I was thrilled to have Alex contact me for this book. My review will be coming closer to the release date. I’ve already read it and definitely recommend it. Love, Jacaranda will be out in July.
Love, Jacaranda by Alex Flinn
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Alex Flinn comes a tale of taking a chance on love and letting your inner voice soar.
Jacaranda Abbott has always tried to keep her mouth shut. As a foster kid, she’s learned the hard way that the less she talks about her mother and why she’s in jail, the better. But when a video of Jacaranda singing goes viral, a mysterious benefactor offers her a life-changing opportunity—a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school to study musical theater. Eager to start over somewhere new, Jacaranda leaps at the chance. She pours her heart out in emails to the benefactor she’s never met.
Suddenly she’s swept up in a world of privilege where the competition is fierce and the talent is next level. As Jacaranda—Jackie to her new friends—tries to find her place, a charming boy from this world of wealth catches her eye. She begins to fall for him, but can he accept her for who she really is?
Expected publication: July 7th 2020 by HarperTeen
I grew up on a street called Salem Court. This probably influenced my interest in witches. When I was five, my mom said I should be an author. And when I was eight, I got my first rejection letter from Highlights Magazine.
I learned to read early. But I compensated for this early proficiency by absolutely refusing to read the programmed readers required by the school system — workbooks where you read the story, then answered the questions. When the other kids were on Book 20, I was on Book 1! My teacher, Mrs. Zeiser, told my mother, “Alexandra marches to her own drummer.” I don’t think that was supposed to be a compliment.
My family moved to Miami when I was in middle school. I had a really hard time making friends, so I spent a lot of time reading and writing then. By high school, I’d made some friends and gotten involved in various “gifted and talented” performing arts programs. I studied opera in college (I’m a coloratura — the really loud, high-pitched sopranos.) and then went to law school.
It was law school that probably helped with my first novel. Breathing Underwater deals with the serious and all-too-common problem of dating violence. I based the book on my experiences interning with the State Attorney’s Office and volunteering with battered women. I thought this was a really important topic, as 27 percent of teenage girls surveyed have been hit by a boyfriend. I’m happy that the book is so popular, and if you are reading this bio because the book was assigned for school, I’m happy about that too.
I think I write for young-adults because I never quite got over being one. In my mind, I am still 13-years-old, running laps on the athletic field, wearing this really baggy white gymsuit. I’m continually amazed at the idea that I have a checking account and a mortgage. So I try to write books that gymsuit girl might enjoy. It’s a way of going back to being thirteen . . . knowing what I know now.
Right now, I live half a mile away from my old middle school, in Palmetto Bay, a suburb of Miami, with my husband, daughters, dogs, and cats.
Guest Post from Alex Flinn:
Ripe for a Reboot? Can Tales from Yesterday Be Remade for Today’s Teens? And Should They?
A gifted orphan named Judy receives a free education from a mysterious benefactor. She loves her new school but finds it hard to relate to her upper-class schoolmates. Then, she meets the guy of her dreams. As in many fairy tales, she receives her happily- ever-after in the form of marriage.
My mother gave me her cloth-covered copy of Jean Webster’s 1912 novel, Daddy Long Legs when I was a teenager. I devoured Judy’s letters, as my mom had at my age. I took my own daughter to the 2016 off-Broadway musical adaptation. She loved it too.
But is a 1912 novel that ends with marriage too old-fashioned for today’s readers? Certainly. In my version, called Love, Jacaranda (HarperTeen, July 7, 2020), I tried to keep the parts that made Daddy Long Legs delightful while getting rid of the paternalistic concerns.
It was a challenge, one faced by other authors before me, including Ibi Zoboi, who adapted Jane Austen’s marriage-centric Pride and Prejudice to modern-day Bushwick in Pride and Hannah Capin, who adapted the story of Henry VIII in Dead Queens Club.
Webster’s tale, which has spawned three stage adaptations, four movies, and an anime, has timeless and universal themes – the desire for success but also, to fit in, make friends, and find love. Judy’s charm comes from the fact that she’s continually surprised by things her classmates at a boughie women’s college take for granted. She’s never had a room of her own, heard of Michelangelo, or owned a dress that wasn’t a hand-me-down.
A fish-out-of-water story resonates with anyone who has ever attended middle school. Like Judy in Daddy Long Legs, Jacaranda in my version lies about her past. Judy doesn’t tell her classmates she grew up in an orphanage. She writes, “I do want to be like the other girls, and that Dreadful Home looming over my childhood is the one great big difference.” Jacaranda tells her new friends that her parents are diplomats abroad instead of the truth – that her mother is in jail.
Read with today’s eyes, the idea of Judy marrying the man who turns out to be her benefactor is problematic. Like handsome princes in fairy tales, Daddy Long Legs swoops in to save Judy. Today’s Disney princesses don’t get saved. Heroines in young-adult are more likely to be Happy For Now than Happily Ever After.
But part of what attracted me to Daddy Long Legs was the way Webster, a Vassar graduate who supported women’s suffrage, used her romance novel as a platform for her feminist views. In one letter, Judy tells her benefactor about her studies, saying, “Don’t you think I’d make an admirable voter if I had my rights? This is an awfully wasteful country to throw away such an honest, educated, conscientious, intelligent citizen as I would be.” Webster also painted her hero as socially conscious. Judy describes Jervis: “Julia’s mother says he’s unbalanced. He’s a Socialist—except, thank Heaven, he doesn’t let his hair grow and wear red ties.” Books like Daddy Long Legs helped make the idea of women attending college more acceptable in a time when it was unusual.
In adapting Daddy Long Legs for a modern audience, I had to tread carefully. For one thing, Jacaranda certainly wasn’t going to call her benefactor “Daddy Long Legs.” It smacked of sugar daddy. Secondly, I didn’t want him to be a sugar daddy.
What I wanted to keep was the heroine’s desire to belong, but also, to stand out. When she arrives at the school, Jackie realizes that she’s the only one who hasn’t had private music lessons or been taken to the theater. Jackie works harder. And, like Judy, Jackie realizes that her classmates’ perfect lives aren’t as perfect as she thinks they are. Her rich roommate battles debilitating anxiety, while another classmate bemoans the fact that, despite her efforts, she isn’t as talented as Jackie.
But a reboot also gives the author the chance to fix flaws in the original. One thing I never understood about the original Daddy Long Legs was why Judy wasn’t angrier at Jervis for what amounted to four years of lying to her. My version addressed this.
But Daddy Long Legs, Webster’s version, is, at bottom, the tale of two lonely fish out of water who find each other. Jervis doesn’t just save Judy; she saves him back.
That part, I kept. Readers will always need Cinderella stories, where goodness and hard work are rewarded. But it’s important to adapt them to today’s readers, to write about empowered girls who don’t need romance, but enter into it as equals, and couples who will be happy . . . for now.
Don’t forget to check back on July 3rd for my review of Love, Jacaranda!