Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

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Available March 13, 2012
Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friend” – know to everyone as the Glitterati – without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls. Who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her – evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s not time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person Willa trusts most?

Mean Girls meets Robin Hood in this charming tale of Willa Fox who has been transplanted to a snooty new high school called Valley Prep in Paradise Valley, AZ. Willa has made a career out of being a new girl at every school. This time, thanks to a chance encounter with another student, Cherise, Willa winds up in the world of the Glitterati – the “it” girls of the school.

Willa is very likable; her quirkiness is endearing. She's easily forgiven for initially falling under the Glitterati's spell before realizing just how ruthless they can be. And while the description above gives the impression that the bad boy, Aidan is a huge distraction, it is really Willa's struggle to establish her own ground and create a more tolerant environment at her school that's front and center.  

Eliza Ludwig does a fine job with the story. Even though it touches on the topic of online bullying, she doesn't get preachy.  Instead she adopts plenty of humor and intrigue that takes the story in a different direction where Willa sticks it to the over-privileged brats at school.

Pretty Crooked is very entertaining and everyone will recognize the social hierarchy that's described in it. The book offers a glimpse into what some of the other kids at Valley Prep go through. Cherise, for example, who used to be on the outside before being accepted by the Glitterati, has learned to turn a blind eye because she's terrified of being a social outcast. There's Tre, another transplant like Willa, and son of the Phoenix Suns' head coach, who has constant rumors swirling around him. Then there's Aidan and his endless attempts at getting kicked out of school so that he can send a message to his overbearing father. All of them demonstrate that there's more to people than meets the eye.

In the end, Willa does have to face the consequences of her actions, especially the negative fallout from her otherwise good intentions. Aside from that, there's also the added mystery of the secrets her mom has been keeping from her since they moved to Arizona. All of this provides for plenty of material for the next book which I very much looked forward to!

~ Bel

And now BiblioJunkies is very happy to have Elisa Ludwig share more about Pretty Crooked.  Don’t worry, you won’t be running into any spoilers!

Elisa Ludwig
The kids at Valley Prep where Willa goes are quite diverse.  How much of that setting echoes your own high school experience?
Actually, the school I went to was not terribly diverse at all. It was a private school, not unlike VP. I got a wonderful education but when I was there, the majority of students were white and affluent.

Willa is a confident person. It’s nice to see a teenager who with her quirks and a few missteps along the way still has a handle on things. And then there’s Cherise who’s still a bit unwilling to stick her neck out even if she disagrees with the Gliteratti. How did you shape those two characters?
In the earlier drafts, Willa was a little too tough, a little too confident. Over time she came to be more enthusiastic and slightly more naïve, at least in terms of her social life. I think Cherise has more to protect – she knows what the Gliteratti’s wrath can be like, and so she is more defensive of her social position. Cherise was always more conflicted than Willa but the nuances of characters’ interactions and dynamics always seem to come (for me, anyway) in later drafts.

The overall tone of the book is whimsical even though it brings up online bullying and the perils of rumor mills. Were they something you had wanted to address?
Yes. These being real issues for kids. The stealing part and the fashion and of course the romance are meant to be fun fantasies, but it’s also important to ground stories in the here and now, and have some substance.

How did you research the fine art of pick pocketing and breaking into lockers? And how fun was that?
Mostly on the internet! Everything is out there for the reading (and writing). Some things took longer than others to nail – I remember that figuring out the locker scene was pretty tricky. Sometimes I would try to write one method but then it wouldn’t work as well on paper so I’d scrap it and use another. But it was super fun. I just the FBI isn’t keep a case file on me, given some of my search terms.

So in the next book will we learn more about this mystery surrounding Willa’s mom? Can you drop us any little hints?
Yes, for sure. This book is a cliffhanger and the next one solves most, if not all the questions raised. Hmm..hints. *maniacally steepling fingers together* I will say this: All of the major characters will be back.

Aidan in the story is the big prankster at school. Did you take part in any yourself?
I wish I could say I did. There was one senior prank the whole class did and I recall it has something to do with condoms. But in general, my rebellions (you better believe I had them) were much quieter.

And now is the part of the interview where we get silly. We BiblioJunkies have the mentality of sixteen year olds, so with that being said…which fictional character would you love to go on a date with?
:) If we’re talking teen boys, I think I’d have to choose Tom Henderson from King Dork. He’s smart, quirky and we could geek about music. Now if it had to be someone my age, well, that would be a challenge. I haven’t run into a dreamy thirty something guy in a book in a while! May be you have a recommendation??

When it comes to dessert, what’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
Much like Aidan, I prefer the combination of salty and sweet: Chubby Hubby, salted caramel anything, or Mo’s Bacon Bar would fit the bill.

And finally what kind of reading do you enjoy when you’re not busy writing? (Okay so it’s not a silly question.)
I love contemporary YA, of course. One of my day jobs is writing guides for other people’s novels so I read all kinds of books for that. I also like literary fiction, short stories, the New Yorker, narrative nonfiction, cookbooks, and blogs like The Hairpin. (I’ve been known to waste a minute here or there on cheesy celebrity gossip. Ahem.)

Congratulations on the new book Elisa and thank you for taking the time out of your very busy day to chat with us. We wish you much success!

Readers, we hope you enjoyed it and we hope you add Pretty Crooked, available March 13 to your TBR list!

~ Bel

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