Keek’s life was totally perfect.
Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.
With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right.
Oh, Arlaina Tibensky, how do I love thee? Your debut novel, And Then Things Fall Apart, is quirky, moody, authentic, resonant, and laugh-out-loud funny. You are lucky that you are a delight, or I'd be seriously jealous.
*(Also? Arlaina is brave and adorable, as the below pic of her teenaged years can attest.)
Contemp people, if you only read one Bell-Jar-obsessed-virgin-endures-the-Worst.-Summer.- Ever-via-vintage-typewriter-and-a-healthy-dose-of-humor novel this season, let it be ATTFA. Need more convincing? Here's Arlaina herself to talk about how she came to writing:
The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name
When I was 13years old, I fell madly, passionately, forever in love with books and reading the way shy, introverted, church-going good-girls fall for the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The one with the motorcycle and the hickeys on his neck and On The Road in the back pocket of his black jeans. Entirely. Completely. Body and soul. I was inflamed with desire. It was a love no one but us (me and books and reading) could ever understand. I was inflamed with booklust. More! More! More! A book a month, a book a week, two a week and then in summer a book a day till I was drunk, sore and numb with words and their seductive power.
Sadly, I grew up in a world without Harry Potter. I know. Go ahead, weep, pity me, view me as a relic from another age, a sad time before radio waves, HBO, and penicillin. Luckily, I was a teenager during a Golden Age of YA fiction. In high school I befriended a beautiful scoliosis-ridden girl named Deenie, joined a gang of testosterone-addled gang of Greasers called The Outsiders, and killed a man aka The Pigman by breaking his heart and also by smashing his dead wife’s porcelain pig collection to smithereens.
And I loved it.
I also loved A Separate Peace. The Bluest Eye. Romeo and Juliet. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, age 13 ¾ . As an actual young adult I was open and starved for real life experience and the best and safest way I knew how achieve it was through books. And not just any books, but gripping and well-written contemporary young adult fiction. (And I am including Shakespeare because I can’t leave him out). I didn’t actually have to fall in love with a jerk and lose my virginity- I just had to read Judy Blume’s Forever. I didn’t have to figure out how to grow up among a bunch of godamned phonies in post WWII New York City- I just had to read Catcher in the Rye. Was I alone in how crazy I felt all the time, how passionate and snarky and confused I was at my catholic-co-ed-college-prep high school? No! I had Esther Greenwood in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar to keep me company at in the school cafeteria in all her insane, avocado eating, writerly glory.
Today I feel exactly the same way about books and reading as I did then. And it is this love, this passionate affair between words on a page and my brain that made me a writer of contemporary young adult fiction. It’s like reading and my brain got married and we had a baby and we named it And Then Things Fall Apart. Right now, we’re trying for #2!
Arlaina Tibensky is the world’s oldest teenager. She lives in NYC where she curates the Pen Parentis Literary Salon at the Libertine Library. Her debut YA novel AND THEN THINGS FALL APART, about how Sylvia Plath and an old typewriter usher a reluctant virgin through the worst summer of her freaking life, is out now with Simon & Schuster. Visit her at arlainatibensky.blogspot.com and on Twitter @ArlainaT.