Please Note: I received an electronic review copy of Sources Say and was monetarily compensated in exchange for composing and hosting an interview with the author. This compensation in no way affected my opinions.
Don’t miss Lori’s virtual launch with fellow authors Jessica Goodman, Natalie Mae, and Andrea Tang on September 14th @ 7:00pm. For more information and to register for the event, click here!
Title Sources Say
Author Lori Goldstein
Pages 368 Pages
Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date September 8th 2020 by Razorbill
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
Two exes. One election. All the drama.
For fans of Becky Albertalli and Morgan Matson comes a funny, hearfelt novel about fueding exes running for class president and the scandal that makes the previously boring school election the newest trending hashtag.
At Acedia High School outside of Boston, student council has always been nothing more than a popularity contest. Nobody pays attention. Nobody cares. But all that changes when the Frankengirls show up. During the very first week of school, someone plasters the halls with Photoshopped images of three “perfect tens” – images of scantily clad girls made from real photos of girls at school. The student body is livid. And the two presidential candidates, Angeline Quinn and Leo Torres, jump on the opportunity to propose their solutions and secure votes. After their messy break up, Leo and Angie are fighting tooth and nail to win this thing and their constituents are mesmerized as they duke it out.
As if things couldn’t be more dramatic, the school’s two newspapers get involved. The Red & Blue is run by Angie’s sister Cat and she prides herself on only reporting the facts. But her morals are tested when The Shrieking Violet – written by an anonymous source and based less on facts and more on fiction – blatantly endorses Leo. Rumors fly, secrets are leaked, and the previously mundane student election becomes anything but boring.
About Lori Goldstein
Lori Goldstein earned her BA in journalism but eventually found her true writing passion in the world of fictional people. She’s never met a beach she didn’t love, a book she wouldn’t read, or a strange food she wouldn’t try. She is the author of Sources Say (9/8/2020), which Kirkus calls “Entertaining, thought-provoking, and heartwarming”; Screen Queens, which Kirkus calls “a fun and uplifting story that celebrates female friendship and empowerment”; and the VOYA-starred young adult contemporary fantasy series Becoming Jinn.
1. Sources Say is an incredibly timely novel that explores issues like the importance of political engagement, journalistic integrity, questioning authority, accountability in leadership and more. Publishing a book can be quite a slow process, with years often passing from writing to publication. Did you know when you began drafting the novel that it would be this relevant to our current political and social landscape? What do you hope young readers will take from it?
You are 100% right that publishing a book is something that takes a lot of patience! Normally, the writing and publishing of a book can be a two-to-three year process on the short side. This book was very different in that I had the upside (and the downside!) of a very quick turnaround time from when I first pitched this idea to my editor to what would become its publication date. We knew we wanted another timely YA contemporary to release in 2020 as my follow-up to Screen Queens, which released in June 2019 and tackles #MeToo in Silicon Valley. While this idea of writing about journalism had been in my head for a while, the timing was just right for coalescing my random notes and thoughts into an actual novel. This meant an extremely tight deadline for writing the novel, but it also meant that I could play on what was going on in the world and specifically in the US and know that it would still be timely when it came to the novel hitting bookshelves.
2. Cat takes her job as the newly-appointed editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Red and Blue, very seriously and hopes to grow its readership, but struggles to compete with The Shrieking Violet, another publication that largely shares fake news stories composed of clickbait headlines, half-truths and outright lies. As a result, Sources Say includes a number of interesting conversations about ‘fake news’ and journalistic integrity and argues that the audience shares in the responsibility to evaluate and question the media they consume. Do you have any advice for young readers as to how best to fact-check or otherwise determine the accuracy of what they read on social media or online?
This is such a complex issue but was actually part of the inspiration for the novel so it is something I continue to think about. Not long ago, I was having a somewhat lively discussion (argument?!) with my nephews. We were talking about the pros and cons of things like Reddit and using social media as a way to get your news. With myself, his uncle, and his mother all having journalism degrees, we clearly had a strong, dare I say, old-school viewpoint on this issue! But as we talked further, I became fascinated by the notion of how we now get our news — adults, but especially teens. How do we know what sources are “trust-worthy”? Is it simply a matter of who’s been around the longest — places like The New York Times and The Washington Post and The Atlantic. I do believe these veritable institutions hold much value in being relied upon as they’ve had a tremendous amount of experience at being held accountable and have instituted best practices as a result. And yet it would be naïve and a disservice to some of the newer, less traditional but equally reliable outlets to say that’s the only way or the only types of places reporting accurate and fair news — or that those institutions always do so themselves. Every news outlet should be held to the same standard of evaluation. I believe ultimately the outlets have a responsibility to be transparent in how the information they are relaying has been gathered. As consumers of news, we have a responsibility to seek this out, to understand the difference between a transparent named source and an anonymous social media handle. I think this is a conversation that needs to continue happening, and I’m so happy to hear that it’s being integrated into some school curriculums. We need more of that.
3. One of the things I loved most about Sources Say is how unapologetically ambitious and passionate all of the female characters are. Cat is editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and dreams of working as a serious journalist at a publication like The New York Times or The Washington Post, Angeline is a hard-working influencer with a successful and beloved YouTube channel, and Emmie takes concrete steps to realize her goal of a future in political leadership. Did you have to do a great deal of research to accurately capture their respective passions and professions and what did you dream of doing when you were Cat, Angeline and Emmie’s age? What’s one dream you’ve worked hard to successfully achieve?
Thanks so much for this great question! The strength of Cat, Angeline, and Emmie is something I do hope readers see and internalize — along with their flaws. Ambition can be a tricky thing. When you want something so much, it can be tempting to inch over the line that you cannot and should not cross. I want readers to see that in these young women and see how each one grows as a result of their choices and experiences. Fortunately, as a former journalist, including in high school, I was able to draw on my own life for my inspiration for Cat. For Angeline and Emmie, I did do a lot of research into female influencers and politicians to absorb where those passions come from and how to best represent them in those characters.
After spending much time as a kid wanting to be an actress on the soap operas my grandpa watched and loved (!), I transitioned in high school to wanting to write. Then I thought it would be in journalism, and that’s what I pursued in college and in the years after. However, I truly didn’t find my writing passion until I entered the world of fiction books. Writing, becoming an author, is the dream I’m still working on, even now with my fourth book releasing. There’s always more to achieve, more readers to find, more books to write, which you have no guarantee will be bought, published, and find their readers (and unfortunately sales are the only way publishers will often buy your next book). I’ve worked extremely hard to learn the craft of novel writing (an education that fortunately never ends), but also the business of publishing, which includes hats of marketing, publicity, and even public speaker at events and festivals. There are highs and lows, but it’s the dream I’m fortunate to have seen become a reality. And I have many more goals in this space to pursue.
4. Speaking of ambition, there are moments in the novel when Cat, Angeline and Emmie are forced to question the lengths they’re willing to go to achieve their dreams, and the danger of having these goals consume their identity or have a negative impact on other aspects of their lives, like their relationships with friends and family. For example, Angeline and Leo’s relationship ends prior to the beginning of the novel because Angeline’s desire to further her career as an influencer causes her to break Leo’s trust. Leo’s relationship with his mother is also strained, as he feels he like a lower priority when compared to his mother’s political campaign for congress. As a professional writer, can you share any strategies you might have learned that help you balance your profession with other aspects of your life that are equally important? What it is like to have one of your passions also double as your profession?
As you’ve astutely highlighted, this idea of passion, ambition, and personal life is one that I deal with every day. And as authors, our own concerns, thoughts, and ideas always seem to find their way into our writing even if the way it lands on the page is not exactly a mirror of our own struggle. Writing is a tremendously rewarding career, but part of what makes that so — finishing novels, selling to a publisher, finding and connecting with readers — is far from a guarantee. It is a profession where you can put years of work into a project that does not leave your hard drive. Financially, of course, that has immense implications, but it also can be difficult on one’s ability to maintain optimism, which is required to embark on that next project. A few things keep me going, but one of the biggest is having a support team. Family, friends, fellow authors to share the highs and the lows. To tell you that, yes, you are setting unreasonable goals for that daily word count. That some days you need to just put the laptop aside and go for a walk. The story will be there when you return. Being ambitious means at times you can have a tunnel-vision focus that means “life” takes a backseat. I think one thing I’ve gained during the pandemic is perspective on that. I’m doing my best to have a much better work-life balance. To give myself time for things outside writing, be it my paid job of creative writing teaching or feeding my creativity by painting a room or rearranging furniture! I can’t say I succeed every day, but I am trying, and that’s the best we can do sometimes.
5. Ms. Lute, the new government teacher and student council advisor, is a really inspiring figure in the story, as her infectious enthusiasm, subtle guidance and thoughtful questions help to underline the importance and power of one’s vote and having one’s voice heard. Did you ever have a similar mentor figure in your own life and, if so, is there anything you learned from them that you still treasure to this day?
I am so glad you asked this! Ms. Lute is loosely based on my college journalism professor (even her name is a nod to his). I’m still in touch with this professor to this day, years and years later. He was instrumental in me majoring in journalism and making that my first career. I was a shy kid, not a public speaker, and I had to learn to deal with that when I became editor in chief of my college newspaper. His belief in me helped me find the strength and belief in myself. He has the biggest and warmest smile of anyone I’ve ever met. His joy at seeing his students succeed is one of the truest emotions I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. It reminds me every day to find that joy — and reflect it for others.
6. We see a number of cases of harassment directed at the female characters throughout Sources Say, culminating in the creation of the “Frankengirl”, a disturbing and dehumanizing assortment of girls’ body parts that have been photoshopped to create an image of “the perfect girl” that’s distributed to the entire student body. Angeline and Cat’s school does nothing to identify who is responsible or hold them accountable, and this is one of the primary issues of Angeline’s platform when running for student council president, advocating for increased governance by their peers and creating the hashtag #MoreThanOurParts and #MoreThan. What do you think about teens participating in activism?
I am inspired by what so many teens are doing, most recently in the Black Lives Matter protests. From big cities to small towns, teens are often leading the charge, standing up for what they believe even in the face of pushback and outright harassment and bullying. I honestly do not know if I’d have been as strong as a teen, which makes me even more in awe of students speaking up, supporting one another, and pushing for change. I am proud of this generation and to see what they will continue to do.
7. Let’s have some fun! Prior to the beginning of Sources Say, the former seniors at Angeline and Cat’s school glued a lawn chair with a lifelike sloth holding a sun visor to the roof of the school and set up a webcam that live-streamed “Slothy” on YouTube. Did you ever participate in or see any memorable pranks when you were a student?
Hahaha! No! That shy kid I was would have never participated. And my high school was actually pretty tame on the prank front. I had a lot of fun googling school pranks though to find inspiration for the ones in the book. Slothy and the lawn chair on the roof, though, was entirely my own creation! I do not endorse nor recommend!
Lori has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win a prize package featuring her previous books – Screen Queens, Becoming Jinn and Circle of Jinn! This contest is open to residents of the U.S. The giveaway will run for two weeks and a random winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter at the conclusion of the contest period. Good luck!