Tuesday, May 1, 2018

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales (Review, Interview, Giveaway)

I am thrilled to be a stop on the book tour for If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales! Be sure to read my review and interview with Leila and check out the tour schedule for more.
Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date:May 1, 2018
Pages:324 (ARC)
Published By:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Website:Leila Sales

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say on Goodreads
My review copy:
Received in exchange for an honest review

Where to get:

https://www.amazon.com/You-Dont-Have-Anything-Nice/dp/0374380996/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523886144&sr=8-1&keywords=If+You+Don%27t+Have+Anything+Nice+to+Say+by+Leila+Sales https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/if-you-dont-have-anything-nice-to-say-leila-sales/1126791417?ean=9780374380991 https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780374380991

Before we go any further, I want you to understand this: I am not a good person.

We all want to be seen. We all want to be heard. But what happens when we’re seen and heard saying or doing the wrong things? What then?

When Winter Halperin—former spelling bee champion, aspiring writer, and daughter of a parenting expert—gets caught saying the wrong thing online, her life explodes. All across the world, people knows what she’s done, and none of them will forgive her.

With her friends gone, her future plans cut short, and her identity in shambles, Winter is just trying to pick up the pieces without hurting anyone else. She knows she messed up, but does that mean it’s okay for people to send her hate mail and death threats? Does she deserve to lose all that she’s lost? And is “I’m sorry” ever good enough?

First and foremost a novel about public shaming in the internet age, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say is also an exploration of the power of words, the cumulative destructiveness of microaggressions, and the pressing need for empathy.


Quotes and page numbers are obtained from the ARC and are subject to change

When we decide someone is an angel, she is an angel only until she falls from the sky. But when we decide someone is a villain, she is a villain forever. Everything she says or does in only more proof of her villainy. She cannot be redeemed. (14)
Over the past seven months, so many people had shown me such cruelty. But there was also occasions that stuck in mind when people briefly shone kindness into the darkness that surrounded me. The one that I returned to now was Claudette Cruz, on my first day to school back after The Incident, saying to me in science class, What's happening to you is wrong. Hold your head up, girl. They don't know you. (319-20)
 I think the moral is that we can do bad things and not be bad people. That we can make mistakes and do better next time. That we can hurt those who love us, and lie to those who trust us, and criticize those who are trying their hardest - and still our lives do not end. That no matter how many times we do wrong, we still have it within us to do right. (324)

We've all said things that came out wrong or were misconstrued in one way or another - especially when it comes to things on the internet or over text. I myself am guilty of having a coworker read over emails because in my head the words come across as bitchy or snarky, but in her mind they sound fine - but maybe you should take that sentence out.

It's the world we live in and the world to which we've all adapted. After tweeting what she believes to be a humorous and lighthearted tweet, but was in fact rather racist, she wakes to find that the internet feels vastly different than she does. Over the course of a few hours, her tweet goes viral and her reputation is destroyed. BuzzFeed, Jezebel, The Washington Post, etc. all pick up the story of "White Winter."

A few days later, another story pops up and Winter's tweet and story are all but forgotten by the general population. But Winter has not forgotten and left to deal with the repercussions:

"It takes such a brief time to destroy someone's life and forget that you did it. But rebuilding a life - that's different. That takes forever" (70).

This quote holds so much truth. We live in a world where Individual A messes up and it's all over the news. A few days later Individual B messes up and nobody remembers Individual A. Except Individual A is still dealing with the consequences - lost job, damaged reputation, etc. And then Individual C steps in to the lime light and the cycle continues.

The sad, and scary thing, is that I have seen real responses Winter received on real articles about real people. People wished her dead, raped, murdered, and all manner of horrific things. Leila's characters are fictional, but the world they live in is entirely real. The internet isn't policed. Winter's mother's lawyer even tells them there is nothing to be done about the comments - they cannot sue anyone, they cannot press charges against anyone. The internet is the Wild West and it's vicious.

Honestly, I couldn't tell if I liked Winter or not - she tells us from the beginning that she is not a good person and I find that fact hard to argue. Throughout the first half of the book, she doesn't feel she did anything wrong. Even while she was writing her apology the next morning, I knew it wasn't going to be well received. She comes off as the person who is "sorry you were hurt by what I said." The individual who is "sorry you feel that way." She doesn't have true remorse and doesn't understand why people are upset. When someone tries to tell her why people, themselves included, are hurt or angry she ignores their feelings because it's "obviously not what she meant" (26).

However, to her credit, Winter seeks help in not only improving her reputation, but also improving herself. She acknowledges that it's not enough to seem better, you actually have to be better. Do better. Leila takes us into the mind and life of someone who has messed up and messed up big, but is (eventually) determined to truly learn from their misstep and better not only themselves but those around them. To apologize and to mean it. Winter is not a stranger on the internet with an offensive and derogatory tweet, but an individual who had to learn the hard way that in the age of the internet your intent can me almost nothing, and your words can mean everything.

Interview with Leila Sales

In today's world where it's easy to misconstrue meaning of text (whether that be a text message, Facebook post, or in Winter's case a tweet), why did you decide to write from Winter's point of view? Why was your inspiration for telling her story?

That was exactly what I wanted to explore: how easy it is to misconstrue text, to read into somebody’s words intentions that may not be there. And then of course I wanted to look at the very question of intentions: do they matter? Should we give someone a pass for doing something wrong—as Winter does—if they didn’t “mean it that way”? The books’ epigraphs take opposite sides of that issue, and personally I can see both.

I’m kind of a perfectionist, and my default state is to think that if I’ve screwed up one thing, then I’ve screwed up everything, most likely due to my intrinsic character flaws. Obviously, that’s not healthy, and it’s not rational. So I wanted to show a character move through that, to realize that it is possible to make mistakes and bad choices and still be a good and valuable human being.

Was there a particular scene or chapter that was especially fun or challenging to write?

The entire second half of the book was challenging to write! I had many models for what the first half looked like—there are so many stories of people who have misguidedly done or said something ignorant and hurtful that has gone viral. We know what that looks like, and what the immediate repercussions are. But we don’t really have a sense of what the path to redemption looks like after that. I wrote entire drafts of a few very different options for Winter—hundreds and hundreds of pages—before I came up with the concept of Revibe.

We've all made decisions that result in unexpected consequences, good and bad. So let's put a positive spin on things and tell us about a decision you've made that led to unexpected, but wonderful, consequences.

I love that way of looking at things! Though it totally does not come naturally to me. I’d say my decision on where to go to college. I hadn’t gotten into any of my top-choice schools, which was disappointing, and then I could not decide between two of the schools that I had gotten into. I’m sure either of them could have been great, and there was no one obvious “right” choice, but the decision that I made ultimately led to all sorts of positive outcomes: I got involved in improv comedy, I connected with my literary agent, I did an internship that allowed me to later get my job, and a bunch of other stuff that I couldn’t have anticipated when I was trying to make that choice.

Is there a particular message you hope readers will take away from If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say?

When trying to understand another’s motivations, do not attribute to malice what can just as easily be explained by ignorance.

And always remember that you don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives. So don’t treat them as though the part of them that you can see constitutes the entirety of who they are.

I love that! We only see a fraction of a persons life and we have to remember they are more than just those few aspects. If you could write a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would you talk about?

I think I’d tell myself, “There is nothing wrong with you.” And also, “Be nicer to your dad.”

What's the last show you binge watched?

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Such glorious characters, and dialogue, and outfits!

I really need to watch that myself! I keep meaning to, but life! Thanks for stopping by, Leila!

Leila Sales was born in 1984 and grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in psychology in 2006. Now she lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in the mostly glamorous world of children's book publishing. Leila spends most of her time thinking about sleeping, kittens, dance parties, and stories that she wants to write.

One copy of If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales
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Open to US and Canada

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Tour Schedule

April 29 - Page Turners Blog
April 30 - Books and Ladders
May 1 - Who Ru Blog
May 1 - Bookish Lifestyle
May 2 - Fab Book Reviews
May 3 - Good Books and Good Wine
May 3 - Across the Words
May 4 - Alexa Loves Books
May 5 - The Book Bratz

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