Saturday, April 23, 2022

Blog Tour: The Glass Stone (The Jeweled Fairytale Retellings #3) by Sara Michaels

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Glass Stone by Sara Michaels. This tour was organized by Lola's Blog Tours. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a fantastic guest post about the young adult genre. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
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Title: The Glass Stone
Series: The Jeweled Fairytale Retellings #3
Author: Sara Michaels
Publication Date: April 5th 2022
Print Length: 271 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
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Power can take many forms, but sometimes the greatest magic comes from inside you.

Asha has been a servant for the cruel Duke Bryce for as long as she can remember, and when he married Queen Ilma of the Wind Kingdom, she was dragged to the castle with him and his daughters.

Now, the death of the queen has thrown the castle into panic: if her son, Prince Aither, doesn’t marry before his 18th birthday, the throne will go to Duke Bryce.

Prince Aither knows he must choose a wife, and he’s resigned to his fate. But Duke Bryce has his own ideas about who his bride should be, and if he gets his way, no one will be happy.

Asha is used to watching everything unfold from her place in the kitchen, but she soon finds herself on an unexpected quest set to change her life forever.

Meanwhile, Prince Aither must find a way to make the best of what seems like a hopeless situation and use his powerful magic as a force for good in the kingdom.

The Glass Stone is a magical tale of hope and love inspired by the traditional story of Cinderella. Sometimes, just a little bit of magic is all you need to change the world.

Lose your head in the clouds with Asha and Aither on their magical journey.

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EXCERPT:
Surrounded by glittery moonlight, a woman in ivory and gold stood at the top of the stairs and caught Aither’s breath. Mysteriously hidden behind a snow white, feather embellished mask, the woman gazed around the room. Something about her reminded Aither of Asha, but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was.

“Who’s that?” Curra asked, holding his ale a few inches from his mouth.

The woman caught Aither’s gaze and the air around him stilled. Who was she?

Their eyes locked. She took her first step down the grand staircase. Aither took two steps forward. Her gown hugged her bodice snuggly, then abruptly flared out at the waist with two thin feathered straps that connected the lace and feather sleeves. A cathedral train of faint multicolored feathers followed her down the stairs and the entire room watched.

Aither handed his drink to Curra and moved to meet her at the bottom of the stairs. Curra whispered something about Asha at him as he walked away, and a pang of guilt hit him. But something about this woman drew him to her, like a magnet, like a Firebrute to war. But this call, this pull, wasn’t as callous as when one ventures off into the unknown. This was a calmness, a familiarity that called to him with hope and kindness, with patience and understanding.

And it reminded him of Asha.

A mask hid most of her face, so her supple lips were all Aither could see. Unlike the others he’d danced with, hers weren’t expressionless and wry or playing coy to please him. No, her smile was wistful and bashful, polite yet fierce, and Aither moved across the ballroom floor, avoiding waving hands and whispered reminders about the long line of cold women still awaiting their turn.

At the bottom of the stairs, Aither glanced up at her. Trembling, he extended his hand and bowed his head slightly toward the ground. When he lifted his head back up to meet her gaze, butterflies swarmed inside him as their smiles met.

“Would you like a dance?” Aither asked.

Behind him, someone cleared his throat, and he spun around, hand still outstretched toward the dazzling woman. When her hand momentarily touched his, it was shaky—was it reflective of her nervousness?

“The dance, please…” Duke Bryce said, his airy, arrogant voice echoing throughout the room, like he’d used his Wind gift to amplify it. Aither turned to the girl, who bowed gracefully and low. As she kicked up her leg and extended her hands, Aither held his breath. If she got the dance wrong, he already knew he’d speak out against Duke Bryce, allow her to at least try again or to do away with the silly tradition. He had rejected nothing else, and Aither hoped that if he pushed the subject, the council would cave to his wishes. But as the woman ended the dance and positioned her feet toward Aither, he let out his breath and looked to the council for their nod of approval.

The instant they accepted her dance, Aither extended his hand toward her once again. As the mysterious girl accepted it, a feather caressed his skin and sent shivers throughout his entire body. He pulled her onto the lacquer-textured cloud floor, and the nervousness that had almost consumed him faded. Renewed with a fresh burst of courage, Aither wrapped his arm around the woman and swayed to the thrumming rhythm of the classical string quartet that was somewhere around them. As they spun, the entire room fell away in the background, and all Aither could focus on was the cute, subtle smile of the woman in his arms.

“What is your name?” he heard himself ask before he could stop himself. The questions that had burned on his lips all night were finally able to come out.

She simpered back shyly, almost nervously, as she blushed away. “I’ll tell you…” she teased. “When there are fewer eyes and ears that can overhear us.”

Her voice made him think twice, made him narrow his attention on the girl, but there was no way Asha could be there. She wasn’t Wind gifted. Aither scoffed softly. “I eagerly await those moments, then.” They spun around, and Aither slid his foot to the right, before dropping the woman so low that her dress brushed the cloud floor. He sprang her back up and brought her inches from his face. Smelling of pine and rose, serene closeness washed over him. The pit in his stomach, that had hardened after the endless dances with cold women who refused to let him know them, softened. “But I’d like to know who I’d be partnered with the rest of my life.”

Perfectly in tune with the beat, Aither lifted her up in the air and her fluttery feather dress seemed to make her weightless as she floated. “Quite admirable,” she said when they met at the ground, both of Aither’s hands around her waist to keep her secure. Her lips crept upward into a guilty smile, and the parts of her face that weren’t hidden by her mask turned a bright crimson. “Then ask away, other things.” She let her sentence trail and Aither’s mind went wild with questions.

As they danced, as they spun and circled the ballroom again and again, Aither felt the heaviness that had surrounded him lighten more and more, and the stars above shone down on them through the breaks in the ceiling that let in the cool night air.

“What’s your… perfect day?” Aither asked.

The woman closed her eyes and breathed in a calm, refreshing breath. When she opened them again, starling brown eyes that matched her auburn hair stared back at him, into his soul, into every crevice of his mind.

Aither breathed out. Just like Asha.

Large and expressive, her eyes scanned his face, unhindered by the masks every other attendee wore. “My perfect day…” she started slowly, her sweet voice sounding like it was on the verge of choking back sorrow. “Is spent with friends.” Her eyes sparkled. “With those whom I love more than anything in the world. The ones that have nothing but kindness, but compassion in their hearts.”

The perfect answer… Aither thought to himself as he dipped her low once again.

A thought crossed his mind as he searched for another question. “What about family?”

The woman’s eyes now teemed with sorrow. “Family… exists inside.” She pressed a pointed finger into Aither’s chest, and the smile that had quickly faded from her face crept back around the edge of her mouth.

“Since my mother’s passing, I’ve come to realize that.” The grief Aither had pressed down for so long, the guilt that crept into him from not visiting his mother’s obelisk more, saddened him. “It’s been rough these last few…”

“Months,” the woman finished for him.

Aither glanced up quickly.

“I think the entire kingdom has felt her absence.” Her eyes dropped to the ground, as if ashamed of speaking so unabashedly. She opened her mouth as if she wanted to say something, but instead gritted her teeth and glanced over Aither’s shoulder, toward the dais where Duke Bryce now sat.

When had he popped back in?

Aither slowed their dance and pulled her closer. “Don’t ever be afraid to speak your mind, not to me.”

The woman glanced over Aither’s shoulder and for the first time in however long, he realized they weren’t entirely alone. “But Duke Bryce—”

“Duke Bryce is but a temporary nuisance upon our kingdom.”

“But if you don’t choose a queen…”

Aither halted their dance and took her hands in his. “This…” he started but stopped. With Duke Bryce over his shoulder and everyone around them staring and gawking like hungry pigeons, they would never get to know each other. “Trust me…” he said and used his magic to push them off the clouds.

The pillow in the sky let them through and he closed his eyes quickly to avoid getting any cloud or water in his face. The woman beside him tensed, and Aither hugged her closer to him until they were through the clouds and in the open night air.

“It’s beautiful up here…” she said in awe, gazing out at the night.

“Sometimes I come up here just to think,” Aither said. “To just…” He glanced down at the castle and kingdom below them. “Just to get away, just to…”

“Prince Aither…”

Aither waved his hand between them and scoffed.

“I know, I know,” she said. As she let out a soft chortle, a wide grin spread across her face. “Nonsense formalities and all.”

Aither cocked his head to the side and narrowed his gaze. “I said that… to a… friend of mine a while back.” Aither had told many people not to use formalities with him, but the chuckle in her voice and the lightness in her tone instantly reminded him of Asha. But if this woman was Asha, she would tell him, right?

The woman pulled back a little. “I’m sorry,” she finally said, as the silence chilled the air between them. “I was just saying that…” She shook her head. “Aither, I need to tell you something.”

Her eyes burned into Aither’s, and he wanted that moment to last an eternity in the skies. As he stared into her brown eyes, they reminded him of someone, of Asha, again, and her image flashed in his mind. He turned away and stared out at the darkened horizon.

Aither closed the small gap between them. “Of course, anything.”

She breathed in, and Aither watched her shoulders rise and fall.

“You remind me of a friend,” he remarked, and the girl stopped and held her breath.

“A friend?” she asked. “Of whom?” Her voice was soft but rigid, with a hint of curiosity.

“Yes, a dear friend, someone more than…” His eyes shot up.

“And she’s special to you…”

Aither nodded slowly as the moon danced overhead. “She’s… integral to the castle.” Aither turned to the mysterious woman and closed her hands in his, tightening his grip around them softly. “But that’s a problem for a king, not a prince,” he continued, though part of him didn’t really believe the words coming from his mouth. “I want to continue to get to know you. What’s the worst mistake you’ve made in your life?”

Eyes wide with surprise, the woman exhaled and shifted a little. “Are you sure you—”

“Yes,” Aither answered. “Before I make a decision that will last me a lifetime, I want to know what I’m getting myself into.” He regarded the pair of deep russet eyes staring back at him, then looked up at the gleaming stars around them. Those stars and the endless sky above were like forever, and the warmth radiating from the woman beside him was a gift he’d never expected when he had woken up that morning. “Don’t you?”

Her lips curled into a smile as she closed her eyes briefly in thought. “The worst mistake I’ve ever made… is what I’m doing right now…” She exhaled and her breath mixed with the almost electric air around them and sent a sticky chill through Aither.

“What…?” Aither said breathlessly.

Her lips curved upward as she shakily turned her face away and glanced down. “Aither, I’m sorry I have to ruin this moment, but…” She reached up and untied the mask from her face.

“Asha?” Aither’s stomach lit up with butterflies and his mouth dropped open a bit as he recognized her more and more. The deep brown eyes, her soft russet hair that always sparkled in the light, no matter how dull it was. Her ability to always say the right thing, to be the reminder Aither always needed.

A flurry of emotion overwhelmed him, and Aither lunged forward, wrapping his arms around Asha and letting out a sigh of relief in her presence. But before he could say or do anything else, she pulled away.

“I need to tell you something,” she said, her eyes deadly serious as she stared straight into him. “Duke Bryce, I don’t know what he’s planning, but there’s vene mushroom involved.”

“Vene mushrooms,” Aither whispered, remembering a long-ago story about the poisonous vene mushrooms the Gaoths had once used against the Zephyrus clan in the battles between the two ruling families.

“I think he plans to poison you, to take your crown.”

Aither opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

“Aither?” she asked.

“How… how do you know any of this?” Aither asked.

Asha reached into her dress and pulled a scrunched and matted piece of paper out of a hidden pocket. “Mouser gave me this.” Asha held it out to Aither, who reached for it.

Aither opened the crumpled paper, but there was nothing up but blurry black ink.

“Oh,” Asha sighed. “It must have—the water must have, you know, messed it all up.” Asha grabbed the note and tried to resurrect it, but whatever had been once written on it was long gone.

“Who’s Mouser?” Aither asked.

“My… friend,” Asha said. “A mouse, in the castle.”

Aither’s mind immediately remembered the mouse that had appeared in his room—was that Mouser?

Teary-eyed, Asha glanced up at him. “I swear it was here,” she pleaded. “That the Sun Kingdom Vizier sent this note, and that it said someone was coming, that he sent a courier with the vene mushrooms. Then,” Asha took a deep breath and continued. “Then Duke Bryce, he blasted out of the kitchen doors, Mouser scampered away, Voda jumped in front of me. She tried to save me. Duke Bryce, he sent me away, in a tunnel of wind.”

“A Windstream?” Aither asked, everything coming together in his head.

“Yes!” Asha nodded, her eyes bright. “I landed in the Mountain Lands, and it took days, weeks—I hardly know how long I’ve been gone, but I’m back, I came back to tell you. Then Cole, he—”

“Cole?”

“He was the courier, but I don’t think he meant to be, or at least I don’t think he knows what the duke plans to use them for.” She took another deep breath.

Aither’s mind reeled with everything Asha said—with the fact that she was there, in front of him—and he tried to piece together her words. As the words sunk in, anger broiled in his stomach. How could Duke Bryce do this to him? Was this why he didn’t care about the Wind Kingdom, why he was pushing so much tradition, in hopes that he could sweep the throne out from under Aither’s feet?

He grabbed both of her hands with his, and, forgoing the grace he usually flew with, they descended back down into the cloud castle. As they sank farther through the clouds and closer to the floor of the ballroom, Asha retied her mask.

As they landed, Curra ran up behind him and grabbed and shook both of his shoulders.

“Look who it is…” Curra said, patting his friend on the back.

Aither refused to break their interlocked eyes first, but he let out a smile to acknowledge his friend.

“This is great,” Curra went on. He lifted his arm into the air and Aither noticed her wince away, just like Asha did whenever Duke Bryce moved too quickly around her.

Before Aither could say anything, Duke Bryce stood from Aither’s throne and cleared his throat. Clapping his enormous hands together, he waved Aither toward the dais.

With Asha’s hand firmly in his, he narrowed his gaze at Duke Bryce. What Asha had said about Duke Bryce poisoning him was fresh on his mind, but he wanted to catch him red-handed. Without proof, it would be Aither’s word against Duke Bryce’s, which should be enough for any argument, but the council had been swaying in the duke’s direction as of late and Aither didn’t want to risk it.

As Aither moved onto the dais, Asha following close behind him, Duke Bryce sneered.

“It appears you have chosen, little Aither,” Duke Bryce started, and the informality in which he spoke made Aither want to hurl. Out of anyone in the kingdom, Duke Bryce should refer to Aither by his proper title.

“I’ve chosen,” Aither said, and he used his Wind gift to project his voice over the crowd, but Duke Bryce cut him off before he could continue.

“Good, good, now take your seat at the dinner table, and let’s begin!” Duke Bryce clapped his hands and the entire room seemed to kick into motion. Maids and servers emerged from behind the curtains, bringing plates and platters to each person, enriching them with foods from around the Woodlands.

Duke Bryce grabbed Aither and Asha, ushering them toward the royal table—and it surprised Aither that Duke Bryce had not recognized Asha. Duke Bryce sat himself at the head of the table, where Aither should have sat, and instead sat Aither to his side. Beside Aither, Asha sat, as if stilled by the pit of fright in her eyes.

Aither noticed her glance under the table and whisper something, but a row of servers appeared from behind the curtain and placed plates of food before them. To his side, Asha held something in her hands, and seemed to whisper at it.

“Mouse!” a server yelped behind them, and Asha jumped, clutching something in her hand. It appeared only the three of them heard the server who stumbled backward and disappeared through the curtains.

“I… I…” Asha stammered.

Duke Bryce stood up and glanced around the floor.

Aither looked to Asha, who held out her hand. In her palm, a little brown mouse stared back at Aither, and it reminded him of the little mouse that had found its way into his bedchambers some time before. Mouser. Aither glanced up to meet Asha’s eyes.

“This is Mouser,” she said and looked down at the little mouse, who kept on squeaking and pointing behind him. Was… Mouser pointing at Aither? “And he says the poison mushrooms I mentioned are in Duke Bryce’s robes.”

Duke Bryce choked on the wine he was drinking, and it sputtered across the table.

Two more servers walked through the opposite door Asha had come through, holding a tomato and chive linguine in what smelled like a decadent mushroom sauce.

Aither’s heart pattered in his chest. Arms shaking, he pointed at Duke Bryce and used his Wind gift to project his voice so the entire room could hear. “Empty your pockets.”

Duke Bryce cleared his throat. “There’s no need for that…” he stuttered.

“I insist…” Aither said and leaned toward the duke.

Duke Bryce nodded and opened his cloak with his hands.

“Silver, Brass,” Aither commanded. “Search him.”

Silver and Brass ran onto the dais and scoured through Duke Bryce’s pockets. Within seconds, Silver turned to Aither. “There’s nothing here, your majesty.”

Aither let out a heavy sigh and glanced back at Asha, who looked just as dejected.

Duke Bryce’s attention narrowed on Asha. “Asha?” he asked, the slither in his voice omnipresent. “That is you, isn’t it…? Your wretched little self should be carried away for treason,” he continued and snapped his fingers at Silver and Brass, who looked to Aither for direction.

“I’ve chosen Asha,” Aither stated, then glanced back at Asha, who was still whispering to the mouse. Aither narrowed his gaze at her. “Something else?”

“No king can have a servant as a queen,” Duke Bryce responded, but his voice was like hardened steel. He lunged forward, slamming into Aither as he reached out a hand for Asha, but Aither cut him off.

Using his magic, Aither pushed Duke Bryce away from her.

“She just accused me of—”

“I didn’t accuse you,” Asha said with venom in her voice. She glowered at Duke Bryce. “I know you have something up your sleeve.” Asha glanced down and something twinkled in her eye, like the gears were clicking into place as the mouse squeaked on. “There are vene mushrooms…” Asha yelled. “It’s in the food.”

Aither jumped up and back, launching his chair backwards. “Are you sure?” He looked up at her, then back down at his dish.

“Don’t listen to the mad, mad girl,” Duke Bryce said, taking a bite of his own dish. “See?”

“Then why are you eating something different?” Asha asked, pointing at the different linguini.

“I-I don’t like mushrooms, is all.”

“But I do,” Sera said from a few seats down.

“I as well,” Lyra piped in. “Besides, we’re all supposed to eat like family, meaning we’re supposed to eat the same meal… together. That’s what these times are all about.” She stood and walked over to Aither’s seat. “You wouldn’t mind if I take a bite, would you?”

“And check Count Charmant.” Asha glanced up from the tiny mouse in her hand. “He should have what’s left of the mushrooms, and there’s a farmer, a Fire gifted, that brought the flowers and mushrooms to the kitchens. He can confirm what they were, where he got them, and who he gave them to.”

Duke Bryce pursed his lips.

Aither spun back around to face Duke Bryce. “It would be okay if Lady Lyra took a bite, wouldn’t it?” Aither asked, though he put a hand in front of Lady Lyra so she couldn’t grab a piece of the mushroom pasta.

Through narrowed eyes and gritted teeth, Duke Bryce said, “I don’t have to sit here and…”

With a nod, Silver plunged his hands into the pockets of Count Charmant’s slim-cut suit. When he pulled his hand out, a handful of mushrooms fell to the floor. Silver and Brass jumped back as a collective gasp filled the room.

“Oh, I think you do,” Aither warned. “I might not have my crown, but this is my kingdom, by blood, and I’ve dealt with enough of your asinine traditions and demands.” Aither shoved the plate across the table. “Prove it,” he commanded, his voice blustery and strong. “Take a bite and prove it’s not poisoned.”

“I don’t have to—”

“Silver, Brass,” Prince Aither ordered. “Take him away, into the dungeons until he either eats this or—”

A powerful gust wafted down from the skies above and swirled around them. Duke Bryce waved his Wind gift and created a cyclone around him. “I will never—” was all Asha heard before the tornado lifted him into the air.

As the clouds cleared, both Duke Bryce and Count Charmant vanished.

Aither stepped forward, but the whirlwind died down as quickly as it appeared. “What the…” He stared at the vacant space where Duke Bryce and Count Charmant had stood.

Aither barked commands to Silver and Brass, who quickly turned to leave in search of the rogue Duke Bryce. “I’ll leave them to search for Duke Bryce.”

Aither’s hands balled into fists, and he jutted his chin out, glancing around the room. Where in Chaos did they go? With Count Charmant in the mix, the Sun Kingdom and its Vizier must have been the cause for this—were they using some sort of Soulist magic to transport them elsewhere on the island. When he had fewer things to attend to, he would send a designate to the Sun Castle in search of the treasonous Duke Bryce.

Frustrated, he turned to Asha. “I’m so glad you’re back, Asha. You’ve always been here for me. I’ve always been able to count on you, and that’s why…”

Aither reached toward the mask as the clocktower on the stone castle below them struck twelve-midnight.
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OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:
Title: The Chaos Daughter
Series: The Celestian Duology #1/The Jeweled Fairytale Retellings #1
Author: Sara Michaels
Publication Date: September 14th 2021
Print Length: 183 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
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When all magic is ruled by Order, being a child of Chaos is the ultimate danger.

Nastasya lives a sheltered, small-island life, hiding her Chaos magic and living quietly with her protective foster parents.

At the age of 18, she finally persuades them to let her venture across to the mainland… but what should be an exciting shopping trip quickly turns into much more than she bargained for, and events unfold that will change her future forever.

Nastasya has always been taught to hide her Chaos magic, but she’s never understood why.

Her past has always been a mystery to her, but her trip to the mainland leads her to question everything, and she knows she must learn more about her birth family and the power she possesses.

The Chaos Daughter is an action packed adventure of self-discovery inspired by the tale of Anastasia. Question everything, and trust no one: what Nastasya’s about to discover will change the world forever.

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Title: The Order Revived
Series: The Celestian Duology #2/The Jeweled Fairytale Retellings #2
Author: Sara Michaels
Publication Date: September 16th 2021
Print Length: 206 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
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The only thing that can balance Chaos is Order... but is one girl strong enough to save the world?

Under the reign of Chaos, Lan’s family must keep their rare Order magic hidden, but when her father is called up to join The Chaos, their identity is under threat.

17-year-old Lan knows she can’t lose her father to The Chaos, and she’s clear what her mission is: not only must she join The Chaos in his place, she must find a way to restore balance to the world.

Lan devotes her life to masquerading as a Chaos Priest while she fulfills her true calling.

Only Order can balance Chaos, but Lan must first find a way of getting to the revered Chaos Daughter… and that’s no easy task.

The Order Revived is a thrilling quest into the unknown inspired by the empowering story of Mulan. When your true calling is so clear, the only thing you can do is follow your heart.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sara Michaels lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs. A lover of the written word from an early age, Sara reads everything from middle grade to young adult and adult novels. She loves genres ranging from science fiction and fantasy to contemporary and historical fiction, which is why she writes and plans to publish across several genres, including contemporary, romance, young adult fantasy, and science fiction.

When she’s not writing, you can find her playing video games, reading way too many books at the same time, singing to music, or riding her motorcycle around a beautiful Washington backdrop. She also writes for several online blogs and newspapers.

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GUEST POST:
-What is it about the young adult genre that draws you to it?

What do I love about the young adult genre? I’m an escape junkie who revels in the metaphorical Other. For me, young adult stories culminate all my favorite aspects of books and life, especially the recent trend of “darker” stories with an added air of naivety. I love the darker vibes of a lot of recent young adult (and adult, really) stories.

Another thing I love about the young adult genre is the pure escapism. I can sit back and read a young adult story, fully immersed, even if it’s not my favorite story. As Adelise Cullens once said, “reality doesn’t give us the life that we desire, but we can always find what we desire between the pages of books,” which is exactly how I feel about young adult fiction. When done well, the young adult category can target and relate to pretty much anyone. Even if I enjoy a more “adult” story, I don’t relate to them on the same level.

Also, as a writer, reading young adult fiction is important to my craft. I want to know what people love, what they hate—and what I enjoy and dislike about certain books, so I avoid it in my writing. It’s like research that doesn’t stress me out or that doesn’t send me down a rabbit hole.

I’ve read young adult stories since middle school and enjoyed every second. They’re my comfort zone, and while I read and write in multiple genres and categories, young adult books are the “uniquely portable magic” that makes me happy and fulfilled. They’re my sanctuary. The thing about young adult stories is that most of them have an aspect of reflection; the reader can find a part of them inside almost every single one.


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