Hudson Wheeler is a teen for whom everyone had high expectations, but since his father was killed when he was ten, he's felt unmotivated to pursue much other than his art. During his senior year, he decides to home school, thinking he will get to relax and focus on his two lazy businesses. But instead, he experiences love and rejection for the first time; meets an athletic girl who shows him by example what it means to be a man; and solves the painful mystery of the WWII vet whose poignant plight forces Hudson out of the comfort zone of boyhood.
In Going Places we see the main character Hudson building some very unlikely relationships with both Fritzy and Mr. Pirkle. What was the inspiration for building these relationships for Hudson and what role do you think relationships like these can play in someone’s life?
I love to include cross-generational relationships in my books because nobody lives in a vacuum, especially teens. Young adults have multiple generations involved in their lives if they’re lucky. Often, the relationship with the parent can be fraught with tension during high school, but with a grandparent or someone of a grandparent’s generation, things can be more relaxed. I’m a firm believer the young have much to learn from the wisdom and experience that age brings if they truly take an older person to heart and manage to hear and see them for the young person who once lived inside them. I also believe that young adults have much to offer the elderly, not least of which is their enthusiasm for life, their ability to live in the moment, and their fresh take on events.
As far as Hudson’s relationship with Fritzy, I know we expect to see romance in young adult literature, but my point is that, although teens are raging with hormones, true friendship is more valuable than anything in the world and is the relationship that’s most likely to last through the ages. How many high school romances are still intact ten years after graduation versus how many friendships? In my personal experience, many friendships are still intact decades later, although I do have a son who’s married to his high school sweetheart. I love Fritzy and if I could have brought her to life, I would have chosen her to be one of my best friends at that age.
On a personal note, I was not a fan of Alana and the way she treated Hudson, and spent a fair bit of time getting legitimately angry at her, which really speaks to how well formed her character was. How does the process differ in writing inherently good characters like Hudson and writing a character who makes some pretty poor decisions like Alana? Is one more fun to write then the other?
I love both Alana and Hudson. Of course, Hudson is easy to love because he has such a good heart and he’s a real people person. But Alana is like a bird with a broken wing. She’s been hurt in life and because she feels abandoned by her own mother, she can’t ground herself or see beyond her own pain. She comes off as selfish and she is. But I think her selfishness is just self-preservation. It’s the way she deals with pain. I see Alana having a string of unhappy relationships in her life, but I hope one day she’ll seek out therapy and realize what she’s doing to herself and to others. She’ll come to realize that she needs to love herself before she can love others, and then she’ll be able to mend her broken wing and fly.
So, I suppose I liked writing Alana even more than I liked writing Hudson, because it’s so hard to love her and understand her.
Was there a moment in your career that made you realize that writing was what you wanted to do with your life’s work?
I’ve always wanted to write but I wasn’t always ready to write. I had to prepare myself through living my own life, self-reflection, and reflecting on the lives of others. I also had to read hundreds and hundreds of books, probably thousands. And then one day I realized I was ready to tell my own stories.
Do you have any projects coming up that you’d like to tease to our readers?
In August, my first adult novel comes out (THE KITTY COMMITTEE). It’s what’s categorized as women’s fiction, or sometimes upmarket or book club fiction. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon which describes it in the following way. “The Kitty Committee of Grace’s youth was ostensibly a group of friendship and support. But the friends fell victim to the ringleader’s manipulative personality and recklessness, which set the girls on a course of vigilante justice, culminating in an act that will forever change their lives, an act that becomes their shared secret.” Think THE GIRLS meets PRETTY LITTLE LIARS.
My young adult novel about parallel universes (working title is S.P.I.T.) is nearly complete.
I've had a chance to read both Going Places and one other book by Berla, The House at 758 and I'm really looking forward to checking out Berla's upcoming books. If you haven't had a chance to check out Berla's books, you can pick them up at your favorite bookstore or online.
Thank you for stopping by to answer our questions about Going Places! We can't wait to read more.
Sixteen year old Krista is still grieving the untimely death of her mother when her father's new girlfriend moves into their home. He's already moved on and wants Krista to do the same, but she's not ready to resume a normal life yet. Distancing herself from those around her, Krista spends all of her time obsessively watching a mysterious house, the house at 758.
When a fellow classmate, Jake, takes a sudden interest in her, Krista feels excited for the first time in two years, but feelings of guilt consume her, and she ends up pushing Jake away. It isn't until her grandfather makes a surprise visit from Venezuela that Krista is finally able to confront her grief and begin to let things go.
I recently read and reviewed Going Places by Kathryn Berla (out March 2018) and then got the opportunity to pick up The House at 758. I love discovering new (to me) authors and titles because it's a bit like opening a present- you aren't sure what you are going to find inside, and as you open it you find something that's just right. That's kind of how I feel about Berla and these two books right now. Two months ago I didn't even know they existed, and now they've become books that I'm eager to order for the library and pass on to my students.
I don't want to give much away here, because the story includes some fabulous reveals, so this review will be short and sweet. This book, like Going Places, focuses on a kid who is hurting, who is trying to move forward after a tragedy and who is trying to figure out how to exist in a world that isn't familiar anymore. Here we find Krista still reeling from her mother's death. She's coping in ways that other people don't understand, in ways that are a little odd, and even in some that could be potentially dangerous. When her best friend goes away for the summer, Krista is a bit rudderless. It takes a few unexpected relationships to shake Krista and make her take a hard look at what she wants and if she wants to let herself be vulnerable again. Berla does a great job telling Krista's story. Anyone who has lost someone will find something familiar here, from the anger and grief, to the feelings of being alone even when you are in a room full of people. They'll recognize the guilt and the feelings of "what if?" that fill Krista's mind, even if they are lies that she is trying to get past.
What I love most about this book is that there is no big grand happy ever after. There is just life. In the end you get the sense that Krista's life isn't perfect, but that she'll be okay. For me that's a great message not only for me as a reader, but for me to send my students as their librarian. I'm always trying to find books that reflect real life (even those that fall into the realm of fantasy and sci fi), I want them to be able to see themselves somewhere in the pages, and I think Berla does a great job here. Krista is damaged and she's hurting, but she'll be okay in the end.
creatures were hunted to near extinction by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West.
With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, a charismatic alpha female named O-Six for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly Yellowstone park ranger Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world.But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park's stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley.
These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multi-generational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the clash of values in the West--between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country's most iconic landscapes.
It's impossible for me to review this book without also talking about my relationships to the wolves. Apologies in advance, because this will likely get lengthy. The wolves of Yellowstone have long been part of my life.
I've been going to Yellowstone since I was 6 months old. Every year or so we'd head across the country and spend weeks hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and animal watching. I remember the first time we saw a grizzly bear, the time we watched a bison charge down the road and barely miss a fisherman, I can look at a picture of a location in Yellowstone and tell you a memory about that place. I spent so much time in Hayden Valley that my parents took to calling it "Kate's Valley" and once I had a daughter we started taking her across as well. I also remember the first time I ever saw a wolf. It was 1996, I was 15 and we were driving through Lamar Valley checking out all our favorite wildlife watching spots. We went fishing down in Slough Creek and it was about dusk. Driving down the road I was looking out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of something, when suddenly there he/she was. High on the rocks, looking down as we drove past. Be the time we had stopped, the wolf had retreated back into the woods and I had been changed forever. I've followed the wolves for the past 20 years, checking in online during the year and planning out our trips to make sure that we were hitting up the most likely spots to see the wolves. We've seen pups playing near Slough Creek, a wolf fend off a bear over a carcass near Mary Mountain, a whole pack come down the hill near Little America and last summer we had probably our most amazing wolf experience. We pulled into a picnic area in Hayden Valley to discuss where we should head next and notices a few cars pulled towards the back, with their passengers out. We followed suit and immediately realized we were in for something amazing. A lone female white wolf was off the back of the picnic area, howling away. For about 15-20 minutes we watched this wolf as she tried to decide where to go. After she finally took off we headed back to the road and eventually saw her join up with two male's across the river. Later that night we went to the wolf presentation at Bridge Bay Campgrounds and learned that we had witnessed the white wolf defecting from her pack and joining up with the two males to start a new pack. In 34 years of visiting the park, that was a first for me.
This book then, was a bit like coming home. A way to visit a place I know like the back of my hand. The book makes reference to a lot of places in the park by name, places that I can picture right away, although I'm not sure a reader who doesn't frequent the park would be able to. Still Blakeslee paints a perfect picture of what the park and the surrounding area is like in regards to wolves. It was particularly interesting to me to get a snapshot of not only the people who advocate for wolves, but also those who are adamantly opposed to their reintroduction. It has been controversial and contentious for years, and that is probably an understatement. Blakeslee manages to present both sides of the debate very well, clearly showing why the wolves were reintroduced and the positive impact they've had, as well as highlighting the reasons that many were opposed. Many times online (and in person) you come across someone who is on one side or the other and because people are so passionate about it, it's hard to have a discussion. You are simply painted as pro-wolf or anti-wolf and the broad strokes of that brush cover up a really complicated issue. As is often the case, neither side is 100% right, it's not that simple and Blakeslee does a masterful job weaving together all the perspectives to create a really well rounded look at the Yellowstone wolves over the past 20+ years.
I loved this book. It made me want to quit my job, pack up and drive until I hit the valley (roughly 3 days of driving), and spend all my time watching animals and talking to other visitors. I found myself wondering if I was in any of the places that were highlighted during the events that were being discussed. Have I met Rick or Laurie? Maybe sat on the hill watching the pups play in the valley with them without even knowing how significant they were to the story of the wolves? Or maybe Rick gave one of the presentations I've attended over the years? Probably. My goal is to someday work in the park as an educator. I've just completed my Cultural Heritage Preservation Degree and there's nothing I want more then to share what I'm passionate about (namely Yellowstone National Park and it's wildlife) with others. Reading this book gave me a glimpse of the people who do just that every day and the wolves that are familiar to me and a bit like family to them.
I can't wait until my next trip out west, to sit in the valley and visit with the wolves.
The White Wolf and her potential new pack mates
American Wolf Book Trailer
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