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Hey there, and welcome to day 4 of Dahlia’s Top 10 of 2013! I hope everyone’s been enjoying all the awesome books and interviews, and that you continue to with today’s offerings!

I’ll spare everyone the lengthy intros and jump right in, because I haven’t talked about either of these books as much as I’d have liked and I’m anxious to!

17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma

Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.

With complexity and richness, Nova Ren Suma serves up a beautiful, visual, fresh interpretation of what it means to be lost.

*Available via IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon*

For anyone who might not be familiar with Nova Ren Suma, you probably want to rectify that. She is a stunningly gorgeous writer, and if you’re been looking for literary YA and haven’t picked up her books, you’re definitely missing out. This one, though, is my favorite of all – a stunning, heartbreaking psychological thriller about a girl on a mission to rescue her lost peers. As the book unfolds, it takes you deep into Lauren’s brain, but more than that, it takes you into the psychology of The 17-Year-Old Girl in a way I found so memorable and beautiful that I knew this was destined to be a favorite.

And now, Nova Ren Suma herself:

What scene from 17 & GONE would/do you read at signings, and why?

The scene I most like to read at signings isn’t the very opening of the book, though it was the first piece I wrote for 17 & GONE—in fact, it’s the scene that sparked the whole novel.

The scene is a glimpse of a girl on a bicycle. She’s caught speeding past, wheels whirring, long hair flying. It was that image—a real person on a real bicycle, speeding past me and then vanishing in the distance when I was sitting outside one day with a notebook—that jumpstarted the character of 17-year-old Abby, and led to the idea of missing girls that’s at the heart of 17 & GONE. Reading that piece aloud always feels like I’m sharing an intimate moment with the audience.

I want to enjoy 17 & GONE as part of a full sensory experience—where am I reading it, and what am I eating/smelling/listening to?

You are on a bus. You’re headed somewhere you’ve never been before, and you still have a long way to go. You’re sitting in a seat by yourself, pressed up against the window while outside snow flurries swirl. All is quiet. You read (and there is no such thing as motion-sickness in this fantasy so please stick with me!) as darkness falls, and soon you have to put on the reading light. You’re sucking on a sweet-and-sour candy. You don’t smell bus exhaust—you’re transported to the pine forest. Playing on your iPod is the playlist the book was written to. The first song is “Zebra” by Beach House. The next song is “Runaway” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The last song is “In the Pines” by Widowspeak. You let it loop on repeat the whole way there.

My book dream is to spot a stranger reading it on the subway—what’s yours?

I write in cafes most mornings. It would be a thrilling moment if, say, I were writing at my usual corner table by the outlet, and maybe I was stuck, and maybe I was doubting, and maybe I was questioning everything… and then someone I had never seen before approached, tentatively, and said s/he recognized me and had read my book and loved it.  That would be a brilliant, beautiful moment for me.

Speaking of, I once (nervously!) did this to one of my favorite writers at a cafe, and we have since become good friends. Maybe someday the same will happen to me.

What’s the best/coolest thing anyone’s said about your book?

Revealing this may expose too much about the story, so please avert your eyes if you don’t want any hint of a spoiler…

But there is an element in this book about mental illness, and I very much wanted to be sure I had it right and was being respectful and true. Someone once emailed me telling me how right I had it, how much it rang true, and how much this book meant to them because of it. That meant the world to me.

From where would you most ideally want people to purchase your book?

I have a deep and passionate love for independent bookstores, as so many authors do. I would be thrilled if someone wanted to buy my book just in general—but it would be even extra-thrilling if you bought the book at an indie in your local community and supported your neighborhood bookstore. Some of my favorite indie bookstores are McNally Jackson and Books of Wonder in Manhattan; Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, New York; RJ Julia in Madison, CT; Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC; Once Upon a Time Bookstore in Montrose, CA; and City Lights in San Francisco. Every time I travel I like to visit the local bookstores, so… Seattle, you’re next.

You can find your closest local independent  bookstore at IndieBound—and if they don’t have my book on their shelves, I would be so honored if you asked them to order it!

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BRUISED by Sarah Skilton

bruised_coverImogen has always believed that her black belt in Tae Kwon Do made her stronger than everyone else–more responsible, more capable. But when she witnesses a holdup in a diner, she freezes. The gunman is shot and killed by the police. And it’s all her fault.

Now she’s got to rebuild her life without the talent that made her special and the beliefs that made her strong. If only she could prove herself in a fight–a real fight–she might be able to let go of the guilt and shock. She’s drawn to Ricky, another witness to the holdup, both romantically and because she believes he might be able to give her the fight she’s been waiting for.

But when it comes down to it, a fight won’t answer Imogen’s big questions: What does it really mean to be stronger than other people? Is there such a thing as a fair fight? And can someone who’s beaten and bruised fall in love?

*Available via IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon*

I have to admit, I’m a tough person to please when it comes to book openers. Have too much action in the beginning and I feel overwhelmed and like I don’t know your settings and characters well enough to get into it. Be slow and boring and…well, you’re slow and boring. So I try not to formulate opinions on books based on the first chapter.

But when I started BRUISED? Possibly the fastest I’ve ever fallen in crazy book love. There’s just something about Imogen I’ve been trying to put my finger on since I first read her story, and when I try to think of what it is, the same word constantly surfaces in my brain: She’s so unapologetic. And I don’t mean that like she’s a jerk (she isn’t) or doesn’t learn from her mistakes (she really, really does, and I love the emotional voyage she takes in this book), but her personality is just so steadfast in a way that’s rare in YA. She isn’t gentle. She isn’t girly. She doesn’t long to fit into makeup-wearing Seventeen-reading societal norms.

Instead, she gets the kind of story that’s usually given to male MCs – one about PTSD, and beating herself up over the failure to protect and defend. She’s not sweet and self-effacing; she’s raw, and a little broken in a way that doesn’t remotely imply fragility. Even in the context of her budding romance, she’s tough, struggling to reclaim herself through the relationship but not defining herself by it.

In short, she’s badass, and I think everyone would do well to meet her!

But enough from me; here’s BRUISED author Sarah Skilton!

What scene from BRUISED would/do you read at signings, and why?

I always read a short excerpt from the first chapter, which reveals how important martial arts is to the main character, Imogen. She’s a 16-year-old black belt who freezes up at an armed robbery, and the experience shatters her sense of identity. The segment I read discusses her journey to achieving her black belt, as well as what it represents: everything she could’ve done, and everything she didn’t do, the only time it really mattered.

I want to enjoy BRUISED as part of a full sensory experience – where am I reading it, and what am I eating/smelling/listening to?

Fun question! Let’s see, I love imagining people reading it curled up on a couch with maybe a sports game on in a different room. Imogen’s dad writes about sports, so that’s a constant backdrop in her life. Her older brother works at an ice cream shop, so ice cream — maybe a sundae — should be on the menu. As for music, the theme and mood is rock: Garbage (“Stupid Girl”), Florence and the Machine (“Kiss with a Fist”), Cracker (“Happy Birthday to Me”), and Bloc Party (“Flux”), with a cameo by The Beatles singing “Blackbird.”
My book dream is to spot a stranger reading it on the subway – what’s yours?

That’s a terrific one! I’d love that, too. My favorite is when I get an email from people who practice martial arts. I’m always curious what they think of that aspect of the book.

What’s the best/coolest thing anyone’s said about your book?

I recently heard from a teenager who said she could relate to Imogen and her family, which made me enormously happy. And one of the kindest blogger reviews I ever received was from A Reading Daydreamer, who thoroughly analyzed each aspect of the book, and really understood what I was hoping to convey with the unconventional romantic subplot.

From where would you most ideally want people to purchase your book?

I had a wonderful launch party at my local Barnes & Noble, and I also adore the bookstore Once Upon a Time in Montrose, CA. They’re the oldest children’s bookstore in the country, and they have signed copies of BRUISED available right now on the shelf: http://www.shoponceuponatime.com/

Are either of these books on your top 10 of 2013? If you haven’t read them yet, have they made it to your TBR? Tell us in the comments!

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