Author: Ann Redisch Stampler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: January 2014
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Contemporary
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Synopsis can be found here.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Good Girl Emma is tired of being good. Enter her new best friend Siobhan, who is anything but. As the girls grow closer and the stakes get higher and lies on top of lies rule their lives, can Emma tell the difference between lies and the truth? Can she find a way back to herself?
So much dark fun. Siobhan is great, greedy, crazy and dark. She’s the ultimate mean girl, the one who pushes your buttons, steals your boyfriend and cries to you at night. She’s the girl who spreads the rumors, lies to everyone and does bad things because she can. She’s the ultimate frenemy. I’ve known girls like her. I’ve been friends with girls like her. Bravo Ms. Stampler. Siobhan is every good girl’s nightmare, with a sweet smile and a calculated mind.
Emma is our ultimate good girl. Her father is super protective and while there were sweet, shining moments in their relationship, for the majority of the book I just wanted to slap him. You can’t keep a girl in a tower, locked away, Doctor. Emma’s rebellion is like watching a train wreck- you can’t stop. Small white lies snowball into bigger, more hurtful ones. And time and time again, I had to put the book down because I was so mad at Emma. She had it. She had the power to stop all of it. To speak up and tell the truth. But she didn’t. Or couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.
Of course, I didn’t put it down for long. Maybe two minutes. Then I had to keep going to see what happened.
All of the characters are selfish and flawed, making heineously bad choices one right after the other. Dylan is no exception and though him and Emma are obviously being used as Siobhan’s pawns, they are in no way without blame. Still, I wanted them to find their way together. I rooted for them, I rooted for her. I even rooted for Siobhan. Because she’s the ultimate frenemy. She’s the girl who you love, who hugs you tightly so you don’t see the knife she’s about to slip into your back.
I loved this book. It’s a hand that catches you around the throat and squeezes tighter and tighter until you realize you can’t breathe. It’s a small snowball tumbling down a mountain, forming an avalanche.
Too good to pass up.
Rating 9 Ridiculously Awesome like Cookies and Ice Cream
Interview with Ann Redisch Stampler!
Thanks for stopping by Ann!
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer essentially forever. It just took me a while to find the courage of my convictions. So I guess I’d have to say the inspiration was my parents’ love of books and stories, and my own early experiences with books.
So, since I also write for very young children, I can say without embarrassment or hesitation that I was inspired to become a writer by Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose and The Green Fairy Book.
What was the last book you read?
Mostly I read young adult novels and folklore, but you’ve caught me red-handed with an adult book, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. If you’re going to break down and read an adult book, it might as well be brilliant. This was.
What sparked the idea for Afterparty?
A number of things I was thinking about that came together. The idea of a complete outsider trying to fit into L.A. prep school. An intense female friendship that was as mutually supportive as it was destructive. Wanting to write about being in love for the first time and the surprise of experiencing lust for the first time. The letter we received from our children’s school advising us not to let them attend after party. The rumors circulating about past after parties. The decadent underbelly of L.A. glamour as experienced by kids. A newspaper story about a girl who fell from a Manhattan apartment window to her death after a night of hard partying, underage and with a fake ID, in the meat-packing district.
Siobhan is such a well crafted character, equal parts mean girl and best friend. What was the process in creating her?
Thank you so much! I loved writing Siobhan. I wanted her complexity and the contradictions of her character to make her real. I didn’t want either Emma or Siobhan to feel contrived, but readers had to see why each one needed the other – why they both kept coming back for more for so long, and why they fit together so well.
This meant that even though Siobhan had some (cough, cough) unfortunate qualities, we had to see her lovable moments, too.
I’m fine with readers getting angry or frustrated with my characters. My big thing is for readers to believe them. And this is what was foremost in my mind as I was writing Siobhan through eyes. What did Emma see when she looked at Siobhan? As far over the top and dramatic as Siobhan got, was Emma seeing a real girl? A train-wreck of a girl, but a real one.
You write many different kinds of books. What is your favorite thing about writing YA?
Most of my picture books have been retellings of traditional folktales, so the most freeing thing about writing YA has been getting to make up my own stories and use thousands of words to tell them.
There are lies upon lies upon lies being overlapped in the story. The plot moves so quickly yet the characters are still vivid and strong throughout. Did the plot come first or did you start with the characters?I always start with the characters. Not on principle, that’s just the way it’s worked for me so far. Ultimately, I want characters who are strong enough that if I dropped them into an entirely different story, they’d still work as credible people. I don’t want characters who are there primarily to serve the story, doing and feeling what they have to do and feel for the plot to work out. I want them to be people you could pass in the street…if the street were Sunset Boulevard.
I was rooting for Dylan and Emma the whole time, but at certain times it was really difficult. How did you balance that relationship, making the reader still want them together, even after everything they’ve done to each other?
I was so rooting for them, too. I’m not completely comfortable, as an adult, carrying on about the hotness of a teenage character. But bearing in mind that I was writing from the perspective of a teenage girl and pulling on my own earlier experiences, I really do love the character of Dylan, and I was going for hotness so readers would feel Emma’s attraction even if they wanted to punch him out.
I see Dylan as this very smart, very lovable, very angry kid with a terrible family, who really shouldn’t come within a mile of any mind-altering substance when he’s upset because he makes some truly godawful decisions when un-sober. (Not to mention the terrible decision to get that un-sober.) And no offense, seventeen-year-old boys, but he’s a seventeen year old boy. He gets to be impulsive and not think things through periodically.
As for Emma, the notion that lying to your boyfriend extensively makes more sense than telling him the truth – good grief! I have readers who’ve said that at one particular point in the book — when something really has to be told, only it doesn’t get told — they’ve literally shaken the book and yelled at it. This makes me so happy. Because I want Emma to be a character who screws up royally, but you understand why, and you care enough about her to want to scream some sense into her.
And I have to admit that the Valentine’s Day Party, where Dylan bounces from one devastating discovery to another and Emma is undone, was absolutely one of my favorite ones to write. Not that I’m a sadist, but I really wanted to take how far these essentially compatible, made-for-each-other characters mess with each other to the limit. (And, spoiler alert, this isn’t the end of their how-to-screw-up-a-relationship-fest, there’s more.) But still have readers pull for them. Mostly.
How do you like your potato?
Baked to the point of crispy skin, and then mashed with lots of butter. Or just well-baked if it’s a yam. Or made into thin yam fries. Or in the form of a home-made potato chip. And then there are the fries at Apple Pan (an L.A. landmark; Billy Nash took Gabby there in Where It Began) ordered well-done, with lots of ketchup.
Do you have a favorite literary character?
Elizabeth Bennet. Seriously, how do you read that book and not immediately embrace Elizabeth Bennet as the best fictional character of all time?
What is one thing you would tell aspiring writers?
Jane Yolen’s maxim: Butt in chair.
Do you buy a book based on its cover?
I don’t know that I’d buy a book based entirely on the cover, but the cover could certainly get me to open the book, and if I liked the first couple of pages…
What are you working on/writing right now?
A thriller in two voices. A boy who’s blackmailed into doing something he finds abhorrent (and also illegal) and a girl on the run. For some reason I don’t fully understand, the boy voice is coming much more easily than the girl one. If she doesn’t get more nuanced soon, this might turn out to be a thriller in one voice.
Thanks for visiting Ann!