Blog Tour: The Other Side of Perfect // Author Interview With Mariko Turk!

Hey everyone! Today’s post is a very exciting one because I’m going to be hosting a blog tour stop for the lovely YA novel, The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk! Before we get into the tour, here is a bit about the author’s debut novel…

The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Book Info

Title: The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Publishing Date: May 11, 2021

Synopsis

Content Warning: protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism

Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for. But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else?

Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice.

Find out more about The Other Side of Perfect with these links!

//Goodreads//Amazon//Barnes and Noble//Book Depository//Indigo//IndieBound//

Here is the tour schedule link! If you have time, do check out the other amazing tour stops as well!

Without further ado, here is the interview!

1. Hi there Mariko! I’d just like to say how amazing it is to have you here with us today! Before we start, do you mind telling us some random facts about yourself?

Mariko: Hello and thanks so much for having me! Some random facts about me are: I love tea and tacos, I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Colorado, when I’m at home I exclusively wear pajamas, and my favorite flowers are hydrangeas!

2. Congrats on your debut! I’m so incredibly happy for you! If I may ask, what inspired the making of The Other Side of Perfect?

Mariko: It was inspired by a couple of different things. First, right after college, I broke my leg while dancing ballet. Second, I’ve always been interested in how people grapple with the negative aspects of the things they love. For instance, I love ballet, but I know it has its share of harmful aspects—like its lack of diversity and its reliance on racial stereotypes in many classical pieces. So I started wondering, if ballet perpetuates these negative things, does that mean I shouldn’t love it? And if I do still love and support it, what does that mean about me?

When I decided to try writing a YA novel, I imagined what would happen if a 16-year-old half-Japanese girl who dreamed of dancing professionally had a career-ending injury and had to deal with losing something she loved with all her heart and with wondering if she ever should have loved it in the first place. Her story became The Other Side of Perfect.

Saniya: Thank you for sharing such a thought provoking response Ms. Turk!

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3. The Other Side of Perfect tells the story of a young girl of color as she navigates racism, ballet, and love. The diversity is amazing! What was your experience writing the novel?

Mariko: This book is so special to me because it’s the first book I ever finished! So in a lot of ways, my experience writing it felt so new. I pantsed the first draft. I knew the general idea and some of the characters, but I figured out the themes and the plot as I went along, and it went pretty quickly. I finished in a few months. But then I spent about two years revising. I actually loved the long revision process because it gave me a chance to make the themes richer and more complex, and get to know the characters on a deeper level.

Saniya: I’m glad you loved the long revision process!

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4. If you could give your past writer self one piece of advice, what would you say?

Mariko: To just write and not worry about if it’s “perfect” or not. My tendency to edit as I wrote really slowed me down and stopped me from finishing so many projects because I’d get so caught up in individual sentences and paragraphs that I’d lose steam. The Other Side of Perfect is the first book I ever finished, and it’s because I told myself I had to keep moving. I knew I’d have lots of changes to make. Sometimes I realized what those changes should be when I finished a chapter. But I didn’t go back to change them until I had a full draft.

Saniya: I loved what you said about how you just need to keep moving. It’s so easy to get caught up in little things, when we should really just be moving forward instead of holding ourselves back. Well said!

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5. Racism is something that many people of color experience, and it really hurts my heart to see kids experiencing discrimination. Why do you think it’s important to portray authentic  and diverse characters in the media?

Mariko: I think it’s so important for all young people to be able to see themselves in the stories they read and watch. And not just in one book or movie here and there, but in many. Young people deserve multiple stories that they relate to and that speak to them and their experiences in various ways. So in other words, diverse characters shouldn’t only star in stories about racism and discrimination, but also in stories about love and friendship and family and school and everything else.

Saniya: I couldn’t agree more.

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6. Lastly, what do you hope readers will take away from The Other Side of Perfect? Thank you so much for your time Ms. Turk!

Mariko: I hope one message readers take away is that there’s a way out of isolation and unhappiness. And that finding the way out might be tough, messy, and take longer than you want it to, but that it can also be funny, exciting, and full of unexpectedly spectacular possibilities. Thank you for these wonderful questions!

Saniya: This is such a beautiful message! Thank you once again for answering my questions. It was truly a delight to have you. 🙂

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About The Author

Mariko Turk grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in creative writing. She received her PhD in English from the University of Florida, with a concentration in children’s literature. Currently, she works as a Writing Center consultant at the University of Colorado Boulder. She lives in Colorado with her husband and baby daughter, where she enjoys tea, walks, and stories of all kinds.

//Website//Twitter//Instagram//Goodreads//

Thank you so much for reading this blog tour stop post, I hope you enjoyed it. Ms. Turk’s debut novel is lovely, and I can’t wait for you to read it! Have a fabulous day!

Thanks A Lot, Universe | An ARC Review

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all doing spectacularly! Here is my review for Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas. Thank you Netgalley and ABRAM Kids for providing me with an eARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Without further ado, here is the review!

Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas

(The synopsis provided is from goodreads.)

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .
But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.

Before I get into the review, I would just like to mention how absolutely stunning the cover is. Just look at this beauty!

First let’s talk about the plot. It seemed like an average middle school coming of age. You’ve got the bullies, the awkward and quiet kid, and that one parent who loves sports. With that said, I’m happy to report that the plot was executed in a very intriguing and unique fashion. It tackled issues that I haven’t encountered all that much in other middle grade novels. My only complaint is that I feel as though the synopsis made me assume that Brian and Ezra would help each other out more than they actually did. Fortunately though, it was something pretty easy to overlook.

The main characters, thirteen year old Brian and Ezra, where so lovable! They were such interesting characters! Brian is socially awkward and has a hard time talking to the ‘popular kids.’ When I was their age, I could totally relate! Ezra was such a cool character! He loves old music, told hilarious jokes, and had great fashion sense! The only thing I found to be a little infuriating was when Brian talked so much about having trouble speaking to people, but then a couple pages later he swears at a teacher. I felt as though he went from zero to a hundred a bit too quickly. His parents also talked about how he was such a responsible kid, even though some of his actions in the book were rather questionable. Then again, I can only imagine how hard it is to be in the foster care system. My heart goes out to all of the children in these systems. Overall, our main characters are put into such heartbreaking situations that I was happy to see represented in a middle grade novel.

The side characters where also very diverse and intriguing. Thanks A Lot, Universe gave adults diverse narratives, and it really worked well in the story. It was also interesting to see Ezra lose touch with his supposed best friend. Friendship was widely explored throughout the book, and I absolutely adored that aspect of it! Moreover, I liked how although there are a lot of side characters, each character plays a significant role in Brian’s life. Whether it be positive, negative, or neutral. My only complaint is that the police officer associated with Brian wasn’t talked about that much, and we never really got to know his true intentions.

Furthermore, the dialogue was a lovely mix of lighthearted and serious. Brian’s conversations with his dad, Katie, and the police officer, seemed rather mysterious. While the conversations he had with Gabe, Brittany, his teacher, and Ezra, seemed more lighthearted. In addition, it was interesting to see how Brian explained their family situation to his little brother. Overall, the dialogue in Thanks A Lot, Universe was superb!

Unfortunately, the writing style felt repetitive at times, which was a bit of a turn off. At certain times in the story, the pacing escalated and de-escalated very quickly. For example, sometimes Brian’s mindset would change from I-am-so-shy-and-responsible to edgy-bad-boy-has-been-unlocked in almost an instant. However, as mentioned in my A Song Below Water review, I love when books have no swearing in them. There’s just something so refreshing about books like this one. I also liked how there wasn’t necessarily any romance. The main characters aren’t even fourteen yet, so it makes sense for there not be any romance. One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed reading about was the setting! It takes place in (I believe) Nova Scotia, which is a maritime province in Canada. It was very fascinating to read about a place I’ve never been to before.

The overall enjoyment level of Thanks A Lot, Universe is very high. The plot was gripping, the characters are intriguing, and the story is fast paced. Must I say more?

Age Rating: 11 and up

TW: bullying, displacement of homes, running away, some violence

Final Rating: 8/10 or 4 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

What is your favorite coming of age novel? Let me know in the comments down below! Have a wonderful day!

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