Skip to main content

Into YA with Sophie Gonzales (author of Perfect on Paper, Only Mostly Devastated, and If This Gets Out)

I'm so so excited to bring you my quick conversation with author Sophie Gonzales because it's been months in the making. Perfect on Paper was the first 2021 ARC I let myself read last November, and it immediately ran away with my heart. I've been talking about it on all my social platforms ever since. I was so thrilled to get to chat with Sophie during release week to get into the creation of Perfect on Paper further. 

1. In my review, I likened Darcy to a Hannah Montana of sorts because she has a secret identity only her sister knows about. She runs Locker 89, infamous at the school for giving expert relationship advice. Did you ever encounter a real life version of the locker, or what inspired that part of the book? How did Darcy evolve into a relationship researcher?

I never encountered a real life version – although I would’ve loved it! Darcy’s interest in relationship advice stems from a fascination I had with self-help books as a teenager, combined with the incredible number of relationship coaches and “how to get (them) back” videos on YouTube that highlight all of these theories and pieces of advice in accessible ways. To me, it’s not a stretch to buy that a sixteen year old could have a thorough understanding of these theories—both because I did, and because the information is so easy to find and digest these days, far more so than when I was a teen.

2. There’s a love triangle of sorts happening in the book between Darcy’s burning crush on her best friend, Brooke, and her new friend Brougham (who she’s ironically giving relationship advice to so he can get his girlfriend back). I’m a vocal love triangle hater because they are always so obvious, but yours wasn’t. Even though I could guess who she was meant to end up with, it always felt like there was a possibility the triangle could tip the other way. Darcy loves them both at comparable intensities, and that is rare. Was this something you were particularly aware of when writing? What advice do you give to writers about balancing a love triangle?

I actually have to give the credit here to my wonderful editor, Sylvan. She put me through several rounds of edits focused entirely on Darcy’s feelings for Brooke to ensure they came through correctly! I think in the case of Perfect on Paper, the triangle worked because a lot of people (certainly me) can relate to being in unrequited love for someone, and thinking you’ll only be happy if you can be with them because no one else would ever make you that happy, only to find yourself meeting someone who can and does make you just as happy. At the beginning of Perfect on Paper, if Brooke had returned Darcy’s feelings, Darcy would’ve jumped on it in a second, but I truly believe that when Darcy got to know Brougham, even if Brooke’s feelings had changed, Darcy would’ve chosen Brougham. Brooke was kindness, but Brougham challenged Darcy—and as someone of keen intelligence, she’s attracted to that constant call to (friendly) battle that Brougham provides. Of course, for other reasons, Darcy and Brooke wouldn’t have worked out—it’s really not ideal to start a romantic relationship on such a toxic foundation, and I think that would’ve come up more than once in arguments.

3. Brougham is Australian, which adds a fun layer to the book as Darcy discovers the different customs and expressions he grew up with (not to mention his very specific accent). I know you live in Australia as well. Why did you decide to set the book in California, and did you ever consider setting it in Australia? Was it difficult to write about American high school?

If you’re selling books in America, as I do, choosing to write a main character who isn’t American can be a barrier to sales. As a relatively new author who hasn’t ever set foot on a bestseller list, the last thing I can afford is including anything that might make my book a harder sell. Luckily, in Australia, the vast majority of our entertainment and media comes from America, so it’s perhaps not as foreign for me to write a book set in America as it might appear (although it does mean there will be things I get wrong, no matter how hard I try or how many American friends proofread!). I specifically chose California, as that’s one of the only places in America I’ve visited in person, and it helped to be able to write about places I’ve seen personally, such as Disneyland! One day, I would love to set a book in Australia. Maybe if I ever get lucky enough to hit bestseller status.

4. In the book, Darcy explores her identity as a bi woman. She deals with subtle biphobia from others as well as fears about not being “queer enough” if she gets into a relationship with a guy. These are super common experiences that aren’t explored enough in YA, and I loved seeing Darcy gain confidence, particularly through conversations with the Q&Q club. Is there something you hope bi teens, and bi girls in particular, will take away from the book?

I hope they take away that queerness does not only mean men dating men, and women dating women. I especially hope that they come to reflect on what preconceived ideas they may have about bisexuality, whether they’re bi or not, and the perceived hierarchy that is largely unspoken, but still present, within the queer community in which some identities are considered more reflective of the queer experience than others.

Learn More About Sophie's Upcoming Project: 

I am so so incredibly excited about Sophie's book co-written with Cale Dietrich because it's all about boybands. Check out the full summary of If This Gets Out ahead of its release in December:

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

More About Sophie: 

Sophie Gonzales writes young adult queer contemporary fiction with memorable characters, biting wit and endless heart. 

She is the author of THE LAW OF INERTIA and ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED. PERFECT ON PAPER and IF THIS GETS OUT (co-written with Cale Dietrich) are forthcoming in Winter and Fall 2021 from Wednesday Books / Macmillan.

When she isn’t writing, Sophie can be found ice skating, performing in musical theatre, and practicing the piano. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia where she works as a psychologist.

More From This Author...

Perfect on Paper Review

More Into YA Interviews:

Into YA with Rachel Lynn Solomon

Into YA with Kristina Forest

Into YA with Laura Silverman


Popular posts from this blog

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi: YA Book Review

  Yolk  by Mary H.K. Choi Overview: Jayne is in fashion school in NYC. Well, she's enrolled. It's debatable how often she actually attends. June has a fancy job in finance, or that's what everyone thinks. But when June gets cancer, the estranged sisters are pulled together because June needs Jayne's identity to get treatment. By pretending to be her sister to get the life-saving procedure, June is forced to come clean and pull Jayne back into her orbit. Though their relationship stays rocky, they're suddenly glued together, forced to admit that their respective glamorous lives are actually filled with roaches and trauma and missteps. Overall: 5+++ This book made me happy cry (that's never happened while reading) and sad cry. Characters: 5 The book is told from Jayne's perspective in an extremely close first person. This book has plot. Things happen in the way that life happens, but it's mostly just characters getting split open and probed for all their w

YA You Need To Read: April 2021

It's already April! School has been super super hectic, and I'm starting my old job as a bookseller again, so I haven't had much time for reading lately (ironic, I know), but I did want to talk about some books coming out in April that I can't wait to read (one day) that might inspire you to pick them up. I particularly can't wait for My Epic Spring Break Up! It's been on my list for a while now (I mean, look at that cover), but I also found some new books that hadn't been on my radar while browsing around the internet that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Let me know in the comments what April books you can't wait for!  Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Kahn  April 6th Zara has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. She's always dealt with the Islamophobia that's rampant in her high school, but when the star football player gets suspended, Zara becomes the target of a racist attack by the rest of the team that puts her and her family'

Once Upon a Quinceañera

Once Upon a Quinceañera   by Monica Gomez-Hera Overview: Carmen hasn't graduated high school, even though it's the summer after senior year. When her senior project fell through, Carmen has to scramble to complete the project over the summer. That means no college (not that she applied) and no future plans beyond becoming a Dream (floating around in a Belle costume at children's parties) with her best friend Waverley. So maybe it's not the summer Carmen wanted, but it's fine. At least until her ex-boyfriend who ruined everything, Mauro, also shows up on the team and then they get assigned to work her nemesis and younger cousin's quinceañera, which becomes the big event of the summer. Nothing ever quite goes to plan for Carmen, does it? Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I enjoyed hanging out with Carmen for a while. She's super witty and cynical in a way that I appreciate. I also loved reading about a character who's just out of high school and doesn't have a

Olivia Rodrigo'a SOUR As YA Books: Track By Track

This list turned out to be much harder to make than I anticipated when I came up with the idea last week. I set out to match songs to SOUR because what goes better with an album written by a 17/18 year old than YA books, but it turns out that YA books are just too hopeful for this album. Unlike many of these songs, I couldn't find books where the characters ended the book totally despondent and broken up. It took a bit of brainstorming, but I think I found a book to match the essence of each SOUR track. Le me know in the comments which songs on SOUR are your favorite. Mine are "brutal", "favorite crime", "deja vu", and "jealousy, jealousy".  1. "brutal" : War and Speech   by Don Zolidis War and Speech just radiates the same badass, discontented with teenage life energy as "brutal". This was the first book that popped into my mind when I thought about making this post. Just look at the cover. Sydney's life has been fa

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: NA Book Review

  One Last Stop  by Casey McQuiston Get Your Copy! Overview: August moved to New York for yet another fresh start and hopefully to finish out college (finally). In her attempt to find a place, she stumbles into an apartment full of interesting people who will quickly become her best friends. They fold her seamlessly into their lives. And then, on the subway, August meets a girl who will change her life forever. As time goes on, August finds out that Subway Girl, or Jane, is stuck on the Q metro line by some kind of energetic force. With the Q shutting down for maintenance by the end of the summer, August and her friends have to band together to get Jane unstuck, even if that means bouncing her back to 1977 where she came from and never seeing her again. Overall: 4 Characters: 5 I genuinely loved everyone in this book, and they gave me such warm, fuzzy, and hopeful feelings. The book would be New Adult if that was a category that publishing actually used (please can we make this more of

End of Summer YA to Preorder: August TBR

I know I always start these posts by panicking about how it's somehow already *insert whatever month here* because I'm always genuinely surprised when a new month rolls around and I realize it's already time to make a TBR post. But this month it's extra scary because I'm going to start this month at home like normal and end the month in a a brand new city, on my own, and starting in college in person for the first time. I have a road trip and a million boxes and probably a few tears in my future. (More on that later because I think I'm going to actually write a wrap up for this month sometime this week since there are about to be a ton of big changes!)  Anyway, here are the books I'm most excited for during the month of August. This list is a bit shorter than usual, but it has a bit of everything I love: a college YA/NA, a pop star story, and a book from an author I've enjoyed before.  If you're excited about any of these books, make sure you get you

Writing Morally Gray Characters: A Guest Post by Laurie Devore, Author of A Better Bad Idea

Laurie Devore is stopping by the blog today to talk about her new book from Imprint, A Better Bad Idea , which is out now! This mystery/thriller/romance fusion is Laurie's third book, and it's a new twist on her usual contemporary YA stories. For this guest post, Laurie talks about crafting morally gray characters that your readers will still feel attached to and cheer on. Here's her best writing tips:  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what people will do when they’re pushed to their brink. While my new novel, A BETTER BAD IDEA, may seem like a departure in some ways from my previous novels, I actually think their DNA is quite similar. The stakes are higher, but as ever, this book is about girls making unimaginable choices because of their circumstances, whether self-inflicted or not.   I’m constantly thinking about what it means to write morally gray characters, and I think the main takeaway from me is that I’m just much more interested in what people do and w

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

This Is How We Fly by Anna Meriano: YA Book Review

This Is How We Fly  by Anna Meriano  Overview: Ellen is grounded for the entire summer. The whole summer. With one loophole. Quidditch. It wasn't even Ellen's idea, but her best friend, Melissa, isn't letting her summer get ruined by Ellen's unfortunate situation. Stuck in a constant battle with her step mom, Connie, and feeling utterly lost as her friend group shifts and realigns before college, Ellen is at a total loss with how to feel about her life, let alone her impending move to college in the fall. Everything is a mess and nothing makes sense, but there will always be hot Houston sun, buckets of sweat, and Quidditch. Overall: 3.5 Characters: 4 I really relate to Ellen, and I'm surprised I haven't seen a YA character more like her before. She's extremely conscious of social issues and the deep flaws in the world, and the hate, injustice, and pure stupidity of things often sends her down somewhat dark spirals about the state of the world when she spends