This is where you’ll find updated news and links to reviews and interviews. I’ll be updating regularly. Thanks for all your support!
Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai is available now!
August 3, 2021 (Scholastic)
“Heartbreak is for suckers.”
When Jenna Sakai gets dumped over winter break, it confirms what she learned from her parents’ messy divorce: Relationships are risky and only lead to disappointment. So even though she still has to see her ex-boyfriend at newspaper club, Jenna is going to be totally heartless this semester — no boys, just books.
But keeping her cool isn’t always easy. Jenna’s chief competition for a big journalism scholarship is none other than her ex-. Her best friend Keiko always seems busy with her own boyfriend. And cute-but-incredibly-annoying Rin Watanabe keeps stealing her booth at the diner she’s been hiding at every day after school. Rin is every bit as stubborn and detached as Jenna. And the more Jenna gets to know him, the more intriguing a mystery he seems. Soon Jenna is starting to realize that being a loner is kind of, well, lonely. And letting people in might just be a risk worth taking.
This book is full of family drama and first crushes, independent girls, and friendship.
Starred review from Kirkus!
“Florence offers a tightly written narrative that is as fearless as it is balanced, diving into complicated feelings of distrust and isolation while still offering glimmers of friendship and hope. Jenna’s honest voice shines with clarity, portraying a flawed but relatable protagonist whom readers will root for. This entertaining read is as complex as it is delightful.”
From award-winning author, Jo Knowles: “Fans of Keep it Together, Keiko Carter will love this beautiful companion novel about Jenna Sakai and her struggle to “stay cool” when life gets messy. Jenna’s determination to avoid heartbreak by building walls between herself and those who love her comes at a lonely cost, but the journey leads to a deeper understanding of her own heart, and her capacity to love and be loved. A beautiful story about healing from heartbreak, and discovering the strength that comes from opening your heart to others. Jenna is a gem!”
NEW! Montclair Baristanet: 21 Hot Summer Reads for All Ages – “…a layered, thoughtful, and light exploration of how middle schoolers respond to dramas big (family divorce) and not-so-big (academic competition, friendship changes).”
My interview on Reading Middle Grade about writing interesting dynamic characters, art, and bringing friendships to life on the page.
Q&A with The Nerd Daily about books, writing and more!
YAYOMG! Jenna Sakai Shares Five Ways to Just Be Cool When Things Aren’t Going Your Way
Interview with Debbi Michiko Florence on Bee The Love
Imagination Soup: Writing The Stories I Looked for as an Asian American Reader
A Bookish Home Podcast: Debbi Michiko Florence on Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai
This One Is Dedicated To with Chris Barton and Jennifer Ziegler
Book Review from Reading Middle Grade
Book Review from Juanita Giles, NPR – Are You There God? It’s Me, Juanita
Book Review from Youth Services Book Review
Book talk by Read with Val
Book Review from Bridget and the Books
Color of Us: The 50 Best Multicultural Middle Grade Novels of 2021
Book Riot: 14 Must-Read August Book Releases