The completely wonderful IN REAL LIFE by Jessica Love is celebrating its book birthday today! I was so excited to get a sneak peek at it and be able to chat with Jessica about the book.
Buy IN REAL LIFE
As some of you may know, I’m doing a series of book reviews alongside my daughter, Evelyn, who is a real life teen. We came up with the interview questions together and brief joint review follows. But first, I’m thrilled to present Five Questions with Jessica Love.
Kelly: A lot of IN REAL LIFE is set in Las Vegas which is an interesting choice considering it’s full of places typically off limits to teens. What led you to choose that setting?
Jessica: Las Vegas is one of my favorite places to visit, and I haven’t read very many YA books that take place there (for exactly the reason you mention). I thought it would be fun to do a book set over a weekend set in the city that never sleeps, because there would be a lot of distractions and things to keep these characters busy.
Also, like Nick, there are two different sides to Vegas. There is the shiny, sparkly Las Vegas of the Strip. But it’s also a place where people live and go to school and raise their families. Hannah goes expecting one version of the city, but that version lets her down.
Evelyn: Nick almost has two personalities in this book. The one he uses virtually to Hannah and the one he uses in real life. How did this develop during your writing process?
Jessica: When I first started this book, Nick was completely honest with Hannah about everything all the time, because I liked him and that’s how I wanted him to be. But I know life is never that easy, and that would have made for a really boring book. So I started exploring the ways and the reasons he would hide parts of himself, and the more I explored that, the more I realized…of course he would do that. I doubt even the nicest person would be completely honest with someone they thought they would never meet. The challenge, though, was developing Nick as someone who kept secrets and told lies but was also someone readers cared about and rooted for.
Evelyn: I think one of the messages of IN REAL LIFE is that young people should be more open to dating/relationships during high school
Kelly: And I think everyone should wait until college. Or possibly mid-thirties to date. LOL
Evelyn: But is that what you intended? Is there a carpe diem theme here?
Jessica: There is a bit of a carpe diem theme going on, but I wouldn’t relate it exclusively to the idea of dating/relationships in high school. More that you should be open to the things that scare you, because those scary things can end up being the really fun things, or the things that change your life for the better.
Evelyn: Music is a really important element of the story. If Nick could join any band in real life, what would he choose?
Jessica: Nick would definitely join Cold War Kids. He loves their lyrics.
Kelly: Ghost is Nick’s nickname for Hannah and it’s super cool. Any tips on coming up with a great nickname?
Jessica: I think the best nicknames come organically out of an inside joke or a “you had to be there” moment. But the person you give the nickname to has to agree to the name, otherwise it’s just mean.
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And here’s our take on the book:
There’s so much to love here! This is a fun, yet thoughtful, romance between two teens in the process of discovering themselves and what they want out of life. Jessica Love pulls off something special in allowing her characters, Hannah and Nick, to explore the differences between online and real life personas without putting them in danger. It’s a master stroke that Hannah and Nick have offline mutual friends – this is a storytelling device that allows Hannah to have a coming-of-age adventure and not say, get kidnapped by the Craig’s List Killer. Another thing that’s especially well done is the interactions, both on and offline, between Hannah and Nick that strike a nice balance between being clever/witty and emotionally honest. I don’t want to say too much about the ending, but it was truly heartwarming. I loved IRL and would definitely recommend it.
What I liked best was the book’s message. A lot of people at my school say they want to wait until later to date or have fun but this book talks about the importance of trying to have fun and be adventurous. The ending surprised me, but I thought it was sweet. I also really loved how important music is in the book. I would recommend IRL, too.