Saturday, March 24, 2018

Author Spotlight: And She Was by Jessica Verdi + Interview

Posted by HelloJennyReviews at 9:00 AM

Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dogs. Visit her at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jessverdi.

Title: And She Was
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary LGBTQ+
Author: Jessica Verdi
Publisher: Point
Publication: March 27th 2018
Cover Rating: 3/5
Reading format: Provided ARC
Goodreads | Amazon

And She Was by Jessica Verdi is the heart-shattering story of Dara and her mother, Millie. Dara is home for the summer and she somehow stumbles across her birth certificate that states her mother is actually her biological father. This sends Dara down a path of destruction as she tried to piece together what is going on. Why did her mother keep a family from her? Why did she change her name and essentially disappear? Who is her mother, truly?

Dara is your basic main character except for the fact that she excels at Tennis. Her talent and love for Tennis lead her to discover her birth certificate. Which in turn lead her to find out that her mother isn't exactly who she has been saying she is. Well, she technically is, but she has an entire past that Dara doesn't know about. Including the fact that her mother is her biological father. But finding out about her mother is only part of her problem. She also has to figure out who she is in all of this and what she wants from this world. She also has a bit of a problem with guys.

This book was insane for me. Normally when you read a Young Adult book about a transgendered individual, that person is the teenage main character. With this book, the transgender person is the parent. Seeing things from a child's point of view was very eye-opening and heartbreaking all at once. Millie, the mother, kept her transition and family a secret from her daughter. Normally, I would be really angry with a situation like this but this isn't exactly a situation I am familiar with. I would say it was wrong of Millie to keep family away from Dara but in the case of this very specific situation, I think what she did was right. It was a very toxic situation and Dara did not need to grow up around that. 

I feel like Dara was fairly selfish and immature throughout this book. Yes, she did just find out some pretty life-changing stuff, but she didn't really stop to think about why her mother might have done the things she did. She just went off on her own because she felt entitled to this family she never knew about; even though she was NOT emotionally or mentally mature enough to handle the situation. She was also pretty immature when it came to handling her own personal relationships. She was just one of those characters that made me angry but I also felt bad for her at the same time.

In the end, I was so happy that Dara came to her senses and realized that money cannot buy love or happiness. She grew a lot during this book, it just sucks that she had to learn things the hard way. 

Overall, I gave the book 4/5 stars.

1) Where did the inspiration for AND SHE WAS come from?
Several places, really. My agent reached out to me several years ago with the tiniest nugget of an idea for this story. But I've always cared deeply about transgender acceptance (and LGBTQ+ issues in general), and as more and more people in my life have come out as trans or gender non-conforming, I knew I wanted to write a book that would contribute to the conversation. I also write a lot about identity within family, so this mother/daughter story felt right to me.

2) If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of your life what would you pick and why?
Such a hard question! Haha. I'm a vegetarian, and I love soup—so if it's not too much of a cheat, I'd probably go with various types of vegetarian soup. 

3) Please tell us 5 random facts about yourself.
I love tattoos, and get a new one each time I get a new book contract.
My dogs Billie and Gloria are both named after feminist icons. 
I volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.
I am Armenian and Italian.
I'm obsessed with Australian TV shows.

4) Out of all of your books, who is your favorite character and why?
Ahh, it's so impossible to choose! I feel like I always love the newest/most recent characters the most, because they're freshest in my mind and heart, so right now I'd probably choose Mellie, the mom from AND SHE WAS.
5) Are you currently working on any new books?
Yes, I'm working on a new contemporary YA novel right now, and I also have a picture book coming out next year. It's called THE HAIRCUT, and it's about a young transgender boy coming out to his parents. I co-wrote it with my friend Rachel Lyons, based on her son's experiences.


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