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Tuesday, September 30, 2014


My first public read from UNFRIENDED is tomorrow night!

Please join me and all these awesome authors for Teen Author Reading Night tomorrow, Oct 1, at 6-7:30 PM, Jefferson Market Branch of NYPL, corner of 6th Ave and 10th Street.

Here's who'll be there, doing short readings and then answering any/all questions you may have:

Moderator: David Levithan

Lisa Amowitz,Vision
Laurie Crompton, Adrenaline Crush
Timothy Decker, Lies in the Dust
Heather Demetrios, Exquisite Captive
Jaclyn Dolamore, Dark Metropolis
Amelia Kahaney, The Invisible
Gordon Korman, Memory Maze
Rachel Vail, Unfriended

So... now I better figure out which bit to read!

If you've read Unfriended yet -- any suggestions?

Since there are 6 narrators, I know I have to do a piece that has at least 2 POVs... can I manage 3?

Do you have a favorite narrator?

I am so psyched to hear all these other authors read...

Monday, September 29, 2014

How You Know It's Not The End of the Story Yet

Just saw on the news this morning that a huge truck is jamming up the entire FDR drive here in NYC -- they had to shut the whole thing down, which, with the UN in session to boot, is no doubt making a LOT of people really, really cranky this morning.

It brings me back to the U-Haul truck I drove home from college one year. I dropped off my boyfriend at his house, not far from mine, and proceeded home. It had been many hours for me behind the wheel (my then-boyfriend was not a fan of driving a truck and did not want to take a turn; I felt lucky he even rode with me) during which I kept checking my mirrors because I felt way TOO WIDE for my lane.

So as I approached what my family calls the Troll Bridge, right off the Bronx River Parkway -- maybe any readers from Westchester County NY know what I'm talking about? -- I was a little nervous the truck would be TOO WIDE to fit through. But no, we looked just slim enough. So in I went.


What the...???

I checked my mirrors. No problem. Only then did it hit me, a few minutes after the top of the tunnel hit the roof of my truck. TOO TALL.

I tried to get out of the cab of the truck to survey the damage but couldn't open my door. Somebody yelled to me to keep going. So I tried. No. Stuck. More horrible sounds but not much movement. Somebody else yelled that I had to throw it into reverse and back it up, out of there. There were cars lining up on both sides of the Troll Bridge, waiting to get through. I felt like Pooh in Rabbit's hole.

Put it in reverse and floor it! The stranger yelled again.

Not wanting to spend the rest of my life in that Troll Bridge, and without a better idea, I did what the unseen stranger suggested.

With a great clattering and screeching -- and probably the truck was making noise too -- I backed out of the Troll Bridge. It was kind of slow and then POP I was out, into the daylight again.

I got out to survey the damage. Everything looked fine except the tires, weirdly, were on a sheet of metal.


I had sheered the roof right off the top of the truck and backed up onto it.

Exhausted, humiliated, grateful, I thanked the crew that had very helpfully gotten out of their cars and helped me, including helping me back up off the roof and lug it to the side of the road, and drove the now convertible truck filled with all my sad belongings from a failed rooming situation at college home for a Thanksgiving and family that were waiting for me.

My dad returned the truck for me the next day because I was too humiliated and depleted, and explained to them where they could retrieve the top portion of the truck I had rented.

When an envelope arrived a few weeks later for me from U-Haul, I was scared but not surprised. I was living with new people by then, strangers, and feeling very raw and tender and fragile in the world. And this would be just one more thing, one more blow. I opened the envelope slowly, wondering if the U-Haul people were suing me or just demanding some huge payment I didn't have.

It was a check.

For the full amount of my deposit.

I started to laugh and couldn't stop for a while. My new roommates probably thought I was nuts. I called home -- my parents thought I was kidding. When I swore I wasn't, they cracked up too. A check! They sent you a check? Maybe you could get a part time job wrecking stuff; it pays pretty well!

I have felt ever since that it was a moment of grace and forgiveness, receiving that check. Maybe it was somehow a sign from the universe that in spite of how things seemed to be going, right then, the end of the story wasn't me stuck in a rented truck sans petulant boyfriend, sans escape route, sans roommates, sans friends, sans ROOF, in a TROLL BRIDGE.

The end of the story was yet to come. A check. My money back. A funny coda. A memory of a crowd of people yelling at me to FLOOR IT and then clapping when I emerged, backwards, topless.

And that experience seems to me to be a perfect metaphor for something. But what? Maybe to keep going through the bad part because the funny is just a few beats down the way?

Or maybe the real nugget of wisdom here is: don't drive trucks through Troll Bridges. Or on the FDR drive.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Off they go, as well they should...

It started as an idea in my head, some voices, some characters -- the social whirl of middle school, the question of bullying and how that feels, and popularity and why we want it and what we're willing to sacrifice for it... and how each of us has a different interpretation of the scene, even as we experience it together...

And for many, many, many months, it was not quite a thing. Or it was a hideous mess of a thing. A hideous mess I had serious doubts would ever form itself into a readable, coherent manuscript. Notice I said "form itself" because the one thing that WAS gin-clear to me at that point was that I was beyond doubt unable to make it either readable or coherent. I had no clue how to proceed.

So on I slogged. Often hitting dead ends. Kept afloat by encouragement from wise friends and oceans of good milky tea. And a lack of other skills to fall back on.

Until, eventually, this showed up at my door:

And it hit me once again that seeing my book, multiple copies of it all boxed up and done, uneditable anymore, in piles, felt very much like seeing my kids begin to wobble forth on their doughy round feet, when they were little.

And it is so dear and sweet to grab them up and hold them and even smell their new scent... but I'm no rookie, book or kid-wise, so I knew what was just ahead... they will make their way out into the world, soon, so soon. And as the author, or the parent, I will no longer be fully in charge of what happens. Some people will like them. Some won't. They will go out there and affect people in their own unique ways, bearing my love and my continued attention with them always, but still, making their own way among their peers.

And here I will be, knee-shakingly proud to see my book among amazing volumes like these... 

and finding new friends...

just as I am to see each of my kids finding his friends...

and finding his way, a kid among kids...

And here I'll remain, hoping for the best for them all. Taking a deep breath to keep myself from chasing like Polonius after them, offering last minute advice or impossible, too-late edits as they go to find their ways in the world.

Being reminded to take it slow and keep exploring...

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Unfriended comes out today!

As does the truth: Yeah, I do write standing up. At the wine rack.

Here's the proof. Also some info about the book.

And here's more info about the book, plus how to get your own copy!

Saw it today for the first time on a book store shelf, at Bank Street Books.

That is always an exciting moment.

As was this: my lovely husband toasted the occasion with me:

And now, bedtime.

Goodnight, friends, and thanks for all the love... right back at you all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The day before

I just took a break from baking

this plum torte for tonight's celebration at my mom's house...

to look for my lost cuppa tea.

It's one of those days when I'm doing so many things, I end up chasing myself around the apartment and losing my tea. When I find it, it is tepid and sad. And my microwave is broken. And though I have finished making 3 of the 4 recipes I'm making, my kitchen is a mess and also that leaves one more thing to make and it's sweet pea risotto which why did I offer to make that and also WORK and my tea is yucky. So: break time.

So I picked up my laptop and saw that the piece on HuffPo I wrote, Top 15 Things Your Middle School Kid Wishes You Knew, just hit 200,000 "likes."

That is so many likes, you guys. Thank you so much. For the validation, of course, but also for making it so clear to me how much we are all in this together. As parents, we hunger to connect with our kids, even when they are being particularly impossible. We want to teach them, guide them, help them -- of course. We're perplexed by them sometimes, and we can't help but worry, even as we root for them to become independent, resilient, happy, productive and generous adults. Not yet. But someday. And as we struggle to connect with them, we sometimes feel SO ALONE.

But here is proof: we are not. We are so in it together, all trying to get it right, this most important thing we will ever do.

I am beyond excited about that. 

I will write more tomorrow and beyond about this book and why it means so much to me... 

But for now, I am thinking about all of us, parents of young adolescents. If you are interested in getting inside the heads of middle school kids, this may be the book for you as well as for your favorite middle schooler. There's friendship and social politics, multiple and spiraling misunderstandings, cyberbullying, crushes, big sandwiches, playground disasters, stumbling growth toward some tentative and incomplete measures of grace.... 

Here's a link to read more about the book, and to buy it. (That would be a great thing to do, btw.) 

If you do get the book, please let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are reading it with your kid, in some way. Do you have the same favorite character? Different reactions/predictions as things spiral out of control? Were you angry at the same characters as your child was? Do any of the characters remind you and/or your child of any of his/her friends? Were you surprised by any of your own reactions, or your kid's?

Sometimes it is far easier to begin discussing awkward topics like friendship and morality in third person (why did that character do that???) rather than in second person (have you ever done that? -- or, worse for getting any kind of conversation/information flow going: YOU'D BETTER NEVER DO THAT! Though, yeah, that temptation, dead-ender though it is, flares up in all of us...)

Anyway, in addition to being PUB DAY, tomorrow is also Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year. I wish all who celebrate a sweet and joyous celebration -- and wish all of us a year to come filled with laughter, love, celebrations, health, and peace. And not too many homework battles. And that your kid's socks won't be scattered around the house each night like little wayward sock brioches.

Is that just at my house? Oh. Oh well.

Off I go toward sweet pea risotto and a fresh hot cup of tea.

Much love,
Rachel Vail


How do you know if there is cyberbullying going on? Sometimes it's so subtle, the bruises don't show -- but they sure are felt, especially for middle school kids. What can you do if it's happening -- or to prevent it?

(Is there anything I feel less secure about than watching myself on video? Oh, yes, actually; there is: asking other people to watch me on video! UGH. But I am trying to live up to the advice I am giving kids, here, and not be a hypocrite, so... taking a deep breath and embracing the insecurity, here is a video of me, discussing cyberbullying, taking a breath, and how to be a friend.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Some reviews of UNFRIENDED

It's pub week! UNFRIENDED is coming out this Thursday!

Here's what people are saying about it so far:

Praise for Unfriended:

"With keen insight, Vail reveals the internal struggles with uncertainty and self-doubt that can plague young teens regardless of popularity status. . . With a resolution that is both realistic and hopeful, Vail captures the complexity of middle school social challenges, insightfully addressing the issues of friendships and integrity." —Publishers Weekly

"Vail has a great ear for dialogue, and her characters. . . are well differentiated and realistic." —VOYA

"A realistic portrayal of middle school life. Truly is depicted as a complex young adult, not a single-minded social climber. . . [and] the other characters are multidimensional; they have struggles and worries, and are not the flat, stereotypical popular kids that are sometimes portrayed in YA novels. . . A solid choice that will ignite meaningful discussion." —School Library Journal

"Another winner by Rachel Vail. At times laugh-out-loud funny, and other times heartbreaking, Unfriended is the kind of book I wish there were more of: emotionally complex, beautifully written, and impossible to put down. I never wanted it to end." -- Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries and Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls

"Rachel Vail should be required reading for all middle-schoolers. Deft and funny, this tale of the doom and drama of friendships played out in a digital universe is pitch-perfect and sheer fun. I loved it!" -- Judy Blundell, author of What I Saw and How I Lied

"Rachel Vail's ingenious, humorous, and compassionate storytelling brings her six narrators so fully alibe that by the end of her book you cannot imagine ever 'unfriending' any of them." -- Mary Pope Osborne, author of the Magic Treehouse books

I'm looking forward to your thoughts...

Click one of these -- or go to your favorite bookseller to preorder!


Lots of love,
Rachel Vail

My piece on the Huffington Post

Top 15 Things Your Middle School Kid Wishes You Knew

Posted: Updated: 

1. Respect me. I'm my own person, not just your kid. Sometimes I might have opinions that differ from yours. Sometimes I just want to be your baby. Respect me either way.
2. I still want to have fun with you, and feel like home is safe and happy. Smile at me.
3. I need to make some of my own choices, and maybe some of my own mistakes. Don't do my work for me or get me out of every jam. You don't need to be better than me at everything. Don't condescend; you don't need to impart your elderly wisdom on me if I have a problem. Please wait for me to ask for your help. If I don't ask for it, I might want to work it out for myself. Let me rant without offering advice. Sometimes that's all I really need, just to talk my way through something and for you to just listen to me.
4. Sometimes I'm going to be moody and annoyed and frustrated. You need to just let that happen (though you shouldn't let me be rude to you; that's weird and embarrassing). It might just be a mood or something might be going on that I'm not ready to talk about yet. If you hang around doing stuff near me and don't interrupt or try to solve it as soon as I start, I might feel comfortable talking with you about things.
5. Trust that I'll do my work. If I don't, you can help me manage my time, but wait until I'm not taking care of responsibilities to think I can't. Don't just assume I can't handle responsibility because of my age. Believe in me.
6. It feels really good when you ask me to teach you about what I'm learning or what I'm good at. You don't have to be awesome at computer programming to let me teach you some cool stuff, for instance. I have to be a beginner constantly. Show me it's OK to stay relaxed and present when you are struggling to learn something.
7. I don't like the drama either, and it surprises me as much as it does you. You think it's rough having this alien lunatic in your house? Try having it in your body, and you can't even get away.
8. If you don't like my friends, it feels like you don't trust my judgment or like I am stupid about choosing friends. Or both. Ask me what I like about them, or what we have fun doing together, or just to tell you about a new friend. Stay open-minded. Still, if you think my friends are being bad to me, I need you on my side that much more.
9. Sometimes I am completely overwhelmed and need to zone out for a while. I am not becoming a slug and will not stay in my room staring at a screen for the rest of my life. Maybe just for the rest of the afternoon.
10. I will fight you every step of the way if you make me do stuff I don't want to do (get some exercise, do my homework, write a thank-you note, practice piano, apologize to my sister, take a shower, wear deodorant... so many things), but you should probably make me do them anyway. I know I will feel better if I sweat and shower each day, and develop my study skills, and show up tomorrow prepared, and, and, and. I know! But please don't overwhelm me. I might not be able to do what I should right away. I might need reminders, later, which will annoy me completely. Remind me anyway.
11. Explain why I'm being criticized or punished. It feels scary if I don't understand anything beyond that you are mad at me. And sometimes what I need more than a scolding is a hug or a cuddle. Especially when I am more porcupine than puppy.
12. I need to have private jokes with my friends and not explain them to you. It's how we bond. You don't need to be involved in every aspect of my life to still be loved and needed by me.
13. If my social life gets to be too much, I may need you to force a little vacation from it on me. But most of time what I need is to work through how to navigate life online and with peers. Now is my chance to learn how to deal, with your help. Just shutting it down keeps me from learning how to build my life online with scaffolding provided by you. Stay calm and cool, let me explain what's going on, and talk things through with me. Ask more, tell less.
14. Especially if I've been feeling stressed, maybe you could just hang out with me. Go to the park or get an ice cream or have a catch, whatever; it feels good to just do something together without discussing or solving or teaching anything.
15. I like it when you think I'm funny. Or interesting. Or awesome. I actually do care what you think about me. Please find something specific you actually like about me because sometimes I can't find anything in myself to like at all. I might roll my eyes, but your words and judgments do matter to me, and I will remember them, the good and the bad. I will keep them with me like treasures even when I lose my keys and wallet and ID. Which I probably will. More than once. Sorry.
And bonus extra important thing you should know: The fact that my opinions on this and anything else might change tomorrow does not mean I don't feel them fiercely today. Keep up. I love you. Remind me you still love me, too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Some reviews of UNFRIENDED, coming Sept 25, have appeared! Here's one from VOYA:

5Q 4P M J

Vail, Rachel. Unfriended. Viking/Penguin, 2014. 288p. $16.99. 978-0-670-01307-


Unfriended is the story of middle school popularity and bullying told from multiple

viewpoints. Truly is an eighth grader who is on the shy side. When her former

best friend, Natasha, who dropped her at the beginning of middle school to chase

popularity, invites her to join the “popular table” at lunch, Truly ditches her friend

Hazel the same way. Hazel takes revenge by unleashing an online brouhaha that

affects all the characters, from Brooke, the most popular girl in school, who is

also honestly nice, to Jack, the jock who loves to make gourmet lunches and has

a crush on Truly.

Vail has a great ear for dialogue, and her characters, while not initially

very likeable, are well differentiated and realistic. These teens are not just

interested in advancing in the middle school pecking order; they are also

concerned about academics, their parents’ finances, their siblings being

accepted, and a myriad of other real-world worries. The large number of

alternating voices makes it a bit difficult to differentiate the personalities at first,

but Vail’s use of texts, lists, e-mails, Facebook posts, and first-person narratives

eventually reveals the full picture. As the final third of the book veers into online

bullying, the pace threatens to spin out of control, but Vail leavens the tension

with some appealingly straightforward romance and some shockingly (and sadly)

realistically bad parenting.—Barbara Fecteau.