Love YA Valentine's Feature - Day 4 + Giveaway

Today is the last day of this little feature and I might just have saved the best author for last. (Okay, that's a lie, all of the authors I featured are super amazing and I don't think I could pick a "best" one, but I do really love this author, and I've read every single one of her books.)  Aside from Stephanie Perkins (who is amazing, and if you haven't read her you need to immediately) this lovely author might be the queen of fuzzy YA contemporary novels.  Please help me welcome

Kasie West

author of the upcoming

P. S. I Like You

which you have NO IDEA how excited I am to get my hands on, because, well, Kasie wrote it.

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: In your newest YA contemporary novel P.S. I LIKE YOU, you play with an idea kind of like pen-pals, where the main character writes something on her desk and someone else, a boy, writes back.  Why did you choose to go so old-school in terms of their communication while setting the novel in modern times?

Kasie West: Because there's something romantic in that old school notion, isn't there? With all the technology and ways to "instantly" get a response, there's something even more anticipatory of having to wait in this day and age. When we have to wait for a response, it makes it that much more exciting. I like the contrast of that notion in this we-want-it-now world.

OUATR: There are some basic tropes in romance stories that everyone seems to love (friends to lovers, secret admirers, etc), some of which you've used.  How do you go about spicing up those subplots to keep them fresh?

KW: I think fun and interesting characters spice up any plot. Because characters take those plots and their reactions change them just a bit. And those tropes are tropes for a reason too, they're fun and I love reading them, regardless of how many times I have before. :)

OUATR: What do you think it is about romance novels that people love so much, and why do you choose to write them?

KW: Falling in love is something that makes people happy. Even if you're reading about someone else falling in love it stirs up those same euphoric feelings, gets those happy-making endorphins flowing. Who doesn't want to feel that way? I do. And writing about it is just as fun too. I love writing about people falling in love.  

OUATR: On top of your contemporary novels you've also written two sci-fi novels (which also happen to have adorable romances), what caused the change in genre for you and do you think you'll ever write another sci-fi book?

KW: I write the ideas that come to me. Pivot Point was a story that came to me when thinking about a movie I liked and I thought, hey, I could take that basic concept and totally change that into a fun YA novel. But, as you pointed out, I still had to include a fun love story, because it's what makes me happy. It was in writing these books that I realized that I was really a closet contemporary writer. I had just been too scared to try it. Contemporary writing is based so much on the emotional arc. Unlike other books I had written contemporary didn't have this big, larger than life plot to fall back on. So, yeah, I was scared and wasn't sure I could do it. But once I wrote my first (The Distance Between Us) I knew I had found my home. I loved writing it so much. Does this mean I won't ever write a different genre again? No, like I said, if I come up with a good idea, I'm very open to writing outside of contemporary. But right now, I'm very happy in my space.  

OUATR: None of your contemporary novels have sequels but I know that in (at least) one of those novels there's a cameo of a character from a previous book. I'm curious if that means you think about your characters after their books end and what that might mean in terms of possible sequels or bonus scenes in the future? (And would you ever think about writing from the guy's POV if you did either of those?).

KW: Oh yes, I do think about my characters when I'm done writing the book. I wrote a few bonus scenes from past books when I revealed my latest cover (PS I LIKE  YOU). So yes, I might play with that more in the future. I recently opened a wattpad account and I'm thinking of posting fun things like that there. So stay tuned. As for a guy POV, I have done that in early (pre-published) books, but I don't necessarily have plans to do it in future books. Again (and not to sound like a broken record) if a guy's story comes to me, I'll write it. :)

Fast Five;

1. What is your favorite rom-com movie (or TV show)?  Oh my goodness, that's a hard question. I watch so many rom-coms. So many. And I love them. Notting Hill, Return to Me, The Proposal, Easy A, and on and on and on. 

2. Do you have a favorite candy to eat/receive around Valentine's day? My favorite candy to eat at all times is Junior Mints. Around Valentine's day they put out different kinds. I've had to try all the iterations over the years. They are all equally pleasing to me. 

3. If you sent Valentine's day cards this year what theme would the be or who/what would they have on them? Probably Star Wars. I love Rey.

4. What adorable YA contemporary would you recommend / are you excited to read? This is a hard question too. In recent reads though, I'd totally recommend, EMMY AND OLIVER and THE START OF YOU AND ME.

5. Do you have a favorite romance trope? (ie friends to lovers, opposites attract, strangers falling in love, etc. It doesn't have to be what you wrote either.) Can I say all of the above? Ha. I'd say my all time favorite is friends to lovers though. I just love those. Maybe because I think that's such a great basis to start a relationship on--friendship. And to be in love with your best friend for the rest of your life is the best. I know.

The Book;

Title: P. S. I Like You
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Point
Series: n/a
Published July 26, 2015
Add it on Goodreads

What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?
While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?

The Author;

Kasie West is the author of several YA novels, including The Distance Between UsOn the Fence, and The Fill-in Boyfriend. Her books have been named as ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and as YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. Kasie lives in Fresno, California with her family.

Find her on Her Website | Twitter 

The Giveaway;

I've read every one of Kasie's book (except for her new one) and I actually got to meet her a while ago. She signed stock at the lovely indie I work at and after a little bit of debate I decided to buy a copy of my favorite of her books to give away.  My plan was to give it away last year, but I never did, but that's all for the best because now I can give it away now!  I have a signed copy of ON THE FENCE to give away and all you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below!

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Love YA Valentine's Feature - Day 3 + Giveaway

Hey everybody, first off my bad again, that this didn't really follow any kind of schedule. Over the weekend I was swamped with homework and turning in my application to the local University, and then Monday was a holiday, and then on Tuesday...well I might have been a little lazy then, but today we continue with our Valentine's Feature (despite Valentine's day having come and gone, because love is still in the air, right?)

Today's author has the most books out of all four authors, but then again that's probably because her first book was published all the way back in 2011! I actually picked up her first novel because of a blurb on it from another author I loved, and I'm SO happy that I did, because 

Miranda Kenneally 

writes the best YA sports romance books (well, most of them are sports romance books, she's deviated with a few of them), but today she's here to talk about her upcoming novel (which is a sports romance)

Defending Taylor

which I can't wait to read, because her books are so stinkin' good.

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: DEFENDING TAYLOR will be the seventh novel in your Hundred Oaks series and you're contracted for at least one more.  All of the books are companion novels, not direct sequels, and I'm curious to know how you decide who will be your main character for each book?

Miranda Kenneally: Sometimes I choose a main character from a previous book, e.g. Kate from Things I Can't Forget was mentioned in Stealing Parker, and Annie from Breathe, Annie, Breathe was mentioned in Racing Savannah. Depending on the plot, sometimes the character is brand new! It really just depends. For my new book Defending Taylor, the main character is the younger sister of a girl that my character Jack Goodwin used to date. (yes, I know that's kind of strange!)

OUATR: Three (or as many as 5 depending on how you classify them) of your 7 books feature at least the main female character playing a sport.  Were you much of an athlete in high school?  How familiar were you with the sports you chose to feature in each one?

MK: I played soccer in high school, but I wasn't very good! I know a lot about softball, baseball, running, soccer, camping, and music, but very little about football and horse racing. I had to do a lot of research for CATCHING JORDAN and RACING SAVANNAH! 

OUATR: Taylor's love interest in this book is not only her best friend's older brother, but he's also her long-time crush.  Do you always have your character's romantic future planned out from the start or do they change as the story goes on? And how do you decide how they know the main character/their relationship with the main character to begin with?

MK: For the most part, it comes to me as I write. Only with my book Breathe, Annie, Breathe did I know how the relationship would work out before I ever started writing. With my new book Defending Taylor, I thought Taylor was going to date this hot Latino guy, but it didn't pan out because her brother's best friend Ezra showed up and took over. :) 

OUATR: One of my favorite things about your novels (apart from the amazing guys and the kick-ass girls) is that because they are companion novels we get those glimpses of the characters from previous novels after their stories have ended.  Do you as the author imagine the rest of you character's lives or do you not think much about what goes on after their books end until you peek back into their lives when writing a cameo?

MK: I definitely think about what's going on in their lives, but I also want to leave it a little open ended so readers can make their own guesses as to why their lives have turned out a certain way. I've been thinking about Jack and Savannah a lot lately, wondering what they are up to. They have a small cameo on Defending Taylor. The cameos are always a surprise to me, because I never know how characters know each other until it just happens naturally on the page.

OUATR: All of your novels work as independent stories but technically they are set in a particular order.  How do the novels fall on a time-line in relation to one another? 

MK: The way I see it, Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker, and Things I Can't Forget all took place about 5-6 years ago. Racing Savannah and Breathe, Annie, Breathe took place two years ago. Jesse's Girl took place last year. Defending Taylor is in the present day.

Fast Five:

1. What is your favorite rom-com movie (or TV show)?  That's so tough! Maybe Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon?

2. Do you have a favorite candy to eat/receive around Valentine's day?  I always love chocolate truffles! But I prefer Peeps around Easter time.

3. If you sent Valentine's day cards this year what theme would the be or who/what would they have on them? I've really been into X-Men lately. My cards would have Magneto on them. He's the best villain. ;-)

4. What adorable YA contemporary would you recommend / are you excited to read? I just finished PS - I LIKE YOU by Kasie West and I loved it! The main character is quirky and cool, and the love interest is so sweet and not what he seems on the outside.

5.Do you have a favorite romance trope? (ie friends to lovers, opposites attract, strangers falling in love, ect. It doesn't have to be what you wrote either.)  Friends to lovers is my absolute favorite trope...and I just might be working on a book about that right now. ;-)

The Book;

Title: Defending Taylor
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Series: Hundred Oaks #7
Published July 5, 2016
Add it on Goodreads

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.
Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

Buy the book on Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | The Book Depository 

The Author;

Growing up in Tennessee, MIRANDA KENNEALLY dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Find her on Her Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Giveaway;

I've been reading Miranda's novels since the beginning and I know for a fact that because they're from a smaller publisher they don't get as much press, which is a shame cause they're super good, so one person will win their choice of ANY of Miranda's novels currently out now, which means you get to pick from the following

All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below!

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Love YA Valentine's Feature - Day 2 + Giveaway

Today is day 2 of the Love YA Valentine's feature and I'm super excited about today's author.  She was actually the first person I asked to participate because her upcoming book sounds so amazingly adorable (and geeky) I can't wait to dive in.  Today I'm happy to present the lovely

Sarvenaz Tash

the author of three novels, including the forthcoming

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love

which sounds super cool!

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: Where did you come up with the idea for THE GEEK'S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVE?

Sarvenaz Tash: A few days after I had sold my previous book THREE DAY SUMMER, I was walking home with my husband and ruminating on what I could possibly follow it up with. Somehow or another the subject of New York Comic Con came up and bam...I realized I had just found a setting I would love to write about as much as Woodstock. (Plus it had the correlation of also taking place over three days.) The voice of my main character came to me almost instantly after that.

OUATR: You've incorporated geek pop-culture into this novel in such a huge way, why did you choose to add this element to your story? Do you have a favorite fandom/reference you added into the book?

ST: I'm just a geek and I love other geeks...I feel like I get them. To me, it's all about passion, and I find the fact that people can get so excited about fictional worlds and characters--and also learn so much about the real world through them--to be incredibly appealing. My favorite fandom is Harry Potter and, yup, it is mentioned quite a bit in the book.

OUATR:  This is your third book, and while your debut was actually a middle grade novel with paranormal elements your second (and most recent) was also a contemporary novel, although it was set in the 60's.  This one is set (to my knowledge) in modern times, what was the reason for the difference in time periods?

ST: Honestly, I just write what I love. I don't pay too much attention to genre. My first book I wrote because of all the Roald Dahl books I loved as a child. My second because I always wanted to go to Woodstock and that was the only way I knew how. This one came about because of my love of pop culture, John Hughes, and Comic Con and it just made sense to set it in the present.

OUATR: You play off the classic trope of at least one best friend being secretly in love with the other. What do you think it is about that story-line that people find so enjoyable?

ST: I think because it's pretty relatable. It's not hard to imagine that the person you spend the most time with, and learn to love as a friend, could one day elicit stronger feelings.

OUATR: As the book goes on Graham starts to think fictional love stories are not nearly as complicated as real ones (which, let's be honest, is probably NOT the case, I mean really). Who would your two main characters, Graham and Roxy, pick as the best fictional couple? What about you?

ST: They would definitely pick Charlie Noth and Althena--the sci-fi writer and shape-shifting alien that are the two main characters from their favorite comic series, The Chronicles of Althena. As for me, I'd have to go with a classic: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. 

Fast Five;

1. What is your favorite rom-com movie (or TV show)?  Oh, goodness. That's hard because there are many that I love. But I'd have to say that I find WHEN HARRY MET SALLY to be a near perfect movie. And also CLUELESS

2. Do you have a favorite candy to eat/receive around Valentine's day?  You can't go wrong with chocolate covered nuts in my opinion.

3. If you sent Valentine's day cards this year what theme would the be or who/what would they have on them? Well either Harry Potter or, if I'm being honest, my baby son who I take a million photos of a day and still can't get enough of!

4. What adorable YA contemporary would you recommend / are you excited to read? I loved THE ART OF LAINEY by Paula Stokes (in fact I read it a few times while I was writing GEEK'S GUIDE for contemporary inspiration). It's romantic, laugh out loud funny and deep--the perfect combination. I also really enjoy Kasie West's books and am looking forward to her next one P.S. I LIKE YOU.

5. Do you have a favorite romance trope? (ie friends to lovers, opposites attract, strangers falling in love, ect. It doesn't have to be what you wrote either.) I think my favorite is wrong first impressions--you know where they go from hating each other to falling in love. I'm a sucker for witty banter and I feel like those generally facilitate some of the best.

The Book;

Title: The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love
Author: Sarvenaz Tash
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: n/a
Published June 14, 2016
Add it on Goodreads

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy...Archie and Veronica...Althena and Noth......Graham and Roxy?
Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.
But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.
When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be...even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.

The Author;

Sarvenaz Tash was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. This means she got to spend most of college running around and making movies (it was a lot of fun). She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, copywriting, and professional tweeting. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Find her on Her Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Giveaway;

While THE GEEK'S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVE isn't out until June, which is a LONG ways away, I know, Sarvenaz has kindly offered up a copy of her first YA contemporary THREE DAY SUMMER that will go to one lucky winner that will hopefully tide you over until then. I assume it will also be signed, so there's that too.  All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter below!

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Love YA Valentine's Feature - Day 1 + Giveaway

Hey guys, sorry I haven't been around a lot, I had two midterms on the same day and at the same time I'm attempting to write a kick-ass essay to get into a local University, which is taking up a large part of my time.  Good news though, I totally owned both of my exams, so at least there's that! Between those things I haven't had a ton of time to read, but I'm hoping I will once I get this application in.  All of that being said I have been working on something super cool for you guys. 

Now, as you may know Valentine's Day is coming up, and while I plan on celebrating alone on my couch watching horror movies I do love a good book that's all about the fluffy romance, so I reached out to a few authors with books that fit that description and I was able to score a few interviews.  I haven't decided yet if I'll post them all in succession or if I'll split them up, two this week before Valentine's Day and two next week after it, but if you have a preference do let me know in the comments.  I've gathered four interviews with some pretty awesome authors to celebrate this not-really holiday and I hope that you guys will stick around and check them all out. 

Also, look at this adorable graphic I made! You guys, I'm super proud of myself for this.

Okay, so anyway, I initially thought I would only ask authors with books coming out this year, but then I thought that that was no fun, because you might not be able to read those books for a while, so I asked the author of one of my favorite books from LAST year to participate, and she just so happened to find the time to answer my questions, so for Day 1 of the Love YA (see what I did with the name there?) Valentine's feature I'm SO happy to present to you

Becky Albertalli

Becky is the author of the absolutely AMAZING novel

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

which is just about the most adorable book you'll ever read (or well, at least one of them).

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: I'm sure you get this question ALL the time, so my apologies for that, but I'm curious why you decided to write a novel from a gay teenage boy's POV, seeing as you are NOT a gay teenage boy.

Becky Albertali: It’s funny – I can’t quite remember making a conscious decision to write a gay teenage boy POV! It felt mostly like this character showed up in my head and became real for me, and he turned out to be a gay teenage boy who loves Oreos. J But one of the reasons I felt comfortable taking the risk of writing a gay boy POV is that I had years of experience working with the gay community as a psychologist. I never want my fiction to feel clinical, and I certainly didn’t draw upon those clinical experiences when creating Simon’s character, but I had that knowledge base that I could draw upon to better understand some of Simon’s experiences and to avoid stereotypes.

OUATR:  Simon is falling for a guy who he hasn't met (or at least, someone he doesn't know he's met), what prompted you to write the story where Simon didn't know who the person he might be falling in love with is? Do you think it's easier to fall in love with someone before you've actually met them in person or after?

BA: I actually have no idea which is easier! I think every person’s love story is different. In Simon’s case, I really did want to show this relationship unfolding online, because I think that’s an important (and under-explored) way that modern teens connect with each other. And it’s even more important for LGBTQIAP+ teens, especially those who live in communities where there aren’t many people who are visibly out. Kids like Simon may not be out, or they may not know how and where to find gay peers offline. For those teens who need it, the internet has made it possible to reach out to peers privately and anonymously.

OUATR: Unlike so many YA novels out there Simon knows he's gay from the start of the book, as opposed to figuring it out along the way.  What was your reason behind setting up the story that way?

BA: You know, I think that was all just part of Simon’s backstory. He figured it out in middle school. Some kids know sooner, and some put it together later. I guess that choice simply felt the most in-character for Simon.

OUATR: The romance you've written is just so gosh-darn adorable, how did you go about writing it?

BA: Thank you so much! I honestly have no idea. My creative process is a huge mystery to me. There were times when I was drafting pieces of the story (ESPECIALLY the email chapters), and the characters just started talking. I mostly just tried to connect with my own memories of having crushes and falling in love, and I tried to trust my instincts.

OUATR: Along with the romantic element of the novel a huge part of the book is about Simon and how he allows himself to be who he really is with other people.  To me the big takeaway of the novel was that embracing who you are is one of the most important things you can do, but I'm wondering what YOU hope people take away from SIMON and his story.

BA: I actually don’t have a specific takeaway message! I’ve found that different people will draw entirely different messages from the story, and I really love and value that. I think our life experiences shape us as readers. A book’s meaning truly varies based on the person reading it.

Fast Five;

1. What is your favorite rom-com movie (or TV show)?  So, this isn’t exactly a rom-com, but my OTP is Jim and Pam from the American version of The Office. I will never be over the perfection of that love story.

2.  Do you have a favorite candy to eat/receive around Valentine's day?  I’m pretty happy with most chocolate, but truthfully, I like Cadbury Mini Eggs better than Valentine candy! Sometimes grocery stores start getting them in around Valentine’s Day, too. J

3. If you sent Valentine's day cards this year what theme would the be or who/what would they have on them?  To be entirely honest: trains. Or trucks. I have two toddlers, so trains and trucks are basically my life right now.

4. What adorable YA contemporary would you recommend / are you excited to read?  A few that are so adorable, I can’t even think about them without smiling:

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

One that I’m really excited about: THE TROUBLE WITH DESTINY by Lauren Morrill. I’ve loved literally everything Lauren has ever written. This one’s been taunting me from my nightstand.

5. Do you have a favorite romance trope? (ie friends to lovers, opposites attract, strangers falling in love, ect. It doesn't have to be what you wrote either.)  I think I like a lot of the tropes, when they’re done well! But my favorite is probably slow burn friends to lovers. 

The Book;

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: n/a
Published April 7, 2015
Add it on Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

The Author;

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. She now lives with her family in Atlanta.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is her first novel.

Find her on Her Website | Twitter | Tumblr

The Giveaway;

You guys, this is a super duper AMAZING giveaway. Because I love Becky and her book so much I'm giving away a copy of SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA to one lucky winner but Becky, BECKY has said that she will get Simon himself to send a personalized valentine to the winner!  It's still considered bad form to enter you own giveaway, right? Because I REALLY want the thing. So you all better go enter!  (If you already have a copy of SIMON but you still want to enter for the personalized valentine go for it, you can just pick one of Becky's YA contemp picks).

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And be sure to check back tomorrow for another interview with another amazing YA contemporary author! (And a giveaway!)