"I feel like that experience is more accurate, especially [for] someone my age and younger. Maybe people had it a little rougher, but especially where I grew up, which was a super diverse city with a lot of Asian people, it was just normal. And I wanted that normal to be portrayed."
Q: You give the school itself some personality with the "Letters to the Editor" sections, where some of the book's funniest lines can be found. Was it enjoyable to give the student body a sense of character itself?
A: "Those just flowed out of me. I felt like it was fun to not have a filter. If I'm writing in Holly's voice, I'm in her character all the time; I have to think about what her motivations are, what she's thinking. But the letters to the editor was just so fun.
"I just [wrote] any weirdo or stereotypes in my head, but there's also specific people that I remember in high school or that I know in real life. A lot of letters to the editor are hidden codes for a lot of my friends. If they can recognize it, they'll see their names in there, and their voices, too. Those were really fun for me to write."
Q: Which character would you say you're most like and why?
A: "I'd have to say I'm very similar to Holly. It's a book that was born from my voice mixed with a fictional voice. She's actually probably closer to me now as an adult than as a teenager, just because I think teenager-me isn't the most fun person to read about.
"But also just writing as an adult, my current perspective and experience make their way into the book. I would say Holly is more courageous and an honest person than I was at that age."
Q: Holly finishes her sophomore year by the end of the book. Can you give us a hint as to whether or not we'll see her junior and senior years as well?
A: "I definitely have more stories in my head for her junior and senior years, and I hope that everybody will get to read about them, too."
Q: What are three books you'd recommend to teen readers?
A: "'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' by Juno Diaz. It's a book that I think is really beautiful and kind of older, but I think teenagers might relate to. It won the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago. It's such a unique voice, like the most unique teenage voice I've ever read. It's so funny, but it's also really beautiful and tragic and serious. It's very unique, and I really admire this author. It's an adult book, but from a teenage voice. It's really an amazing book. That's one that I would highly recommend.
"One of my favorite books is "Middlesex" by Jeffery Eugenides. It also won a Pultizer. I really love Pulitzer Prize winners. It follows a hermaphrodite and her family background, growing up in Detroit in the '60s. It's the most amazing, life-changing book. It's a little adult but I think teens could handle it. It's amazing. It's one of those books that I really believe changes your life after you read it, and I don't quite know how or what it does exactly. But you just feel changed from having read this book.
"Is it a cliché to say the Harry Potter books? I just feel like if you haven't read [the series] by the time you're a teenager, you should. It's so magical and absorbing. I have a few friends who just don't read, and they can't even imagine reading Harry Potter because it's so nerdy to them. That is so sad. One of the most unique parts of the books is that you grow with these kids, and it gets darker and more interesting. It's really a very classic, quintessential reading experience. I also think if you don't like reading and you read 'Harry Potter,' you can eventually become someone who likes reading."