Monday, April 11, 2011

Author Crushing: Eileen Cook

Sometimes it’s funny how I end up reading a certain book. My TBR pile is so big it’s threatening to knock over my TV. So I have many, many books vying for my attention every time I try to make a selection. My greatest love is YA contemporary and often when I’m browsing the new releases in a bookstore, I’m discouraged by the lack of this genre (everyone seems to be on the paranormal bandwagon these days) so I grab any contemp I see. I’m pretty sure this is how I came to buy The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook. It’s been in my pile for a couple months now. Then recently, I bought a whole stack of books at a local Borders’ closing sale (sad) – one of which was Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, one of Eileen’s older books.

So (unnecessarily-long story short) I didn’t read either book immediately, but last week I was in the mood for a fast and fun read so I chose Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. And boy am I glad I did!

Synopsis from jacket flap:

In the final weeks of eighth grade, Lauren Wood made a choice. She betrayed her best friend, Helen, in a manner so publicly humiliating that Helen had to move to a new town just to save face. Ditching Helen was worth it, though, because Lauren started high school as one of the It Girls – and now, at the start of her senior year, she’s the cheerleading captain, the quarterback’s girlfriend, and the undisputed queen bee. Lauren has everything she’s ever wanted, and she has forgotten all about her ex-best friend.

But Helen could never forget Lauren. After three years of obsessing, she’s moving back to her old town. She has a new name and a new look, but she hasn’t dropped her old grudges. She has a detailed plan to bring down her former BFF by taking away everything that’s ever been important to Lauren – starting with her boyfriend.

Watch out, Lauren Wood. Things are about to get bitchy.

A line I loved: “Sunday mornings the Wood family could be counted on to go to church no matter the weather. If a once-in-a-century blizzard struck the area, then you could be Mr. Wood would purchase a dogsled team and mush his family there to prove their commitment to being upstanding members of the community.”

While the lesson Helen learns in this story is predictable from the start, this is a hilarious read that will make the day of any teenager who has ever hated the popular girls. Helen’s voice is perfect and this book is fast-paced and fun.

Of course the moment I finished this, I realized I owned another book by the same author, and I eagerly began reading The Education of Hailey Kendrick. And this was just as good as her previous one.

Synopsis from jacket flap:

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?

A line I loved: “I was going to be so good I would make Mother Teresa look like an escapee from a Girls Gone Wild video.”

One thing that made this book so great: there’s a hot boy. Of course, there’s also Hailey’s personal struggle to do the right thing, which I know is a common YA theme. But Eileen keeps the plot interesting and realistic, and has you rooting for Hailey. She also deals with a family issue that I’m sure many teenagers could relate to.

Naturally, I had to order Eileen’s first book, What Would Emma Do?, online and read it the day it arrived. And this one was amazing. One of those books that’s so good, that when I finished I was so full of inspiration and wanting to write something that would touch people the way this book touched me, so I went straight for my computer and worked on my current WIP for the rest of the night.

From the back cover:

There is no greater sin than kissing your best friend’s boyfriend. So when Emma breaks that golden rule, she knows she’s messed up big-time. Especially since she lives in the smallest town ever, where everyone knows everything about everybody else… and especially since she maybe kinda wants to do it again. Now her best friend isn’t speaking to her, her best guy friend is making things totally weird, and Emma is running full speed toward certain social disaster. This is so not the way senior year was supposed to go.

Time to pray for a minor miracle. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time for Emma to stop trying to please everyone around her, and figure out what she wants for herself.

A line I loved: “I want to go officially on the record that if I ever say high school was the best time of my life, you have my complete permission to take me out back and shoot me.”

I loved this one the best because it dealt with organized religion, which is something I have strong opinions about. Emma struggles with her own faith when she starts to realize that the people in her small town are hypocritical and judgmental – and they seem to be using their “faith” as an excuse for everything. I was outraged by what was happening in this town, but I enjoyed cheering Emma on as she found the courage to fight for what she believed was right.

One thing I noticed after writing out these synopses was that all three of them were very… I don’t want to say misleading, but they just didn’t capture the heart of each story. Read these books! They will not disappoint.

In short (ha!), I now have a new author to watch, which is exciting. What makes this so great is that both reader-me and writer-me heart Eileen. I read in many, many genres – but I write YA contemporary. While reading in general helps with your own writing skills, reading in your specific genre helps immensely. And I’m always on the hunt for new work in my favorite genre.

PS: Eileen has a website and she blogs at

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