If one subscribes to the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then the cover of Eileen Cook’s (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011) latest YA novel, The Education of Hailey Kendrick, releasing tomorrow January 4, 2010, says it all. Cover girl Hailey’s bubble is about to burst!
In a most engaging and relevant storyline, the author found inspiration in the classic novel The Scarlet Letter and its question of what happens when ostracized from your community you are forced to stand alone to discover who you really are? Of course there would be widespread repercussions as Eileen noted, “…how common it is for us to describe ourselves in relationship to other people. “‘I’m so-and-so’s daughter/sister/wife/friend’” and how our view of self can go through huge change when the people in our lives change.
“I wanted to write about a character who believed in playing it safe and felt she knew her place in the world and then suddenly finds that world turned upside down. How far would she go to get that life back and would she even want it back?”
In other words, as the tagline on the front cover states: Sometimes what you don’t know is everything.
This becomes Hailey Kendrick’s education and personal journey as the novel’s synopsis explains:
Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what’s expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way…and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.
Suddenly, Hailey’s perfect life — and her reputation–are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don’t trust her. Her boyfriend won’t even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she’s been dumped.
They say honesty is the best policy–but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?
Hailey is the “perfect” character to root for, just read how the literary trade reviews sing her praises:
“.. enormously appealing and great company throughout this breezy read…..the highest quality—like a gourmet truffle. Cook has whipped up a real treat.” - Kirkus Starred Review
“Cook coaxes considerable empathy for the otherwise privileged Hailey as she abandons the achievement treadmill to explore her independence.” - Publishers Weekly
Now here’s your opportunity to meet Hailey through an Excerpt of Chapter 1.
Without question Eileen is loved by many (see My Christmas Greeting to Eileen Cook) and respected by even more because of her warmth, generosity and basic, universal values. While the latter may not sound exciting or alluring, the author’s talent makes it so. For example The Education of Hailey Kendrick offers up themes and messages galore, including accepting responsibility for mistakes. That’s a life lesson for anyone, at any age, to learn and The Divining Wand asked the author how important it was to showcase that in Hailey’s education? And Eileen said:
“Character and integrity were a big issues in my family growing up. There were few things you could do that were worse than giving your word to someone and then breaking it. I wanted to write about a character who had a clearly defined sense of right and wrong. Hailey does something wrong in the beginning of the novel, regrets it and spends a good portion of the rest of the book trying to figure out how to make things right- versus making the situation worse.
“There are no easy answers to difficult questions. Like most of us Hailey wants to do the right thing, but isn’t always sure what that would be. Doing the right thing isn’t a one time choice- it is a lifetime of choosing and when you fail, choosing better the next time.”
Adults would naturally agree with this, but what about YA readers?
Well here is part of a November 23, 2010 Review posted by YA Book Nuts, Lori and Melissa:
“It also seemed that every time that Hailey tried to do the right thing somehow it always backfired on her and she would add to her problems instead of solving them. (I think I identified with this so much because I do it all of the time.)
“Needless to say, I really liked this book! It is the perfect choice for a quick read that makes you laugh and think at the same time. I can’t wait to see when Eileen Cook’s next book comes out…”
Aha, what lovely words and even better insight into teens who do indeed identify with Hailey’s predicament. Also there’s the acknowledgement of laughing and thinking at the same time. It’s a wining combination yet one I puzzled over, questioning how Eileen managed to raise major issues, successfully deal with them, and move the storyline forward while keeping “Hailey” fun as well as profound. And, may it be noted, there is not a whiff of preachy involved.
So what is this author’s secret, how does she write about serious matters and still entertain? According to Eileen, most writers have a gift in a particular area by either writing amazing description, dialogue, pacing and action, or bringing out emotions. However her personal gift is, “being the class clown.” As she further explains:
“I’ve always been “‘the funny one.’” (And I mean funny as in ha-ha versus funny weird.) When I write I have a hard time keeping the funny out. What I want to do as a writer is to meld the funny with serious and make a book that can both make someone laugh and think at the same time. I believe that many difficult issues are easier to consider if they are served up with a sense of humour. Humour can take the edge off and allow you to get closer. I think with each book I write I’m getting better at blending the funny with the serious. Writing really is a craft, I feel there is still so much for me to learn.
Yet within the pages of The Education of Hailey Kendrick, the author — in her very best book yet — provides wisdom for fans of all ages. Please join Hailey in her life’s education, share the book with a teen, and together you’re likely to discover/remember how delightful and good each day can be!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Eileen Cook’s The Education of Hailey Kendrick in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.