I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann
Published by Greenwillow Books on May 3, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Coming of Age, contemporary, Social Issues, verse, tough issues, realistic fiction, romance
Format: Print, Print ARC
Source: the publisher
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Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.
Inside the Author’s Head
Welcome to the blog! I have to tell you, the day this book was available on Edelweiss I picked it up to read – and never sat it down again until I finished. It was so amazing, I have chill bumps just thinking about the experience.
Can you first tell readers where the idea came from for it? What kind of research did you have to do to prepare yourself to write it?
So glad the book resonated for you! Like Addie, I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic schools. Until I entered college, I didn’t have much exposure to people of other faiths or belief systems. In fact, I remember thinking when I was little that our across-the-street neighbors’ religion was so mysterious and exotic—they were, if I remember right, Methodists! But in high school, my life experience and what I’d been taught to believe didn’t always jive. Junior year I took a humanities class that really woke me up. We read Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, and James Joyce. We watched the movie “My Dinner with Andre,” which is basically just two guys talking over dinner. About philosophy! That class showed me what kind of art and literature I love most: the kind that raises more questions than answers. I can draw a line from there straight to Addie.
As far as research goes, I relied a lot on personal experience. And I’m lucky to have a daughter in high school who runs cross country, as Addie does and I did. Through her, I can see how the sport has changed since I participated in it and remember how running competitively feels
What made you choose to use verse to tell Addie’s story? What surprised you most when writing this book?
In a way, verse chose me. It’s the form I’m most comfortable writing in. I started with a collection of poems about various aspects of navigating the world as a “Catholic Girl”—the original title of the manuscript—as well as poems told from the perspective of the Virgin Mary, similar to the way I adopted fairy-tale characters’ perspectives in Poisoned Apples. Those poems gradually, with a lot of sweat and tears on my part, morphed into the story of one girl, Addie. Something that always surprises me is when I see how many abandoned drafts I have in my files, stretching back through several years, and realize it took so much time and effort to produce a manuscript that’s less than twenty-thousand words! It’s true that I wanted, as best I could, to get every word right.
What message do you want readers to take away from this book?
Wow, it’s hard to choose. I guess my main message would be, don’t trust shame. Don’t assume it’s warranted. Instead of believing there’s something wrong with you, why not take a hard look at the person or culture or religion that’s telling you to feel that way?
How did your studies and experiences in life help shape who you are as a writer?
This will sound obvious, but the biggest gift I ever gave my writing was to enroll in Hamline University’s masters’ program in writing for children or young adults. Before that, I reviewed other people’s books for magazines and newspapers, always assuming that someday I would write my own. “Someday” would never have arrived without Hamline. The program built up my courage. It welcomed me into a supportive community and gave me the knowledge that I could finish projects instead of just flinging them aside in fits of perfectionistic despair.
Okay, so I always like to see what authors read. What are your top five favorite books and why?
The list always, always changes. How about my top five of my favorite books in the last month? Those are:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, because it’s sinister and funny and sweet all at the same time.
The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, because she’s both hilarious and wise, and because, in my opinion, her writing advice on writing memoir applies across genres.
Dreamland by Sam Quinones, because it uses lots of anecdotes to give a comprehensive, mind-boggling overview of the United States’ current heroin epidemic and its origins.
Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, because it takes place in Queens in the summer of 1977, when the Son of Sam murders were scaring the crap out of everyone, including nine-year-old me. (Somehow I didn’t realize that living hundreds of miles away, in Omaha, Nebraska, guaranteed my safety.)
Directed by Desire: the Collected Poems of June Jordan, because she was an unapologetic feminist and civil-rights activist, not to mention a badass poet.
Night owl or early bird? How does it help with your writing process?
Definitely early bird. Even if I have a big deadline, I’d much rather wake up at 5:00 a.m. to work than stay up late. Pretty much the only thing my brain is good for in the evening is watching “Ink Master.” In the morning I feel fresh and full of possibility. And if I get stuck in my writing, taking a walk in the woods near my house often helps, which isn’t something I can do at night unless I want to be mauled by raccoons.
If you could live in one ‘book world’ which one would it be and why?
As a teen, I always wanted to live in Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin family series. The Austins are smart. They have dinner conversations about marine biology and Shakespeare and astrophysics, whereas my family’s dinner conversations rarely ascended beyond the level of “Please pass the rolls.” But maybe I’d find the Austins pretentious now? I’ll have to reread and check.
And finally, what other projects, if any, are you working on?
As far as I know now, my next novel will be straight-up prose, not verse. One of the two narrators is the devil incarnate. So, a light and cheery read.
Thank you so much for stopping by Such a Novel Idea!
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