The author arrived at Starbucks right on time. I recognized her immediately from the photo as she walked across the parking lot. She was taller than I’d expected, but the long, dark hair and friendly smile were familiar. She wore her school uniform; her mother drove her over after play practice. Jacqueline Frist is an 8th grader at Ensworth Middle School.
Jacqueline will read from her first novel, Blueview Island, at Parnassus this Wednesday, November 2nd, at 6:30 pm. “I think it’s relatable,” she said shyly about her book. “It’s a teenager writing about teenagers. How we talk and how we think. I think that makes it different from books written by adults.”
I took it with me on a trip last weekend and have to agree. It’s an imaginative book, heavy on fantasy elements, but it has an immediacy of feeling that is honest, real, and true to adolescence.
Blueview Island is the story of boy-girl twins Jayce and Terri, sent by their mother to spend the summer with their grandfather on Blueview Island. He owns a resort there, and they’re expecting it to be pretty posh. They are in for a surprise when they arrive and find out it isn’t going to be frozen strawberry lemonades and perfect beaches all day long. Instead, they’ll be sharing a small room and working! Pretty quickly, they make good friends and start to discover the island’s dark and magical secrets. When a shadowy presence targets Jayce and Terri for serious harm, the twins and their friends have to figure out why – and how to fight back. This is a book for fans of Percy Jackson.
Jacqueline gets two crucial things right in this book: she writes characters you believe in, and you want to know what happens next. I was curious about her decision to write the book from the perspective of the boy twin, Jayce. “I’m not sure why!” she laughed. “I knew I wanted to write about twins. A lot of books with hero themes have an only child, and I knew I didn’t want that. Once I started, it just felt right to try to write it from his point of view. It felt like more of a challenge. It felt more interesting. I know I probably don’t get it exactly right – what it’s like to be a teenage boy – but I try.”
Jacqueline began writing Blueview Island two years ago, after her friend Miranda started writing a book. Miranda eventually decided not to finish her own but helped Jacqueline finish hers. Jacqueline wrote the book in Google docs and shared it with Miranda, who would make suggestions in the (digital) margins. Jacqueline dedicates the book to her friend.
Other friends pitched in with ideas for characters’ names and helped Jacqueline make sure she got things like dialogue right. “It’s funny, we’d be sitting around in class talking about names, and then one of my friends would read the book and be like – hey, that’s the name I suggested!” The only name she was certain of from the start was Luna, a mysterious late arrival to the island.
Jacqueline’s characters are sometimes confused, a little awkward, and insecure. “You don’t want to make everything perfect,” Jacqueline says. “You don’t always know what to do.” But sometimes everything just clicks. Jayce and Terri have each other’s backs, and the friends form strong, close bonds.
In one of my favorite passages in the book, Jayce is thinking about how happy he feels with his friends:
I was with my good friends and eating delicious food. In my reverie, I forgot about our mission, about Nightshade, about the dangers of finding the other amulets. It was nice to have a break from that even for just a few minutes. I enjoyed not having to think about the pressure we were under if even for just a short time. I was relaxed. After our mission, life could be like this every summer… I could maybe even quit school and stay here. Have a good life training and working with my grandfather. I could stay with my friends. Every day could be like this. That would be nice.
Livia noticed my blissful look and asked what I was thinking about. I told her I wasn’t really thinking about anything. Sometimes, it’s good to keep things for yourself to enjoy.
I couldn’t agree with Jayce more. Some thoughts are for sharing, and others you keep in your heart.
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What she does for fun? Competitive rock climbing.
Some of her favorite series? Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, Maze Runner.
A recent great read? When We Collided, by Emery Lord.
Books she loved as a child: Magic Tree House series! Before that, everything by Mo Willems.
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