When You Leave, by Monica Ropal (April 2015, Running Press), $9.95, ISBN: 9780762454556
Recommended for ages 14+
Skater girl Cass has a theory: everyone you love will leave you. Her dad left her; her best friend battled cancer and won, but it took his voice – she still feels the pain from it; her mother, remarried and pregnant, barely notices her or her younger brother, and her stepfather keeps her at arm’s distance. She sticks to her group of skater friends from Frogtown, despite living in a better neighborhood (courtesy of her stepfather) and being enrolled in a private school with the sort of kids who look at Frogtown skaters like something stuck to the bottom of their shoes.
And then, there’s Cooper. One of the popular kids, he’s someone Cass would never dream of having a relationship with – until she does. As soon as their romance begins, it ends when Cooper is brutally murdered, and one of her best friends is the prime suspect. As Cass starts her own investigation to clear her friend’s name, she starts learning more about the kids at school, what she meant to Cooper, and who she can really trust.
Cass is an outsider in her school, feels like an outsider among her own friends, once her family’s circumstances have changed, and an outsider in her own family. She even feels, to some degree, like an outsider in her fledgling relationship with Cooper, who’s not from her social crowd. Even after his death, she tries to find meaning in the relationship. She’s a great character to identify with teens, who often feel like outsiders themselves, for a myriad of reasons.
This is a story that will appeal to mystery and YA romance fans alike. There’s the whole West Side Story, secret romance between two factions to draw readers in, and the whodunit, which hits like a gut punch, and keeps going until the conclusion, where you’re yelling at the book. In a good way. Monica Ropal has created a layered story, told in the first person through a true outsider looking in.
When You Leave is in stores, so make sure you check out a copy on your next bookstore/library trip.
I’m thrilled to present my first MomReadIt author interview! Monica Ropal was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about When You Leave, fandoms, and more. Read on!
MomReadIt: Congrats on an amazing debut novel! What influenced you to write a mystery? Are you a fan of the genre?
Monica Ropal: Thank you very much! I am a huge mystery fan! But specifically my thought, from the start, was to make a very personal and very emotional mystery. Adult mystery tends to be very cerebral, and for YA, I wanted to bring the FEELS. Cass isn’t your typical sleuth. In fact, she is probably the worst person for the job because she has zero objectivity, given how close she is to both the victim and the prime suspect. I think that the fact that she struggles with finding emotional distance and that her perspective is colored by her emotions makes a very interesting point of view.
MRI: When You Leave looks at rival social classes, and how one’s social class affects not only how other kids look at you, but how the law looks at you. Has media coverage of current events influenced you at all when you’re writing?
MR: I think this is an age-old problem. The location in St. Paul, like many big cities, I imagine, has very different socio-economic classes within blocks of each other, and I always thought that was interesting.
MRI: I loved the unspoken communication between Cass and Mattie. He’s kind of like a Greek chorus living in Cass’ head. What influenced your decision to make Mattie unable to speak?
MR: Mattie and Cass have an unusually close relationship. Taking away verbal communication allowed me to show their relationship through physicality and nonverbal communication. Mattie is a very sensitive and emotional person, and I think that not only does he radiate his thoughts and feelings, but that Cass’ radar is particularly in tune to him.
MRI: I was totally thrilled to find out you’re a mom (of three, just like me!) and a fangirl! What are some of your fandoms?
MR: Every day is an adventure with three kiddos. They outnumber you, so you have to plan carefully and strategize. Unfortunately, I am neither well-organized nor strategic, so we have low-key chaos on the daily.
I am heavily into the One Direction fandom, who have been rebranding and appealing to more and more adult listeners, and I predict will be holding the world’s attention this year for more than just their music. (MomReadIt note: I mistakenly thought Monica’s OTP was Harry and Hermione, and mentioned that it was a fabulous OTP – but I stand corrected, as you’ll see!) Harry Potter will always hold a very special place in my heart. But let’s be clear here, Hermione and RON are my OTP. I don’t get righteous about much, but I will get righteous about my OTPs. :0)
Thank you so much for the book love and thank you for hosting me on your blog!
So that’s my big first interview! Thank you again, Monica, and good luck with When You Leave! You can find Monica’s author page at MonicaRopal.com, (where I also borrowed her author picture) and connect with her on Facebook and GoodReads. Follow her on Twitter @MonicaYAwriting.