Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Sykosa by Justin Ordonez (Book Review) along with an author interview

Be sure to read all the way to the bottom to check out the Giveaway details!!!




Title: Sykosa  -- Part 1: Junior Year
Author: Justin Ordonez
Publisher: TDS


About the book: Sykosa (that’s “sy”-as-in-“my” ko-sa) is the story of a sixteen year old girl who is trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence shatters her life and the lives of her friends. A year removed from this act, Sykosa's struggles are complicated by her meddling best friend, Niko, who has started to war with other girls for social supremacy in their school, and by her first love, a boy named Tom, who also happens to have saved her in the violent act. Using the backdrop of the biggest party of the year, the book places Sykosa and Tom at Niko's high-class cottage in Coeur d'Alene for a weekend of unsupervised badness. During such, Sykosa will have to confront her lingering pain, resolve her feelings for Tom, and decide if this is the weekend they should have sex for the first time.




My thoughts:  Well, if you read my post yesterday, you will remember that I said this was not a book that I would normally pick up, but that it had hooked me in and now I couldn't wait for the second book.  I will try to tell you a little more about it now.


Sykosa was pretty messed up from the act of violence that she had experienced her sophomore year.  It overshadows pretty much everything she does every day.  When she is having a bad day, she can feel the blackness overtaking her -- a blackness that she really hasn't shared with anyone.  Nobody really talks about what happened, and if they try, she always manages to avoid it. 


Niko is her best friend, and while you don't really know yet what role she played in this traumatic past, other than she was Sykosa best friend then as well, she has a pretty messed up home life that she has had to deal with.  She is pretty much unsupervised at home and this has enabled her to become a wild child, hosting pretty radical and much talked about parties.  


I wasn't sure about Tom in the beginning - I thought he was just another lust-filled teenage boy - but he is more than that.  He really seems to care about Sykosa, but is having a hard time expressing it.  He is also dealing with the violence of the previous year -- violence that left scars on his physical body, but I believe there are other scars there as well, and these are why he has a hard time expressing himself to Sykosa.  She hasn't been willing to talk with him about it either, so while they seem to care about each other, there also is a partial wall between them that they can't seem to cross.  


I do need to note though that this book is targeted at an 18+ audience.  It is strongly propelled along by talk of sex and masturbation -- though not a lot of action -- just a lot of talk.  After talking with my own 17 year old daughter today about the book, she leads me to believe that this is pretty typical for teens these days -- especially the guys -- though in this book it is usually Sykosa talking or thinking about it. 


This isn't one of those books that leaves you with a good feeling at the end of it.  I was left feeling a little disturbed that this is what kids were dealing with today -- but was also intrigued and very curious as to what the "Part 2"  might bring.  

~I was provided an ecopy of this book by Novel Publicity Blog Tours in exchange for my unbiased review.~



Please enjoy this interview with Justin Ordoñez, author of the YA novel (for 18+ readers), Sykosa. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

 

1. Who or What is a Sykosa?

Sykosa is a sixteen year old junior in high school. She’s the main character of a novel I’ve written by the same name. For a quick rundown, she attends a prestigious preparatory academy, is part of the school’s coolest clique, “the Queens,” and she has started dating the boy she’s secretly been crushing on for a year, Tom. It’s taken a year to start dating him because A) there was this SUPER HUGE thing that happened during her sophomore year, and it delayed things and made being intimate with Tom difficult, and B) she kinda starts seeing stars around him and loses the ability to behave in any type of serious manner.

2. Why is Sykosa different from other novels?

It’s different because youth driven literature has become full of metaphors for danger that seem to have split into either science fiction or fantasy. (Before I go any further, I like both genres, so I’m not being a snob!) Sometimes, it feels like instead of dealing with real problems, it’s easier to have kids use magic. And instead of facing real contemporary issues, kids should fight aliens or something. These metaphors are meant to represent real life, but I fear they’ve slightly crossed over into a bit of denial about contemporary Americanism, which is a hard topic to write about since our country is in an identity crisis, and has been for about 11 years. Sykosa is an attempt to counter-act this trend. When I was young, I read books about young people that blew me away like One Fat Summer and The Outsiders. These books felt real, and it felt like I could slip into them at any moment. The writing was gritty, it was unapologetic, it was brilliant. I just don’t see many of those around, and I wanted to write one, and I wanted to write one with a female protagonist.

3. Why did you chose cross-gender writing?

Toward the end of the my high school education, I was allowed to split my school day from my normal, traditional education and a newer style, self-directed educational program. I took an English class where my English teacher, someone who I’m still friends with to this day, gave me only one assignment for an entire semester, and it was, “Perform a deep self-evaluation of yourself and your writing and come up with one goal for what you’re going to improve on.” At the time, I was seriously into writing, and had taken to writing a few books per year, but most of them were in the first person, and they were just me talking about myself. The issue was that I had been in a serious car accident the year prior and I had injured a friend in it. (He fully recovered, but never forgave me). I had tried to write a first person story about myself many times since the accident, but I was constantly failing because I was dealing with some lingering self-loathing and guilt. As a way to get away from it, I decided I wanted to work on a story I had been thinking about for a while, but that I never started writing for one super scary reason.

The main character was a teenage girl.

Odd as it might sound, I was intimidated by the fact that the main character was a woman. So I faced my fear and said my goal would be to write women better, and I proceeded to work with several teachers and several female students to help me craft a female character that was realistic, yet met my vision of her as well. This challenge stuck with me into my adult life, and it eventually found its ultimate form in Sykosa.

4. How will I know I’m a fan of Sykosa?

I’m glad you asked! Sykosa.com has tons of stuff to help you determine if this book is right for you. Below you’ll see some humorous diagrams I’ve made, but at the website you can read an excerpt of the book, watch the book trailer, read character profiles and really get a solid understanding of Sykosa’s world.
5. What kind of stuff influenced you to write Sykosa?

The primary motivators for Sykosa were Buffy The Vampire Slayer and It by Stephen King. It so happened, in 2001, I moved in with a woman I was dating. She was a fan of Buffy, so I had to watch it and became a fan myself. While most people were probably drawn to the vampire killing, it was the last thing I was interested in. I thought Whedon created an interesting cast of personalities and analyzing them was something I enjoyed. At the time, I was reading It. What I liked about It was the small town, insular feel to the novel, and how the inhabitants of this town were able to show a “front” of values, but were secretly hiding and allowing evil to proliferate all around them. From these two things came Sykosa, a girl who does not have any super powers, nor does she kill any vampires, but she did have a traumatic event happen in her life, and she’s struggling to deal with it, and its made no easier by the fact that her small, insular parochial school has decided to ignore the incident.

6. What is your most favorite and least favorite part of Sykosa?

The most favorite part is easy. It’s Sykosa’s best friend Niko, who just gets my blood pumping every time I have to write her. I love Sykosa, she’s definitely the main character and the story would never work without her, but I could sing Niko’s praises all day and all night. She’s such an interesting young woman and to see how she’s developed over the years as I’ve written the story has been a real treat. When someone first reads Sykosa and then decides to talk to me about it, I’m secretly waiting to hear them mention Niko. It’s never the first thing they say, it’s never the last, it’s always sandwiched somewhere in the middle, “By the way, this Niko—I love her!”

My least favorite part… Wow, that’s hard to answer, isn’t it? In the middle of the book, there’s a section called an Interlude, which is a story structure that Stephen King used in It, and that I borrowed as an homage to it. There’s a section where Sykosa, Niko and her mother are driving in a car together. I swear, I rewrote it fifty times—maybe more—and it’s never read right to me. It just never has.

7. What kind of writing schedule do you keep?

Let’s put it this way: I recently heard a story that there are “cat writers” and “ox writers.” I’m an ox writer. I put in the time, every day, whether I’m feeling it or not, whether its terrible or not, even if I know I’ll just end up deleting it, I push through it and I do it anyway, and somewhere along the way, it ends up coming together as a story.

8. What’s the coolest story you have from writing Sykosa?

Sykosa is interesting in the sense that it took me a long time to finish it. The first couple years I was writing it, I was really just writing stories about the characters, feeling everyone out, figuring out how they fit together, but there was no plot holding it together or pushing anything forward. In 2003, I seriously debated quitting, as it had been the hardest piece of writing I had ever taken on, and to be honest, I was somewhat used to overcoming challenges easily and without a lot of adversity. And while I usually worked on the book on my bus ride to and from work, this one beautiful, sunny day, I decided not to. I sat on the bus and kept the binder of writing closed on my lap. When the bus stopped at Pioneer Square, a homeless black woman sat next to me. She noticed the book, then said to me, “So you’re writing a novel?” I couldn’t tell how she knew that, but I said, “Yes, I am.” She asked me what it was about, but I’m terrible at talking about my work, so I gave her the gist, “teenage girl” “high school” “likes her boyfriend” etc, etc. The conversation lasted one stop, when the bus opened its doors, the woman reached out with her hand, put it on my own (which was clinging to the book like I was protecting it or something) and she said, “Justin, I want you to know, God blesses this book. He blesses it, and you can’t quit.”

I had never mentioned to her that I was quitting it.

I started working on it after she left the bus, and I never spoke or saw her again.

True story.

9. Do you have any tips for people who are struggling with writing or want to take it up?

I do. First off, keep struggling. It’s a worthwhile struggle. There’s a lot of be gained from writing. And for those who want to take it up and for those who are already writing, I can’t stress this enough: Draft. And by the I mean, write in drafts, don’t sit in a chair and challenge yourself to make it perfect now, write it perfect now, but instead write in drafts. If something only gets 5% better, that’s fine, cause it’s just one draft of what will be many, and eventually, that 5%, that 3%, that 7%—it adds up and you end up with a really good story. But, if you try to knock it out of the park every time you step up to the plate, you’ll swing the bat a whole lot, and you’ll be tired and exhausted when you’re done, but you won’t have a ton to show for it. That’s when most people quit. They think, “I can’t do this” or, “I don’t have the talent.” They don’t understand they’re doing it wrong, that’s all.

10. When you’re not writing, you’re…

Singing karaoke. I go once a week with some close friends of mine. It’s a fantastic release, also you get feedback from an audience, which you sometimes miss from writing, and you can forget how exciting it is to share your work with others. My favorite song to sing right now is Gaga’s “You and I.” Gaga has got a great voice that she can make raspy if she needs to, and I’ve got a voice that can match the raspier songs, so I think I do her proud. Otherwise I’m singing the Killers, Kings of Leon, Oasis or Lauryn Hill.

 

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Sykosa eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copy of Sykosa for just 99 cents
  2. Fill-out the simple form on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event
  4. BONUS: Leave a comment on this post*
Leave a comment, win $100:

One random tour commenter will win a $100 Amazon gift card. Just leave a comment on this post, and you'll be entered to win. For a full list of participating blogs, check out the official tour page. You can enter on just my blog or on all of them. Get out there and network!

About the book: YA fiction for the 18+ crowd. Sykosa is a sixteen-year-old girl trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence shatters her life and the lives of her friends. Set at her best friend’s cottage, for what will be a weekend of unsupervised badness, Sykosa will have to finally confront the major players and issues from this event, as well as decide if she wants to lose her virginity to Tom, her first boyfriend, and the boy who saved her from danger. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Sykosa is Justin Ordoñez's life's work. He hopes to one day settle down with a nerdy, somewhat introverted woman and own 1 to 4 dogs. Visit Justin on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

3 comments:

Emlyn Chand said...

Great review, Kristi. I love that it led to a conversation with your teen. The best books open doors, right?

Thank you for being a part of this tour. When you have a moment would you kindly cross-post your review to Amazon and GoodReads?

Thanks again,
Emlyn :-D

Justin Ordonez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin Ordonez said...

Thanks for reading Sykosa! Yeah, it's kinda mysterious how everyone was involved in "last year," but I hope to write a Part II that clears it up and is super exciting to read. (Here's hoping!)

Best,
Justin

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