The Situation: Ana "Reaper" Keating has just started her freshman year of college at the Hugo Liberal Arts College (HuLAC) in Prescott, Arizona. Dorm life will be incredibly different from her life in her hometown of Mayer, which is only 40 miles away. For one, she'll finally have reliable air conditioning providing relief from the Arizona heat. Second, she'll be living in a conventional residence, unlike the cave in the onyx rock quarry she grew up in. Third, for the first time in her life, she'll be away from her father, Jim, and instead have a roommate. Haley is also a Mayer High School graduate, so it isn't as if Reaper will be living with a complete stranger. Even so, Reaper isn't sure how her naturally antisocial temperament is going to fair in this new environment.
The Problem: Aside from having dependable air conditioning, something else Reaper was looking forward to was no longer looking being in the same town as the wealthy, powerful, and vengeful Goldwater family. But at the end of move-in day, Reaper learns that the youngest Goldwater, Ian, is attending HuLAC as well and has already come looking for her. Ian's father, Mr. Paul, still blames Reaper's father for what happened to Reaper's mom, who also happened to be Mr. Paul's adopted sister. Neither Reaper nor Jim like to talk about Sue's death, and for the last 16 years, Mr. Paul has proven to be bent on revenge. Before classes even start, what was looking like a chance to start fresh has turned into a new chapter of an ongoing nightmare. It may be the last thing Reaper wanted, but it is also what Jim has been preparing her for all of her life.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel set in two small towns in Arizona. While both Prescott and Mayer are real cities in Arizona, I haven't been to either one, so all of the landmarks and locations are of my own imagination. HuLAC is also not a real college that exists anywhere. The one thing that is real in Mayer, Arizona is the onyx rock quarry. But again, I have never been to Mayer, so I have never seen the quarry, and I doubt very seriously that there is a cave in it that could be turned into a fully functional home with electricity, plumbing, and of course, air conditioning. I started this book back in November of 2013 as part of National Novel Writing Month. To my great surprise, I managed to reach the required 50,000 words that you need to "win," NaNoWriMo. And after adding another 25,000+ words in the early part of 2014, and doing some heavy editing, I submitted it to a few publishers, and here we are. And I decided to set it in college as opposed to high school because most YA novels are set in high school, which makes sense, but I feel like there aren't enough set in college. Plus, I believe that teenagers are curious about college, but ultimately know very little about it and aren't really sure what to expect if and when they start their freshman year. So college life in general is a big theme, as is vengeance, justice, and the idea of doing almost anything for family.
My Verdict: Not really sure what to say here since I wrote this one myself. There are parts of it that I am less pleased with than others, but overall I am really happy with this book. Honestly, when I first started out in those early days of November, I was afraid that I didn't have it in me. I was worried that I didn't have enough story to tell and that I would run out of steam at around 20,000 words. Well, that didn't happen, and next thing I knew it was mid-November and I was already at 35,000 words, with plenty more to say.
Favorite Moment: When Haley proves to be tougher than Reaper, or really anyone, believed she was.
Favorite Character: I had a lot of fun creating Jim, Reaper's father. I've been describing him to people as a Ron Swanson type, only less ridiculous, and even less of a sense of humor. He is a no nonsense type of person, trying to live his life in a world that is full of it.
Recommended Reading: I recommend Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, mostly because it is also set in college, but also because I am always looking for reasons to recommend that book. But as for as something that is somewhat gritty like Reaper, I recommend This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers.
You can order your own copy of Reaper at Black Rose Writing. It is has truly been my pleasure writing it, and I hope you have just as much fun reading it.