periods. Ten years ago, this was a fairly uncommon high school experience, but lately it's become more and more common for high school students to face this intense academic pressure. I wanted to write a book to send a message to teens that their grades do not define them. And I want adults to examine the way the add to the pressure in teens' lives.
2. Ariel’s voice and reality is so current and true to the 2019’s high schoolers’ experience. Did you do any research for the book? Did you talk to teens about the pressure they feel, or did it all come from your experiences in school?
I did do research! Definitely a lot of the book is influenced by my own experience, but I also talked to students and teachers from my high school, watched a documentary about the pressure to succeed, read a nonfiction book and many articles on the topic, and I worked with a sensitivity reader for Ariel's character.
3. Possible Spoiler: While I deeply identify with Ariel, watching his sister, who is only in 5th grade, get hospitalized over her school based stress and anxiety was the most impactful moment in the book for me. Have you thought of ways you’d like to see the education system shift to work for the students who are in it? Did writing You Asked For Perfect come from a place of wanting to spark a conversation?
I would love this book to spark a conversation. The pressure on students to succeed begins at such a young age. I remember being funneled into advanced classes in elementary school and feeling terrified to fail a test in second grade because I was supposed to be a 'smart kid.' Although education is incredibly important, education should be about learning, not about getting on an advanced track to get into a 'good' college. For me, a lot of the problem stems from name brand schools. I think many students, parents, teachers, and administrators believe there are only a handful of 'good' colleges out there, so everyone applies, and therefore the standards to get in become impossibly high.
4. Ariel’s family and his relationship with Judaism are both strong and intertwined. I love how they all come together for their traditions and holidays, and it grounded both Ariel and the story. Do you have any advice for writers looking to dive into family relationships in YA? Was writing a positive parent-child relationship important to you consider there are so few of them for the age group?
I wrote Ariel's family and community structure from personal experience. I was lucky to grow up with incredibly supportive parents and an incredibly supportive Jewish community. Teens grow up with all sorts of different family structures, and I would love to see all of them explored in YA books!
5. You Asked For Perfect is out, and your debut novel Girl Out Of Water is available everywhere, but is there another project we can look forward to seeing soon?
It's a Whole Spiel hit shelves on September 17th, 2019! It's a contemporary YA anthology featuring fictional stories about Jewish teenagers all written by Jewish YA authors. I could not be prouder of the stories in this anthology and am very excited for the world to read it!
Books by This Author:
You Asked For Perfect: Review Here
Links of Interest:
Cover Reveal for More Than Maybe: Here
Pointe Review: Review Here
Frankly In Love Review: Review Here
Into YA with Carrie Allen: Here