Like It Never Happened by Emily Adrian
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: June 2nd 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction, High School, Chick Lit, Theatre, Fiction
Stereotypes, sexuality, and destructive rumors collide in this smart YA novel for fans of Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl, Siobhan Vivian’s The List, and E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.
When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.
Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.
When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time writing, but I almost never wrote fiction. I knew that I wanted to be a novelist someday, but whenever I tried to bestow my ideas upon a made-up person with a made-up life, my sentences became stiff and stilted and bad. So instead of writing stories, I wrote epic letters to my best friend, long-winded diary entries, and notes to my mother—which I left on the kitchen counter, because texting was not yet a thing.
I don’t think I understood that these daily records were practice for the books I would eventually write, until I discovered my local library’s copy of Feeling Sorry For Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty. Told entirely in letters, notes, and mysterious messages from organizations such as “The Society of People Who Are Definitely Going to Fail High School (and Most Probably Life as Well)”, Feeling Sorry For Celia stars a protagonist, Elizabeth Clarry, who, to me, feels entirely non-fictional. Reading the book, it’s hard to remember that Elizabeth is not a real person, and I think that’s because the novel’s form allows us to see Elizabeth’s life in high definition. We read the notes in which her mother begs her to wear “seven pairs of stockings,” to which Elizabeth retorts: “You have some kind of body temperature problem.” A scolding message from “The Association of Teenagers” shows us the embarrassing details of Elizabeth’s bedroom (Little Mermaid duvet cover), and in letters between Elizabeth and her mandatory pen-pal from a rival school, we hear all about gratuitous homework assignments and adventures on public transportation.
Like It Never Happened is not an epistolary novel, but I do think that a lot of its humor is rooted in the particulars of Rebecca’s world—tiny exchanges and observations. And the result, I hope, is a level of authenticity that’s totally Jaclyn Moriarty-inspired.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is another novel that I first picked up when I was about fourteen, and one that I re-read shortly before writing the first draft of Like It Never Happened. I Capture the Castle is about seventeen-year-old Cassandra, who lives a very isolated life in a dilapidated English castle with her depressed dad, eccentric stepmother, and older sister. When two unmarried brothers inherit the property and become the family’s new landlords, Cassandra watches her older sister puzzle over which guy would make the best husband. Cassandra doesn’t anticipate falling for Simon, the man who becomes her sister’s boyfriend, or the extent to which her feelings will grow even after Simon and Rose are engaged.
I Capture the Castle is one of my favorite depictions of a character falling for someone who’s off limits—particularly because it shows that Cassandra’s feelings for Simon don’t stem from instant physical attraction, but from the conversations they have when they’re alone. Dodie Smith’s novel is messy, full of people who are in love with the wrong people and totally unsure of when they crossed that line. The relationships in Like It Never Happened are similarly painted in shades of grey. Ultimately, I think my novel is about Rebecca’s struggle to identify the line between friendship and love—the same question addressed with such heart and complexity in I Capture the Castle.
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Emily currently lives in Toronto with her husband and their dog named Hank. Like It Never Happened is her debut novel.