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Suffer Love Hardcover – May 3, 2016
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From the Publisher
A Conversation with Ashley Herring Blake
The author of Suffer Love talks about her childhood rock star Disney dreams, love of really great ghost stories, and the inspiration behind her romantic debut novel.
Did you always want to become a writer?
I’ve always loved writing and reading, but I cycled through a lot of potential careers before settling on writing. As a kid, I wanted to be a marine biologist, a singer for Disney, and a teacher. I did become a teacher and had barely started that career when I decided to pursue writing with gusto.
What did you read when you were a kid?
Anne of Green Gables and the Baby-Sitters Club series were definite favorites. I also read a lot of Judy Blume and Sweet Valley High. I had a penchant for ghost stories as well, and Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes remains one of my favorite books ever.
How often do you write?
It depends. If I’m drafting a new book, I like to write every day until I have the first draft finished. Every now and then I’ll skip a day, but if I miss too many, I lose the momentum of what’s happening with my characters. After I complete a draft, I usually take a week or two before diving back into revision. Truthfully, I have a hard time going too long without working on something, whether planning, drafting, or revising. Me without a project in mind equals major anxiety!
Where do you write?
I like writing at home if I can, and I have a little office nook that’s perfect for writing. I also love writing surrounded by books, so I’ll write on the couch near my largest bookshelf a lot. Every now and then, I venture into coffeeshops.
What inspired you to write Suffer Love?
There were a few ideas that really fascinated me when I started Suffer Love. One, I was intrigued by how teens dealt with family trauma, particularly infidelity. Two, I was interested in exploring what happens when one tells a lie with good intentions. I loved diving into both of those emotional realms with Sam and Hadley.
What is your favorite book that you have not written?
Oh, wow, I have so many. But I’d have to say Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. That book is super-special to me—it’s one that helped me see that I wanted to write contemporary YA and it really helped me through a difficult time of loss. Such a beautiful book.
Are you working on anything new now?
I am! I have another book, How to Make a Wish, coming out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017, and I’m also in the middle of drafting another contemporary YA.
From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-A classic romance for modern readers. Hadley St. Clair has been in Woodmont, TN, for less than a year but already has a reputation for fast hookups. She is an expert at pushing people away, especially her father, who was busted back in Nashville for having an affair. Her spontaneous make-out sessions are her attempt to bury the pain. When a handsome new student becomes her partner in English class, Hadley finds herself unable to stay emotionally distant. Sam also falls hard for Hadley. The problem? Sam's mother had the affair with Hadley's father. He and his younger sister, Livy, know who Hadley is, but Hadley doesn't know Sam's true identity. His struggle is complicated because his sister was the one who outed the affair to Hadley's family. Just when Hadley felt she had someone she could rely on, the truth comes out, threatening her relationship with Sam. Echoes of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing are featured throughout this novel about a relationship that's full of secrets, half-truths, and hidden identities. Flawed adults are juxtaposed against seemingly more mature teenagers. Blake forces the question-what do we do when the people we are meant to trust the most, our parents, let us down the hardest? VERDICT A strong choice for YA collections, especially where romance is popular.-Carrie Finberg, South Park High School, PAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
“Sam and Hadley's palpable and steamy romance had my heart racing. This heartfelt, realistic story kept me up reading all night long. I loved this book."—Miranda Kenneally, bestselling author of Catching Jordan
“Shakespeare references, betrayal, and a teacup piglet: what more could you want in a modern love story?” –Courtney C. Stevens, author of Faking Normal and The Lies About Truth
“An emotionally vivid, fearlessly honest portrait of two very human families, with a love story that will make you ache. Utterly beautiful.”
—Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
"[Blake] writes a believable, emotionally satisfying romance that relies on realistic characterizations rather than supermodel good looks, fashion, and standard plot devices. It's a refreshing change from the far more common standard romances that so often become formulaic, and the well-integrated literary references are a bonus. A smart, satisfying romance."
"Debut author Blake puts the teens in a near-impossible situation, adeptly showing how Sam and Hadley can be more adult in handling the complications of romance than all four of their parents . . . Readers will be left thinking about the ways love can both hurt and heal."
"A strong choice for YA collections, especially where romance is popular."
—School Library Journal
"Sam and Hadley are appealing and engaging characters, especially when Hadley devastatingly, sympathetically learns the truth. Blake doesn’t opt for the easy, happily-ever-after ending, instead emphasizing that relationships are work and need to be handled with care."
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The official description leaves out exactly how it's complicated, but it's not hard to guess (and gets revealed pretty early on), so I don't think it's a spoiler. Hadley's family is still reeling from her father's recent affair with an unknown woman, with her parents in marriage counseling and her doing her best to keep pretending everything's okay. Meanwhile, Sam and his little sister move into town after their father left them because of their mom's infidelity - and Sam knows exactly who the Other Man is. He's instantly attracted to Hadley and somewhat thrilled when he's paired with her for a Shakespeare assignment... until he learns her last name and realizes that the Other Man was her dad. Holy moly, there's no way this can end well... especially since Sam can't bring himself to tell Hadley what's going on.
This dramatic irony creates a simmering tension throughout the whole story, which follows Hadley and Sam's emotional struggles with life, their families, and each other. While their romance is at the heart of the story, it's just one piece of a profound exploration of the characters' lives - how each of them handles the difficult realities they live in. Both characters are wonderfully written with voices that feel genuine and relatable, yet are very distinct from each other. Sometimes strong, sometimes vulnerable, sometimes cautious, sometimes impulsive - complex people in complex situations, making choices that aren't always the best ones, but ring true. I found myself instantly pulled in and tore through the whole thing in about two days (at one point staying up far too late, but no regrets!).
I loved that this is something of an unconventional romance, with characters who aren't your typical romantic leads. Hadley's gained a reputation around school for being a tease, since one of the ways she copes with her parents' relationship falling apart is by seeking comfort and escape in the arms of boys. The novel aims to blast apart the stigma surrounding girls who like to hook up by exploring Hadley's motivations and emotions, as well as showing how she deals with the subsequent slut-shaming. Sam, meanwhile, is simultaneously older than his years and a confused teen. With his dad gone and his mom somewhat absent, he's taken it upon himself to act as his little sister's surrogate parent. Yet he's still a kid himself, and the tension between the two sides of him help create an interesting and multifaceted personality. Also worth noting is that I loved the role that Sam's little sister (Livy) played - the sibling relationship between her and Sam, the developing friendship between her and Hadley, her own feelings and confusion around her parents' split.
This was a book that gave me ALL THE FEELS and left me somewhat stunned at the end, like "whoa, that was awesome, and I don't know whether to smile or weep or smile-weep or WHAT!" The stars collided, love was suffered, and the complicated got even more complicated. And I loved every moment.
To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. One of the main audiences of YA is, in fact, teenagers, and it makes total sense that they’d want to read stories about characters their age, not about their parents. I find absolutely no fault with authors who would rather focus on their teen characters and keep adults mostly out of the mix.
However, I’m a little bit backwards. I was one of those teens who read a lot of adult literature, and now I’m an adult who reads a lot of YA. As such, I’ve always been drawn to stories that feature both perspectives, the adult and the teen. I find it fascinating to explore where they clash, where they overlap, where the gap in years of life experience is an asset and where it’s a hindrance.
Suffer Love is one of those rare YA books that, while remaining solidly YA, really digs in and explores those questions. Sam and Hadley, the two teen narrators, are both dealing with the fallout of their parents’ infidelity. One family has already split apart, the other is trying to stay together but finding it a challenge. One narrator knows the sordid details of their parent’s affair, the other does not. Both are struggling to redefine their relationships with their parents and families, while still working through lingering feelings of anger and betrayal. The parents in both families are well-drawn, fully realized characters, but even when they’re not on the page, their presence is felt. Suffer Love doesn’t shy away from asking hard questions about the relationships between parents and teens, the mistakes both sides can make, and how both parties can move forward after being shaken to their core.
But much as I loved the way Suffer Love is a story about parents and kids and the particular hurting and healing that occurs within families, it’s about more than that. It’s about first love, and grief, and friendship. It’s two people in pain finding each other and realizing that they can heal better together than they can apart. It’s about loyalty, and secrets, and trying to make a good decision when all of the choices available to you are bad.
Sam and Hadley both felt like real people to me as I read. The alternating points of view were never confusing, with each having their own distinct voice and purpose. The side characters never felt peripheral either, and each had their own moments to shine, particularly Sam’s best friend Ajay (my favorite character) and Sam’s younger sister, Livy. Suffer Love is one of those books where you just want to hang out with several of the characters after the book ends, and maybe give a few of them hugs, not just because they need one, but also because you feel so connected to them.
The prose is lush and gorgeous but never gets overly flowery, and is infused with plenty of humor, as well as a hefty dose of Shakespearean references (including quite a few nods to my favorite Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing, from which Suffer Love gets its title). It’s one of those books that strikes the perfect balance between lovely writing and compulsive readability, and I found that once the pages started turning, they didn’t stop.
Suffer Love is a beautiful, emotional story of grief and healing, of trust and friendship, of heartbreak and first love. It is about romance, and family, and the lengths a person will go to for the people they love. If you already love contemporary YA, or haven’t tried it yet and are searching for just the right book to get your feet wet, Ashley Herring Blake’s Suffer Love is a riveting and poignant debut, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.
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Seriously awful "joke"