life by committee

Not every part of the writing process has that joy in it. There’s days that that’s there, but there’s a lot of days it feels boring and not fun and not energizing.

Corey Ann Haydu, author of OCD LOVE STORY, LIFE BY COMMITTEE, and MAKING PRETTY, out May 12, on coming to terms with the harder side of the creative process.

Listen to her full interview here, or download it on iTunes or Stitcher.

Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

4 Stars
Reviewed by Naomi 

Official Synopsis: Some secrets are too good to keep. 

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat. 

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe. 

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

Tabitha has secrets. Big and small secrets. The one that occupies her mind the most is the fact that she is having a secret relationship. He tells her all of his secrets, tells her he wants her and kisses her. But, it’s all behind closed doors, because, Tabitha is the other girl in his life. 

There are several things about this book that I enjoyed. The first one is the reason that you should read this book; Tabitha, the main character. Tabitha is not a good girl, but she’s not a bad girl, either. She is feisty, self conscious, lonely, nervous around boys, and brave. She makes really stupid mistakes, puts her trust in the wrong people and lets her world spiral out of control.  Basically, Tabitha is just a girl trying to figure it out. That’s a great distinction in a genre filled with goodie two shoes and sacrificial lambs.  

This book deals with the problem of slut shaming and the manic pixie dream girl, brilliantly. Corey Ann Haydu flips both of those tropes on it’s head. Tabitha is slut shamed and not for reasons you might think. No one knows about Joe. No one knows anything about Tabitha with any boys, because there’s nothing to know and yet, the school names her “slut.” Why? Because nature had the nerve to give this girl curves. Oh, and when she filled into her curves, Tabitha began to dress herself accordingly. Nothing too dramatic, because she shops at the GAP for god’s sake!

Still, there are rumors, she’s an outcast and everyone looks down at her. It’s all very trite, which is good, because slut shaming is trite.  Tabitha is the only girl in literature, that I can think of, who gets less popular when she gets hot. It’s usually the other way around and I really loved that this author gave us a new perspective and a new twist on the same old story. 

LIFE BY COMMITTEE is a very interesting concept. Not only, because of the LBC itself, but because Tabitha is the other POV in stories like this. For example, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in this novel is actually Joe’s girlfriend. In another novel, Tabitha would be the short skirt wearing blonde girl who bats her baby blues at Joe and steals him away from the perfect, beautiful and misunderstood heroine. In the hands of another author, Tabitha would be the villain, the mistress, the slut. I am very pleased that Ms. Haydu gave us a different perspective. 

Then there is LBC.  I found the idea of the committee to be very interesting, because it’s true to life. Tumblr is a perfect example of a website where people find each other. I sincerely, consider many of my followers, etc on tumblr to be my friends. It’s obviously not the sort of friendship I have with my friends in normal life, but people on tumblr know a lot about me. When I am devastated or hurt by someone in my normal life, I turn to my blogs, because there is something empowering  about a world where you are known and yet anonymous. 

That is what “Life by Committee” gives Tabitha. She is finally able to show people the scars she hides from the world without being vulnerable. Without being shamed. The Committee gives Tabitha assignments. These assignments are meant to empower. They are meant to give these guys and girls the courage to take bold moves. Unfortunately, LBC is sometimes the blind leading the blind and while Tabitha’s actions are sometimes empowering, other times they are destructive.

The reason this book gets 4 stars and not a full 5 is, because I personally could have used another twenty pages. I’d like to see the aftermath of Tabitha’s choices a bit more. I’d like to see this new world that she has created for herself and her classmates. I’d like to see if her family makes it through the turmoil. I smiled, laughed and cried at the end, so it’s completely worth it. I am just not 100% satisfied, because I wanted to see everything wrapped up a bit better.

Honestly, I just highly recommend it. This book is a breath of fresh air.

Recommended for anyone sick of the normal YA tropes and could use something new. Also for fans of books that focus more on coming of age, or growing up and less on romance. (Although there is romance in there) 

For more: Goodreads page and Author website

On the blog: Never Without a Book, Always a Book in My Bag

There are some things that we carry with us wherever we go; our keys, wallets and mobile phones are some of such items. I believe that books count among these essentials. This is why I always carry at least a book, my Kindle or my iPad with me, so that I am never in want of reading material.


Mila 2.0: Renegade* by Debra Driza ( debradriza )

Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller ( laurenmillerwrites )

Rebel* by Amy Tintera ( amytintera)

*These books are sequels and seconds in trilogies.


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- Susane Colasanti talks teen love, Now and Forever and The Outsiders.
- Corey Ann Haydu talks about feminism and Life By Committee.
Veronica Roth’s Divergent won the 2013 - 2014 California Young Readers Medal.
- Ireland named Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) the third Laureate na nÓg.
- BookCon added a panel about #WeNeedDiverseBooks to its lineup.
Disney-Hyperion will release Rahul Kanakia’s teen political thriller.
- A new LGBTQIA+ romance from Robin Talley will hit shelves in 2015.
Sharon Briggs and Viking Books will release a stand-alone historical novel in 2016.
- Sarah Porter will release a new Russian folktale retelling with Tor Teen.
- HarperTeen will publish a debut epic fantasy series from Kathy MacMillan.
The Teen Author Carnival announced its 2014 lineup.
- The Kids Author Carnival announced its inaugural lineup.
- Lesley Livingston’s Now and For Never will launch with a party in Canada.
Ann Brashares, E. Lockhart and Sara Mlynowski will be at Oblong Books as part of the Hudson Valley YA Society tonight.
In Off the Page, Aaylia Jaleel captures characters from Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss and Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series.
In Once Upon A Tweet, Alison Ng finds the best of authors on social media.
- Keep up with upcoming YA releases.
- Keep up with recent cover releases.
- Keep up with recent excerpt releases.
This week’s list: 10 fairy tale retellings!

If you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter, you missed out on a mini-interview with Josh Winning on his upcoming novel Sentinel! Don’t forget to subscribe to read our Five in Five interviews with all sorts of wonderful YA authors.

Next issue, YA Interrobang will be covering BookExpo America! Make sure you’re following us on all of our aforementioned social media sites to get the most extensive coverage!

Next issue: June 1, 2014


YA is a huge genre, and contemporary YA is a huge genre within that huge genre and so many people are doing exciting and wonderful things in the YA world that sometimes we miss books that could become out favorites if only we’d known they existed.

Some of these books are critically acclaimed but still somehow don’t get into the hands of readers. Some are a little under the radar. Some you may have read. Some of them are a few years old, and therefore you maybe missed them. All of them are on the darker side, as that’s where my interests lie—in the complicated, messy, uncomfortable parts of life.

I hope you find a new favorite book here!



1. Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick. Lauren Strasnick is one of my very, very favorite YA authors. Her writing is gorgeous, her characters are layered, her stories have both simplicity and messiness—a truly masterful combination. This one follows a girl whose family is going through a tough time, and a pair of strange, uncomfortable, chaos-creating twins. It’s from 2010 so maybe you missed it. Once you’ve read it, you’ll want to read all of Strasnick’s beautiful novels.

2. True Believer (part of the Make Lemonade series) by Virginia Euwerr Wolff. Calling True Believer under the radar would be a misnomer, since this incredible verse novel won the National Book Award in 2001, but so many YA readers haven’t read it. For readers looking for diverse characters from under represented backgrounds, this is an incredible book about a young girl struggling to succeed academically, romantically, and with her friends and family. It’s unusual and relatable and LaVaughn is one of my all time favorite YA characters.

3. Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay. Speaking of wonderful contemporary YA verse novels… this one is so special. It follows a quirky, indie-film-feeling long distance couple who are trying to make it work, even though their individual new lives are moving forwards. If you are skeptical about verse novels, this one will win you over.

4. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers. Summers isn’t exactly under the radar for lovers of edgy contemporary YA literature, but this book is from 2010 so some readers may have missed it. If you want to join in the debate on the allegedly “unlikable” female character, here’s the place to start. Summers writes girls who are challenging and complicated and so so human. I personally find her characters more sympathetic than most, since they are flawed and broken. This one follows a girl who has fallen from grace with her clique of popular friends, and is struggling on her own in the aftermath. I consider this a YA classic.

5. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. A little known fact—I did my thesis in my MFA program on the many wonderful books of Elizabeth Scott. This is my favorite of hers—a dark, dark, novel about a girl who is kidnapped. It’s heartbreaking and horrifying and haunting and tense and brave.


Keep reading

At some point I had a come-to-Jesus moment where it was like, I am in an industry that is judging me on my looks, and I feel like I’m this smart girl, and I’m putting myself in a position to never have that matter. I walk into the room and no one cares that I am smart or interested or am curious or have things to say. … It just didn’t feel right for who I am.

Corey Ann Haydu, author of OCD LOVE STORY, LIFE BY COMMITTEE, and MAKING PRETTY, out May 12, on when she decided to quit acting for good.

Listen to her full interview here, or download it on iTunes or Stitcher.

Secrets and feet – scenes from the launch party of LIFE BY COMMITTEE

Strangers in Brooklyn gathered for a night of secrets and feet at Book Court in Brooklyn… AKA, it was the launch party for Corey Ann Haydu’s LIFE BY COMMITTEE. 

In the novel, Tabitha joins an online community that requires its members to contribute secrets. When a secret is posted, that person is also given an assignment that they must complete or risk having their secrets exposed. We asked attendees of the launch party to tell us their secrets. Here are just a few… now it’s up to them to complete their assignments!

Secret: Sometimes I steal from my co-worker’s chocolate stash.

Assignment: Steal it all and replace it with another kind of candy. (Obvi, don’t get caught.)

Secret: I’m worried that if I fall in love again, I’ll lose my creativity.

Assignment: Propose a collaborative artistic project with your crush. Ask them to be your model or your critique partner.

Secret: Sometimes I pretend I like avocados more than I actually like avocados.

Assignment: Create the menu for an entire meal out of avocados as a farewell meal, then swear them off for at least a year.


Secret: I stole my best friend’s favorite dress from her closet.

Assignment: Buy her a new dress and secretly place it in her closet without any note.


Secret: I play the ukulele but I’ve never done it in public.

Assignment: Take your ukulele and go busking in Union Square.


Secret: I am pretty sure that I will die alone surrounded by cats.

Assignment: Buy a Life Alert. (And cats are awesome: case in point.)


Secret: I have trouble finishing most books, except for Corey’s!

Assignment: Write a book review and post it online.

Secret: I haven’t cooked a meal in over 3 months.

Assignment: Send out invitations to a dinner party one week from today and start scouring the internet for recipes.


Secret: I hate hipsters.

Assignment: Grow a beard.


Secret: I’ve lived in NYC for 1 year now, and I’ve never been to Central Park.

Assignment: Go to the Central Park boathouse to rent a boat and Instagram a picture of yourself on the lake.


Secret: 75% of the books I read this month were trash novels.

Assignment: Handwrite out “There is no such thing as a trash novel” 200 times… because any novel that gives you enjoyment is awesome.

Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu

2.5 Stars
Reviewed by Naomi

Synopsis:Montana and her sister, Arizona, are named after the mountainous states their mother left them for. But Montana is a New York City girl through and through, and as the city heats up, she’s stepping into the most intense summer of her life.

With Arizona wrapped up in her college world and their father distracted by yet another divorce, Montana’s been immersing herself in an intoxicating new friendship with a girl from her acting class. Karissa is bold, imperfectly beautiful, and unafraid of being vulnerable. She’s everything Montana would like to become. But the friendship with Karissa is driving a wedge between Montana and her sister, and the more of her own secrets Karissa reveals, the more Montana has to wonder if Karissa’s someone she can really trust.

In the midst of her uncertainty, Montana finds a heady distraction in Bernardo. He’s serious and spontaneous, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, Montana understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life?

The synopsis of this book doesn’t give a clear summary of what this book is about. Like, at all. MAKING PRETTY is about one of the most messed up families I have ever encountered. Which is a feat considering there is no drugs or obvious abuse. Montana wasn’t raped and isn’t hiding in closets from her father, but still calling this family dysfunctional is putting it lightly.

Montana and Arizona are two years apart in age, but have done everything together. Except, for College. Being two years younger Montana just can’t go off to university like her older sister. She’s left behind in New York with her useless father.  Their father loves them and he provides for them, but he is one of the worst dads I’ve ever read, because he’s a horrible parent. He’s the kind of guy who brings work home, literally. As a plastic surgeon he spends his time making people “more beautiful” and he doesn’t stop at the office. He looks at every woman around him and sees flaws he can fix. Even on his own daughters. For their 13 birthdays, their dad gave them gift certificates for plastic surgery! Way to tell your child that they are not good enough or beautiful. 

The other horrible thing about their dad is that he can never be alone. Never. Which has lead to dozens of girlfriends and 4 ex-wives. Think about that. Montana is 17 and her father has already been divorced 4 times. The selfishness of a parent who brings that many people for his impressionable daughters to lose is beyond my comprehension. It’s disgusting and rage inducing.

Rage inducing is a good description for my relationship with MAKING PRETTY. I hated so many characters. Hated all the things they said and all the things Montana didn’t say to them. Especially, after her dad tells her that he’s in love again and that it’s different this time! The moment we meet the new girlfriend, someone that Montana knows intimately, the book spirals into an uncomfortable coming of age family drama that kept me on a roller coaster of anger and pity.

Corey Ann Haydu is a talented author. Her style is smart and rhythmic and pulls you into every detail of the story. I was pulled in. I felt for these characters as if they were real. As if Montana was my friend telling me the story. The author pulled emotions out of me like a puppet master.

The problem is that I believe that I hate this book. Not in the way that I hate offensive or condescending books. It’s not bad. The characters are developed and the story clear. There is the small problem that Montana does not sound 17. She sounds 15. She doesn’t have the voice of someone who has the pressure of SAT’s and the big choices ahead of her. 17 year olds have to decide on colleges and begin the path of who they want to be and what they want to do. Nothing about Montana tells me she has that kind of stress. I say 15, because by then you’ve been through a year of high school which is a life of its own. You’ve had some life experience and some struggles, but the hard choices are still ahead of you. Montana was an immature 17 which worked for the dysfunction of the book.

I hate this book because it pulled emotions out of me and then left me hanging. The ending is no ending at all. One of those pretentious books where the ending is all open ended and nothing is resolved and nothing is concluded.

It’s not that I need things wrapped up in a pretty bow (though that would be nice). No, it’s that Montana doesn’t get to grow. I don’t have any idea what will happen to her on the other side of the last chapter. I have no idea how she will deal with the choices she’s made. I have no idea if her and the boy she falls in love with, will stay together for awhile or if they will break up. Then there’s the fact that no one changes. In the beginning of the book, Montana thinks “I should tell him this. I should say that. I should voice my opinions for once in my life.”  At the end of the book, Montana thinks “I should tell him this. I should say that. I should voice my opinions for once in my life.”

That is what I found most frustrating. This is a girl who received such bad parenting she literally doesn’t know what it means to be in a family. She doesn’t know what it means to love. Her parents have screwed her up and she never gets a chance to express herself! When there are small moments of arguments it’s never completed.

I guess that’s supposed to mimic real life, but really it’s b.s. Why did I read a book where people make the same choices. Then, Montana and Arizona begin a journey at the end of the book which is just a cheap ending for me, because I have no idea where it’s leading them or how it will help them. I don’t think it will help them. I think it will break them and the author gave me no clues that their world will have any kind of satisfying or happy conclusion. In fact, their journey probably will make a better story than the one I got.

I can’t quite figure out what the message behind this book is. Here is a girl who doesn’t have a real family life. Who has been left behind and abandoned more times than she can count. Understandably, she latches on to people like her boyfriend or Karissa the young woman she idolizes. But, she never learns what it means to be in a family besides the glimpses she sees of other families. Beyond her sister, she never grabs on to a healthy relationship. In all honesty, I think Montana is going to get knocked up a few times, divorced a few times and still search for a place to belong, because the author gave me no concrete evidence that it will end any other way.

A very weak ending. Disappointing, because I sincerely believe you should read her other book Life by Committee. 

For more info Goodreads page.

Trees of Reverie July Read-a-Thon: Day 12

Another Monday, another week. I continued on with Sekret, reading it slower than I usually read and relishing the book. It’s written quite differently than your typical YA book, at least in my opinion, and I feel like in order to grasp everything I want to read it more slowly. 

I also started listening to Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu but I had to put it down. You can read my reasons why on Goodreads, but basically, the book was making me uncomfortable (in a bad way) and I just couldn’t continue it. Instead I picked up Starters by Lissa Price and I’m enjoying it a lot more.

Pages Read Today: 216
Total Pages Read: 2910
Books Read: Reality Boy // Divided // The Geography of You and Me // Dorothy Must Die // The Dream Thieves // Since You’ve Been Gone // Ruins // Sekret (in progress) // Starters (in progress)