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Katie Heaney Author Essay

Girl Crushed

I Wrote a Book for Teens Because I Miss Reading Like One

Before I started writing YA, I was resistant to the idea. I’m in my thirties and didn’t know if I could convincingly channel a seventeen-year-old’s concerns and sensibilities. But since I started writing books, which was eight years ago now, I’ve been told that my voice is “girlish” and “young”—sometimes a compliment, sometimes not. Probably all writers want to be taken seriously, and being told you should think about writing for teenagers is bound to agitate. There are serious and beautifully written YA books, but they’re not considered literary, usually. None of the four books I’ve written for adults are considered literary, either, but at least I could say they were read by people my age—as if age confers taste, or seriousness.

Then, after my fourth book came out, I felt disillusioned and uninspired by the idea of proceeding as usual. I was bored with all the latest, most-acclaimed novels I was reading, and struggling to find ones I liked enough to finish. I missed reading like a kid, when I spent the summers checking out six books at a time from the library, reading in bed for hours every morning and night. I tracked my summer reading on printouts from the library, filling in the illustrated clocks with Magic Markers and drawing extra, lopsided clocks on the sides when I ran out.

I am still a book person, but I don’t read like that now. As a kid I could read Harry Potter for eight hours straight without blinking. As a kid, I was so passionate about the Baby-Sitters Club that I wrote a letter to Ann M. Martin to ask why the baby-sitters never aged. I received a polite, typed response explaining that if the baby-sitters aged, there’d be no club. A good point, considering I never wanted it to end. My letter came with a signed photo, and I remember licking my thumb and running it over the signature to see if it smeared. (It didn’t, but I didn’t care. There was no way anyone else could have sent it.)

This, I decided, was the kind of reader I wanted, and wanted to be.

So, with the encouragement of an auspiciously timed email from the woman who would become my YA editor, I started writing a version of a love story I’ve heard recounted dozens of times over the past five years: two fourteen-year-old girls come out to each other, then fall in love. This was the draft that would eventually be a book called Girl Crushed. One of those girls is now my wife, and the other, the best friend she met in middle school. I’m amazed by their luck as much as their bravery. Now it may not be so unusual for two queer suburban high school girls to find each other, but in 2002, it was miraculous.

I was a happy-enough kid in high school: I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t bullied or paid much attention to at all, which I think was my goal. I avoided dances. I didn’t date or kiss anyone, or ever break curfew, or smoke a cigarette, or sneak out of my house in the middle of the night. Every year I assumed that the next year would be the year I got a boyfriend—“got,” as if I’d wake up one morning and find him on my doorstep. In my 420-person class, there was not a single out gay student. The idea that I might be anything different from everybody I knew and every story I saw on TV never occurred to me.

Young people growing up today have so many more types of teenage stories available to them, but just because there are more doesn’t mean there are enough. In writing Girl Crushed, I wanted to see a story I couldn’t have imagined existing when I was fifteen or sixteen, and one I think kids today still need. I wanted main characters who were already out, for whom their sexual identity wasn’t a crisis. This is not to say they have everything figured out—that would be unrealistic, and boring. But among the many teenage struggles Quinn Ryan faces, her sexuality isn’t really one of them.

Coming out wasn’t like that for me, a fact with which I’ve (mostly) made my peace. Sexual identity can be nuanced and confusing and fluid, and you can be twenty-eight before you figure out you’re gay. That’s valid, too. Still, I think if I’d known a girl like Quinn Ryan in high school (or even read about her), it might have changed my life. And if she—and Jamie and Ruby—can do that for young people reading my book today, I will feel I’ve done my job. Which is not to say that this book is only for queer people, whether they do or don’t know they’re queer yet. Straight kids should read books by and about queer people. White people should read books by and about black people. Cis people should read books by and about trans people. Relatability and representation are incredibly important, especially to young people, but they are also only the beginning, and reading can teach us so much more than that.

Girl Crushed

Leah on the Offbeat meets We Are Okay in this pitch-perfect queer romance about falling in love and never quite falling out of it–heartbreak, unexpected new crushes, and all.

Before Quinn Ryan was in love with Jamie Rudawski, she loved Jamie Rudawski, who was her best friend. But when Jamie dumps Quinn a month before their senior year, Quinn is suddenly girlfriend-less and best friend-less.

Enter a new crush: Ruby Ocampo, the gorgeous and rich lead singer of the popular band Sweets, who’s just broken up with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. Quinn’s always only wanted to be with Jamie, but if Jamie no longer wants to be with her, why can’t Quinn go all in on Ruby? But the closer Quinn grows to Ruby, the more she misses Jamie, and the more (she thinks) Jamie misses her. Who says your first love can’t be your second love, too?

Katie Heaney

Katie Heaney is a full-time senior writer for the Cut, a former editor at BuzzFeed, and the author of the memoirs Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date and Would You Rather? Girl Crushed is her YA debut. She lives in Brooklyn.

Happy Father’s Day!

Dr. Seuss's I Love Pop!

Dr. Seuss's I Love Pop! By Dr. Seuss

Say thank you to Dad with this perfect-for-Father's-Day gift book that features art from Dr. Seuss! Includes unrhymed lines about fatherly love and makes an ideal choice instead of a card!

Show Dad some love on Father's Day--or ANY day--with this small hardcover book of simple, unrhymed observations about all the things we love and appreciate about our dads. An ideal gift for fathers (and grandfathers!) of all ages, Dr. Seuss's I Love Pop is illustrated with full-color art by Dr. Seuss from the books Hop on Pop, Horton Hatches the Egg, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and many others. Who really needs aftershave or soap-on-a-rope? Shower Pop with love instead!

How to Surprise a Dad

How to Surprise a Dad By Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish

From the creators of the New York Times bestsellers HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA and HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDMA comes a charming HOW TO book that's all about surprises!
So you want to surprise your dad? You’re in luck! The pages of this book are full of tips on how to become a super dad surpriser, including tips for things you can make, do, or find—just for your dad.

Be sure to read up on:
·      Yummy treats and presents for a dad
·      What to do if he starts getting suspicious
·      How to prepare for the big moment (where to hide everyone, and how to practice whispering “Surprise!”)
From the author-illustrator team behind the New York Times bestselling HOW TO... series comes an adorable, funny, surprising celebration of dads!

Praise for the HOW TO . . . series: 

“A silly take on role reversal.” –Kirkus Reviews (How to Babysit a Grandma)

“Laugh-out-loud funny. . .” –Kirkus Reviews (How to Raise a Mom)

“. . . laugh-out-loud scenes and funny hidden details.” –Kirkus Reviews (How to Babysit a Grandpa)

“Touches of humor in each of the digitally rendered illustrations.” –Kirkus Reviews (How to Surprise a Dad)

The fun doesn't stop! Check out more HOW TO... picture books:

How to babysit a Grandma
How to Catch a Santa
How to Get Your Teacher Ready
How to Raise a Mom
How to Surprise a Dad

My Two Dads and Me

My Two Dads and Me By Michael Joosten; illustrated by Izak Zenou

Celebrate Pride every day with this adorable board book for the babies and toddlers of gay fathers, featuring a variety of diverse, loving families with two dads.

Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy dads and their kids throughout their day—eating breakfast, getting dressed, heading out to the park, and settling back in at night with a bubble bath and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this inclusive and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup.  

With artwork by acclaimed fashion illustrator Izak Zenou, this is a stylish, smart, humorous, family-focused book that will have babies and their two dads giggling as they enjoy it together. It's an ideal baby-shower and first-birthday gift.

And look for its companion board book, My Two Moms and Me.

"will undoubtedly be scooped up by families seeking queer representation in board books."—Kirkus

How to Babysit a Grandpa

How to Babysit a Grandpa By Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish

Celebrate the special bond between grandpas and grandchildren in this delightful New York Times bestseller that puts the kids in charge! 

A New York Times bestselling picture book--from the creators of the hilarious HOW TO... series--about a child spending time with his grandpa. Written in a how-to style, the narrator gives important tips for "babysitting" a grandpa, including what to eat for snack (anything dipped in ketchup, ice cream topped with cookies, cookies topped with ice cream) what to do on a walk (find lizards and dandelion puffs, be on the lookout for puddles and sprinklers), and how to play with a grandpa (build a pirate cave, put on a scary play).

Filled with humor, energy, and warmth, this is a great gift for or from a grandparent, and perfect for lap reading when Grandpa comes to visit!

Praise for the HOW TO . . . series: 

“A silly take on role reversal.” –Kirkus Reviews (How to Babysit a Grandma)

“Laugh-out-loud funny. . .” –Kirkus Reviews (How to Raise a Mom)

“. . . laugh-out-loud scenes and funny hidden details.” –Kirkus Reviews (How to Babysit a Grandpa)

“Touches of humor in each of the digitally rendered illustrations.” –Kirkus Reviews (How to Surprise a Dad)

The fun doesn't stop! Check out more HOW TO... picture books:

How to babysit a Grandma
How to Catch a Santa
How to Get Your Teacher Ready
How to Raise a Mom
How to Surprise a Dad

Dad School

Dad School By Rebecca Van Slyke; illustrated by Priscilla Burris

Where did Dad learn how to be the best father ever? At Dad School, of course!
In this adorable kid’s-eye view of what would happen if Dad went to school, a little boy imagines a place where all dads learn their amazing skills, like giving piggyback rides and making giant sandwiches for lunch. With warm, silly illustrations and a fun role-reversal story in which dads act like kids, young readers will love imagining what would happen if their own dads went to Dad School.

And don’t forget Mom: Look for the companion book, Mom School

"An amusing perspective on fatherhood."—Booklist

"Sweetly funny and full of paternal devotion."—Publishers Weekly

"A likable and loving tribute to dads . . . Children will be swept along by Burris’s upbeat, endearing illustrations."—School Library Journal

Hop on Pop

Hop on Pop By Hop on Pop

Join Dr. Seuss in this classic rhyming picture book–"the simplest Seuss for youngest use."

Full of short, simple words and silly rhymes, this book is perfect for reading alone or reading aloud with Dad!  The rollicking rythym will keep kids entertained on every page, and it's an especially good way to  show Pop some love on Father’s Day!

We like to Hop.
We like to hop
on top of Pop.

Originally created by Dr. Seuss himself, Beginner Books are fun, funny, and easy to read. These unjacketed hardcover early readers encourage children to read all on their own, using simple words and illustrations. Smaller than the classic large format Seuss picture books like The Lorax and Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, these portable packages are perfect for practicing readers ages 3-7, and lucky parents too!

“Pretty much all the stuff you need to know is in Dr. Seuss.” –President Barack Obama

The Berenstain Bears and the Papa's Day Surprise

The Berenstain Bears and the Papa's Day Surprise By Stan and Jan Berenstain; illustrated by the authors

This classic Berenstain Bears story is the perfect way to teach children about the importance of family and thoughtfulness!

Come for a visit in Bear Country with this classic First Time Book® from Stan and Jan Berenstain. It’s Father’s Day, and Papa thinks that Mama and the cubs have forgotten all about it . . . but they are actually planning something very special for him. Includes over 50 bonus stickers!

Activity Books

Educational Brain Breaks

Every student needs time away from their schoolwork. Suggest fun books to keep downtime structured and to make minds happy.

When your students need to step away from the screen, suggest they practice math in the kitchen.

Try fun puzzles, games, and magic tricks—activities straight from the tree house!

Get students inspired with creative activity books. Start a project when it’s time for a break.

Take a breath! Books with mindfulness and movement activities to reengage virtual learners.

Hooray for Helpers!

Hooray for Helpers!

Hooray for Helpers! By Mike Austin

Celebrate first responders in this timely, action-packed picture book featuring firefighters, doctors, EMTs, and other brave helpers in action!

First responders are on the way! Every day, brave helpers are on full alert, ready to rescue people and animal friends in need. They work on land, go underground, and even parachute down from the sky. Buckle up and cheer for these heroes as they go the distance to keep everyone safe.

With bright, colorful art and labels of rescue vehicles and equipment in the style of Richard Scarry, this introduction to and celebration of first responders packs FUN and FACTS. Look inside for a Q&A with a real firefighter and an emergency supplies list!

Ready for more action? Check out Fire Engine No. 9 and Rescue Squad No. 9!