So many thanks to Jessica for answering our questions and to St. Martin’s Griffin for sending us copies of the book.
Interested in the book? Make sure to read our Book Discussion at The Reading Date and We Heart YA’s feature post “Las Vegas In Real Life.”
St. Martin’s Griffin: 240 pages | Buy it on Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.
There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.
Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.
Hannah’s surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.
1. Describe your book in a sentence or two.
A girl falls in love with the best friend she’s never met, but when she surprises him to declare her feelings, she finds out he’s been hiding some things. Antics ensue in Las Vegas.
2. What was your inspiration for writing IN REAL LIFE?
I was inspired by a reality show. It featured two people who had known each other over the phone for five years, and the show got them face to face for the first time. I loved the concept and thought of all of the internet friendships and relationships that develop, so I thought it would be a cool premise for a YA book.
3. What kind of research did you have to do to make sure your characters were authentic?
I’m white, so I know I need to do careful research when writing about characters of color. Hannah, the main character of IN REAL LIFE, is Korean American, and so is her sister, Grace. My two best friends growing up were Korean American, and my husband is Korean American, so I have that whole side of my family to use for research and questions, which is awesome. For Hannah’s best friend Lo, who is Mexican American, I talked to some of my friends and also some of my students to help develop her character. It was important for me to get them right.
4. How did you come to incorporate the diverse elements in your book?
I don’t hang around all white people. I don’t work with all white people. My family isn’t all white people. It would never even occur to me to write a book that was only about white people. It’s how my life is, and I know it’s how life is for a lot of people. I wanted my book to reflect that.
5. How does the diversity in your book relate to your life?
Like I mentioned, my husband is Korean American, so my life and family and friends are diverse. I’m a teacher, and I teach at a school that has a very diverse population. In the past, I’ve had students mention that they want to see more books about people who look like them. I just kept my students in mind the entire time I was writing this book. Plus, I recently had a son who is biracial, so showing interracial relationships is important to me. And I definitely want him to be able to see himself in books.
6. What are some of your favorite YA books about diverse characters?
Some YA contemporary books I’ve read recently that I’ve loved were Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, Pointe by Brandy Colbert, and Since You Asked by Maurene Goo. Outside of contemp, I’m a big fan of the Lyburn Legacy books by Sarah Rees Brennan, starting with Unspoken. I also read two books that are coming out in April that I really enjoyed – Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs and South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf.
7. What areas of diversity do you want to draw attention to or do you feel are underrepresented in books?
I write fun contemporary romance, and I would love to see more POC in starring roles in these types of books. POC shouldn’t only star in tragedies, and it shouldn’t only be white people who fall in love and get the guy/girl!