Julia DeVillers is the bestselling author of several novels, including Liberty Porter, Trading Faces, and How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller, which was adapted into the Disney Channel original movie Read It and Weep. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children. Enjoy this guest post which stems from the theme of her latest book Emma Emmets, Playrgound Matchmaker.
Do you remember your first crush?
When we first talked about EMMA, my editor at Razorbill, Caroline Donofrio and I were talking about the core of the book, which is: how on the first day of fourth grade, a girl discovers that two friends she’d introduced over the summer have decided to ‘date.’
“I didn’t even know we were having boyfriends and girlfriends in fourth grade,” her best friend Claire said … Neither did Emma. But if they were, Emma was going to take the credit for it! EmMatchmaking could be her claim to fame and glory and happiness.
[Read Chapter 6 of EMMA EMMETS, PLAYGROUND MATCHMAKER.]
“Who was your first crush?” Caroline had asked me over lunch in Soho. I flashed right back to my big elementary school ‘romance.’ I probably looked a little giddy and blushed as I said, “Danny.” I still remember what those sweet and innocent feelings were like. The nervousness when I realized I had the crush, the joy when he liked me back, the confusion and sadness when he moved on to someone else. Interestingly, Caroline’s first crush was also a Danny, and he also dumped her for someone else. We shared a moment of bitterness about it. Yes, all these years later. Oh, those Dannys of our youth.
When I started the manuscript, I knew I didn’t want to promote rushing into romance in fourth grade. Things move fast enough in childhood these days and I don’t want to push it. But the reality is that lots of kids have crushes; other kids are grossed out, while others are oblivious. Even my main character, Emma, is at first baffled that someone would have a crush on one of their classmates. (She has a crush on a famous singer.) I tried to write about that spectrum realistically and encourage healthy friendships throughout: the perils of matchmaking, and what happens when one person likes somebody who doesn’t like them back? Or two people like the same person?
So while I was writing EMMA EMMETS, I tried to capture those feelings.
But, as I often remind myself, what I experienced in my youth isn’t always applicable to today’s kids. That’s when I turn to my trusted focus group kids. Now, in the past I’ve asked them questions about why they’d want to be live in the White House (for my book Liberty Porter, First Daughter), or what tricks they might play if they were an identical twin (for my Trading Faces series with Jennifer Roy.)
This line of questioning could get tricky. I first asked them about celebrity crushes. And just picture kids who are Belieber and, anti-Biebers, One Direction fans, Selenators (?!), Swifties who get annoyed when you mispronounce Ariana Grande…let’s say I got the range of emotions I wanted my characters to express. Although the methods of ‘crushing’ are different today—texting, Instagram and social media, kids are still tongue-tied when the girl you like looks at them. They’re still feeling giddy when the boy they like laughs at a joke. The heart pounding, the light-headnesses, the butterflies—all there.
Children’s and Young Adult Authors Share Their First Crushes
To celebrate EMMA EMMETS, PLAYGROUND MATCHMAKER’s release, I’ve turned the focus on to my own people and invited a group of children’s and young adult authors to share their first crushes. 44 of them sent me videos!
Not every author could film a video, but they still shared their childhood celebrity crushes:
Carolyn Mackler: Albert from Little House on the Prairie
Coe Booth: Captain Von Trapp
Cat Patrick: The entire cast of the Outsiders
Natalie Standiford: Davy Jones of the Monkees
Mike Jung: Agent 99
Kate Messner: Potsie. (Potsie! Not Fonzie or Chachi, I love it!)
Dan Ehernhaft: Stevie Nicks
Jo Knowles: Nicholas from Eight is Enough
Rebecca Serle: Leo DiCaprio
And, the great Lois Duncan shared a poem she had written about her first heartbreak. (Yes, we’re debuting a Lois Duncan original here.)
Validating what I said about first crush memories being so powerful, Lois told me: “I didn’t keep a copy, but a high school girlfriend (now elderly-woman-friend) had related to the sentiments so strongly that she could recite it to me word for word.”
Johnny’s in love with somebody else
A little blond with too much hair.
He carries her books for her every day.
I don’t care.
Let him walk with that little snip,
Hansel-and-Gretelling down the hall.
Wish he could see how silly it looks,
Johnny has never belonged to me,
He never has and he never will.
And I don’t care. I just don’t care!
Now, check out the authors spill about their first crushes:
Jay Asher* Lauren Myracle * Jon Scieska * Lauren Oliver * Gordon Korman * E Lockhart * Jenny Han…ish * AS King *
[Check out Emma Emmets YouTube channel to watch each author’s full individual video.]
So. Do you remember your first crush?
Add these books to your collection: Liberty Porter, Trading Faces, How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller, and Emma Emmets, Playrgound Matchmaker
For more information on Julia DeVillers and her books, visit:
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