Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Author Spotlight: What You Left Me by Bridget Morrissey + Interview

Posted by HelloJennyReviews at 9:00 AM
Bridget Morrissey lives in Los Angeles, California, but hails from Oak Forest, Illinois, a small yet mighty suburb just southwest of Chicago. When she's not writing, she can be found coaching gymnastics, reading in the corner of a coffee shop, or headlining concerts in her living room. Her debut novel, WHAT YOU LEFT ME, comes out June 2018 from Sourcebooks Fire. Her second novel, A MAP BACK TO US, will follow in 2019. She is represented by Taylor Haggerty of Root Literary.

Title: What You Left Me
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Paranormal
Author: Bridget Morrissey
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication: June 5th 2018
Cover Rating: 5/5
Reading format: Provided ARC

What You Left Me by Brigid Morrissey is one of those Young Adult Contemporary books where you want to talk to someone about it but you have no idea what to say that won’t be a spoiler. Have you read If I Stay by Gayle Forman? If yes, then you will LOVE this book. If no, then you will still probably love this book. It is a contemporary, yes, but it has some paranormal elements that make for one heck of a sad, but impactful, story. This is one book you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

Graduation day, oh man I definitely hated that day. You have to dress nice, wear a heavy gown over those nice clothes and then spend hours sitting outside in the heat and sun and sweat your butt off. All for what? To get a piece of paper saying you passed the worst part of your life? Graduation day might be a great experience for some people but for most, it’s just another thing to sit through. Luckily for Petra and Martin, they have each other to keep company with while, what seems like the largest school EVER, graduates. 

Petra and Martin were two very different people but I think these two very different people needed each other. I can’t help but wonder how their lives would have differed if they had met sooner. Maybe the horrible thing that happened to Petra never would have happened. Maybe Martin wouldn’t have gotten in the car with his intoxicated best friend. But without that last part, this would be a very different book and I sort of, kind of like this book the way it is, even though it is extremely sad.

I love the aspect of the book where just a chance meeting with someone can have such a huge impact on your life. It wasn’t just for Petra and Martin, it was for a lot of things. A lot of people in this book met because of Martin’s accident but a lot of people also suffered because of it. One moment in life can change things so drastically, whether for the better or worse. Life is made up of a ton of these tiny moments and I really loved how the book pointed that out. 

Spencer was Martin’s best friend, he was the one who caused the accident, and I think he was the one most impacted by this entire thing. Yes, you would think that causing a car accident because you were drinking would be extremely impactful but he has to live with the fact that he might have killed people and then he has to live with the fact that he no longer has his best friend and then he has to think about all the people who will be missing Martin if he does die. That is a lot of pain to bear alone. I felt really bad for him but at the same time, he got what he deserved for drinking and driving. 

In the end, I am so glad I requested to read this book. It was a truly special experience for me. The book ended differently than If I Stay by Gayle Forman did and that ending made the book a lot more memorable than the other book. READ. THIS. BOOK.

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.

1) What inspired you to write What You Left Me?
For years, I'd had an idea for a story about the people we meet in our dreams. I find it fascinating that we can dream up people we've never encountered in life, and we can have a full, rich connection with these imaginary figures. That was my starting point for What You Left Me, as the main characters, Martin and Petra, communicate primarily through dreams. I didn't want them to be complete strangers in life, though, so I took another story element I love: serendipitous meetings. I wanted Martin and Petra to have one fateful, knockout moment together before everything changes and dreams become the only way they can keep that connection sparking.

2) Why did you choose teenage drinking and driving a plot for your book?
When thinking about how all the pieces of this story would fit together, there had to be a concrete reason for the primary mode of communication to be dreams. I knew first that I wanted Martin to be the one who is unconscious. When fleshing out the characters further, it became clear that Martin was the kind of kid who didn't see his own potential. A leader who let himself be a follower, if only because it kept life simple. His best friend, Spencer, is a bit of a toxic influence on Martin, but Martin allows it because he loves him and they have a storied history together. Spencer brings the drinks to graduation, but Martin participates. Martin agrees to get in the car with him when he knows Spencer shouldn't drive. Martin is lovable, but his flaws catch up to him. A car accident as a result of drinking is an extreme way to highlight that, but I wanted Martin and Spencer's actions to have very real consequences. Because Martin is in a coma for a good portion of the story, he has a lot of self-reflection to do. Drinking and driving is a problem regardless of age, but there is something particularly resonant about two eighteen-year-olds, having just graduated high school, making their first mistake in the real world, and having that mistake alter the course of their lives forever.

3) If Petra and Martin had met sooner, do you think their lives would have been different?
Absolutely. They become each other's safe space. Petra makes Martin more sure of himself. Martin makes Petra less guarded. If they'd met sooner, Martin might have had the backbone he needed to stand up to Spencer.

4) What are some of your thoughts and feelings on how much the Young Adult genre has changed and adapted over the years?(from babysitters club to your current book, perhaps)
I love the way Young Adult fiction has evolved. The quality of work being produced in this genre continues to stun and inspire me. There's always a new way to tell a story. Everyone has a valuable perspective. The more seats we put at the table, the better and smarter and stronger we all become. I'm a millennial, and I've been lucky enough to grow up with this evolution. It really touches my heart to see the amazing generation below me receive exposure to this kind of content even earlier in life than I did, and they are already better for it. More sure of themselves and their identity and opinions in this tumultuous world. Generation Z is just beginning to enter the literary game, and they are going bring those perspectives to this genre and continue to make Young Adult the best place for emotionally resonant storytelling. I can't wait to see how it continues to grow. 

5) Are you currently working on any new books?
Yes! I have a book coming out in 2019 called A Map Back To Us. It's set in a small, isolated desert town where secrets are currency and history is only as honest as the person telling it. Five years prior to the start of the story, our main character, Olivia Severton, witnesses the tragic, accidental death of her friend, Marley Bricket. The book picks up on Martey's fifth annual memorial. Questions are raised as to what really happened to Marley, and Olivia reunites her group of childhood friends to pursue the answers. They set out on a scavenger hunt of sorts that takes them all across their town, uncovering pieces of the puzzle and reopening old wounds. Both What You Left Me and A Map Back To Us follow large friend groups made up of messy, loving, strong, curious teenagers. Both deal with the after-effects of tragedy and the way trauma shapes us. Both celebrate the power of friendship and the magic of being truly seen by another person. Both also happen to feature orange houses, broken noses, letters, people breaking into homes, and meaningful midnight wanderings down empty streets.


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