One of the most exciting parts about being a debut author is getting to watch other people, who you don’t know, read your book. (It’s also one of the worst parts, but that’s a whole other guest post). It’s been so, so incredible, getting to read lovely reviews of my work and knowing that people actually like the thing I’ve been working on for so long.
My debut, HAZEL HILL IS GONNA WIN THIS ONE, has only been out for a little while, but I was lucky enough to get a lot of really encouraging and kind reviews in the lead-up to publication. Beyond all of the good feelings they gave me, though, I noticed a lot of them had something in common; they call Hazel and her story “important.”
So, here’s the thing. I agree. I think Hazel’s important, and I think the story of Hazel (and her friends Ella and Riley) standing up to a golden boy who’s been harassing the girls in her school is important. It is now, and it always has been, crucial to talk to young people about sexual harassment and to let them know that they’ll be believed if they choose to come forward. Wonderfully, people have been singing Hazel’s praises for the way she stands up for herself and her friends, and the way she’s so sure of her lesbian identity at such a young age. I think both of those things are so important, and I’m really, really glad that other people think the same thing.
But Hazel (and Ella, and Riley, and all of the girls in their school) are also important just by virtue of existing. These girls are just as important when they’re eating pizza in bed as they are when they’re standing up and making change.
At its heart, HAZEL HILL IS GONNA WIN THIS ONE is a friendship story. Hazel begins the book assuming that she’s too busy and smart and interesting to waste her time being friends with the girls she goes to school with. That’s right: Hazel’s not like other girls.
I wanted to lean into that, when I was writing this book. As embarrassing as it is to look back on now, I was exactly like Hazel. I scoffed at middle school relationships and thought that I was the smartest person in every room. I thought I was too interesting to like “mainstream” clothes and music and I made that extremely known.
In reality, though, I was just scared. If I enjoyed the music everyone else did, what if someone thought I was a fake fan? If I dressed like everyone else did, people might actually look at me instead of my red and black striped leg warmers (yes, really), and if they were actually looking at me, then they might not like what they saw.
Hazel’s greatest triumph, to me, isn’t actually what she does to Tyler (don’t get me wrong, it’s an EXTREMELY close second!). It’s the fact that she learns how to push past that embarrassment and confusion everyone feels when they’re 12 and allows herself to be vulnerable enough to form genuine friendships. As I wrote, I wanted to make sure we see Hazel’s journey, even when she doesn’t – and I really hope you’re as proud of her as I am when you get to the end.
Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour via the information on the banner below. Hazel Hill Is Gonna Win This One is available to purchase from all good booksellers now. Review to follow soon.