Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Defy the Stars by Stephanie Parent - Review, Excerpt, and Interview - Readable and Loveable

Hey, you guys! So, for the first time ever and author contacted me and asked me to review her book. I, of course, was super excited and said yes! I was even more excited to learn that it was an "edgy contemporary Romeo and Juliet retelling in verse." I love books like that (Hi, Prom and Prejudice). Stephanie Parent is an amazingly kind lady and I'm sure that her book is going to get super popular in the near future. (By the way, I will be posting the Amazon link for her book at the end of this post. It's only available in Kindle at the moment.) She got the cover done with a zero dollar budget which is so impressive! Now, please enjoy a review of Defy the Stars by Stephanie Parent.

"Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories. 
Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.

Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense.  Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again.  After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them.  Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. 

Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.
Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well.  The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber.  With a plot, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.

Please note that this novel contains mature language and themes, including drug use."
Firstly, I know what you all are thinking: "I thought she was uncomfortable reading books about drugs... A book that has to do with drugs?" Let me tell you: the author is NOT condoning drug use this book. Yes, it IS a major part of the story, but drugs ruin the characters' lives - the main character experiments with it, but decides to stop taking it before she gets addicted. 
And about being uncomfortable with drugs, aren't a lot of people? I don't like drugs and I don't approve of them in the slightest, but as a teenager I know that it is a major influence in a lot of people's lives. If I understand why authors include drug use in a book and it makes sense, it doesn't take away from the book, in my opinion. I hope that cleared things up.
I loved the way this book was written - the verse, I mean. It was so... cool, for lack of a better word.I had never read a book like that before and it made everything so much more dramatic and interesting.
The way she wrote it was fantastic - I legitimately cried at the end. I have read Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare several times (I love it), and although I knew how it would ultimately end, it was really interesting to see the way she had everything happen. It was awesome how she used drugs as the poison.
I loved how some of the characters had names that began with the letter of the name of the shakespeare character they were "portraying": Julia - Juliet, Reed - Romeo, Perry - Paris, etc...
I loved the characters except Perry, but I don't think anyone was supposed to like Perry.
One complaint - I wish Perry had gotten stabbed. I'm not one to be like, "GO VIOLENCE!", but I don't mind battle scenes and all that stuff. However, Perry made me so angry, I wanted him to get stabbed by one of those big powerful guys. He made my skin crawl, but I think he was supposed to. 
I also really liked Julia and Reed's relationship. They were just so good together. The only time I was annoyed is when Reed gave Julia drugs. That was not good (I understand why it happened, I was only mad at the character).
Another cool thing was Julia and her piano. I play the piano, and her talent made me wish that I could play as well as her. It was just so cool to see how she connected with piano and how that difficult piece of music was only difficult until she went through the type of pain that the music was portraying. It was beautiful, really.
In all, I give it five stars. I read it in a few hours (a few days ago) because I was super into it. I recommend this book, but please do remember the warning in the summary/blurb thingie.
I feel like I wouldn't reread this book because nothing would really surprise me anymore, but I highly recommend reading it in general.

"Reed pulls me down the alley, away from the

hotel, till we land in a tight space between two

neighboring buildings.  The others aren’t so quick,

or lucky, and a moment later I hear my father


                “What the hell are you hoodlums

                doing here?”

(Hoodlums.  Do I know my dad or what?)

He stops, apparently sniffing,

since he quickly adds,

                “Are you all high?  Get out of here,

                or I’ll call…”

Just then, a shaft of moonlight falls on Reed’s

face, and my father’s voice tumbles away to


His railing’s just a buzz of white

noise now, senseless as the cold wind

rolling through the night.

I can’t look away from Reed’s eyes.

Yes, they’re blue, like Perry’s, but

as different from his as…well, as

night from day.

Perry’s are too bright, offensive,

garish, like the sky at high noon.

And when he’s looking at you, there’s

that sense he just wants something.

But Reed?  Reed’s eyes are full of

clouds, of smoke, and the hint of

something else beneath them, too fragile

for the light.

I could dive in and find it. 

But I’m staring, so I tear my gaze away,


                “Julia?” he whispers.

                 “Are you okay?

                Have you been crying?”

So maybe he was staring too.

                “Oh, no…I mean, maybe a little.

                But I’m okay now.”

“What happened?”

                “Just, um, I was here

                with Perry, and…

                He got kind of grabby.”

Why am I telling him this?

I clamp my mouth shut and

shiver.  My anger has seeped

away into the night, and with it,

the layer of tension that buffered

me from the cold. 

                “He didn’t hurt you, did he?”  Reed


—and it surprises me.

I shiver harder.

                “No, no—I’m fine.”

Then I guess he notices

my shaking arms, ’cause he says,

                “You must be freezing!”

And before I can protest, his

leather jacket is sheltering me.

Beneath it, he wears only a T-shirt,

his bare arms lean but sinewy,

just like in my—

                                      —Stop it!

I try to shake myself sane again,

tune back in to the world around me.

I realize it’s dead


                “Guess my dad scared your

                friends away.”  I still whisper,

                for some reason.

“Don’t worry.”  Reed grins.

“They can take care of


And apparently, I’m not so successful

at holding on to sanity, because I look

at his lips and think:

Maybe fate gave me a second

first chance tonight.

I don’t believe in fate,

or in acting on impulse,

but my body doesn’t seem to care

as it draws me closer to Reed

till our lips are


He stiffens for a moment,

his lips slack beneath mine,

and I know I’ve just made

a terrible mistake…

Then his arms are around me,

pulling me closer, his lips opening,

demanding, and there’s no question


He’s kissing me.

And it’s nothing—nothing

nothing like the disaster earlier


This is

                warmth all around me.

                a new world opening.

                two stars colliding.

And I think

                I’m drowning."

1. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I had written a previous novel in verse and received feedback from editors that it wasn’t “edgy” or dramatic enough for today’s YA market, so I knew I needed to go further in my next novel.  Someone in the publishing industry actually suggested the idea of a modern Romeo and Juliet story involving drug addiction.  At first I wasn’t sure about it, but then I reread the play and was struck by how well the “poison” in the original play correlated with modern drug use.  I was also frustrated with several recent YA books that I think portray Romeo and Juliet in an overly simple, one-sided way, and I wanted to explore Shakespeare’s work in a deeper way.
2. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve actually always been much more of a reader than a writer!  I always vaguely thought it would be cool to write a book, but I was (and still am!) intimidated by the writing process.  I went to college and then graduate school for writing because I was fairly good at it and hoped I could find a job that used writing in some way, but around the time I graduated from my master’s program, the job market was so bad that I couldn’t find a well-paying position.  So I forced myself to start writing novels in the hopes that I could one day start making money from them…and over time, it has gotten a little easier.  Still hard, though!
3. What are your favorite TV shows?
Arrested Development, Project Runway, and when I was younger I loved The O.C.
4. What are a few of your favorite book series?
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery, and the Faery Rebels series by R.J. Anderson.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
This is going to sound odd, but…my advice is actually to remember you don’t have to take every piece of advice you’re given.   If you find a writing process that works for you, you should feel confident enough to stick with even if other people tell you it’s not the “right” way.  And while every writer has to learn to take criticism, you also have to decide which criticism is helpful to you and which isn’t.  If you tried to revise a book to please every single reader, you could spend your entire life editing and rewriting and never finish.
6. If you could work with any author - dead or alive - who would it be?
Probably either Charlotte or Emily Bronte, just because it would be so amazing to meet one of them!
7. What are your favorite books of all time?
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, and Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
8. Are any parts of your books - characters, emotions, scenes, etc. - inspired by people or events around you?
Absolutely!  Even when I’m writing about people and places very different from me and my experiences, I always call on my own emotions and relationships to make the writing as authentic as possible.  And little bits of me, my family and friends definitely creep into my characters.
9. Where do you like to write?
At home, at my computer.  I have a studio apartment, so there’s only one room!  (Well, unless I wrote in the kitchen, but there’s not even room for a table in there…)  I used to try to write longhand on the bus and then transfer it to the computer at home, but I decided that was more trouble than it was worth!  
10. Why do you write?
I think it mostly goes back to my love of books as a child, and especially those particular books (see “favorites” above) that helped me get through difficult times and realize others shared the same struggles I did.  I always felt like storytelling was a sort of magic, and it became my way of looking at and responding to the world. 
11. What is something that your readers probably wouldn't know about you?
I really, really love dance (modern, ballet, etc.) and studied it intensively in college, and I really wish I had the talent to become a professional dancer.  Unfortunately, I don’t!
12. What do you do - when you aren't writing, of course?
For my job, I’m a freelance editor.  In my free time, I read a LOT, then look at book blogs online and find even more books to read…and when I can tear myself away from the computer, I like to walk everywhere and go to the beach in the summer, and I love playing with my two adorable dogs. 
13. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
The British Isles.  I visited England once and it was the most amazing experience of my life, but I haven’t yet had the chance to visit Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.  I loved reading about those places and their rich history of myth and folklore as a child, and I’d really love to see them for real.
14. What is your favorite food? Dessert?
My favorite dessert is pumpkin pie, but that may be partly because I don’t have it very often!  I’m a sugar freak, so pumpkin pie might also be my favorite food overall…I love anything sweet and creamy, like ice cream, whipped c ream, frappucinos, cake with icing…
15. Do you have any future books planned?
I’m working on a new book right now that’s very different from anything I’ve written before.  It’s in prose rather than verse and is a retelling of a famous story set in the distant past.
16. How many books have you written or published? Which one is your favorite?
I’ve written three complete books (although one is short, perhaps technically a novella) and I’m working on the fourth…and so far, the new one is my favorite.  Sorry I can’t share too much about it at this point!
17. What is your favorite song right now?
“Disarm” by The Smashing Pumpkins
18. How long does it take you to write a book?
Probably about nine months, though it depends on the book.
19.What do you think makes a good story or novel?
What’s most important for me is that I can identify with the characters—I have to believe they’re real people, even if they exist within a fantasy world of the author’s creation.  And a good book should make me feel something—not every book has to make me laugh or cry, but I want to have an emotional reaction.
20. And last, but not least, what is the message you want your book to send to readers?
I’m actually going to hold back on this one, because I want readers to come to their own conclusions…each reader is coming from a different place and will get something different from a book, maybe even something the author didn’t intentionally put there.  That’s one of the things that’s so great about literature!

Stephanie's Blog Link:

Thank you so much for tuning in! Have a great day! :D

No comments:

Post a Comment