AUTHOR OF BETWEEN YOU & ME
Between You & Me by Marisa Calin
Phyre knows there is something life-changing about her new drama teacher, Mia, from the moment they meet. As Phyre rehearses for the school play, she comes to realize that the unrequited feelings she has for Mia go deeper than she’s ever experienced. Especially with a teacher. Or a woman.
All the while, Phyre’s best friend—addressed throughout the story in the second person, as "you"—stands by, ready to help Phyre make sense of her feelings. But just as Mia doesn’t understand what Phyre feels, Phyre can’t fathom the depth of her best friend’s feelings . . . until it’s almost too late for a happy ending.
Characters come to life through the innovative screenplay format of this dazzling debut, and unanswered questions—is "you" male or female?—will have readers talking.
Marisa Calin is an actress, screenwriter and novelist. She grew up in Bath, England and moved to New York City to train at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She has written plays and screenplays and most recently her love of a good book inspired her to take charge of every facet of the creative picture and tackle a novel. The only thing better than being absorbed in the world of a film for two hours is being absorbed in the lives of characters for the duration of a book. She lives in Greenwich Village.
Marisa is the narrator for the audiobooks Ruby Red, New York Times Best Seller Sapphire Blue and the upcoming Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier, New York Times Best Seller The Witch's Daughter and The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston. The psychological thriller Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie, is also available now.
REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS
You know that very specific joy you feel when you pick up a new book and everything just works? Your mood matches the tone of the book. You keep flipping back to the cover to enjoy how it fits the story more with each new chapter you read. You happen to be able to afford a big chunk of time, focus, and emotional investment when you first crack open the spine. And enough about you. The book! The writing draws you in from page one. You’re in love with the characters by page five. Something surprising yet inevitable happens in almost every scene. The structure impresses you. You laugh. You cry. You yearn. And at the end, you have questions that you know will never be answered—and you are okay with that. When you close the book you are amazed but unsatisfied because you now feel the gaping hole that true readers feel every time they finish a great book: You can’t imagine finding the above-catalogued joy ever again.
You know what I mean.
This happened to me with Marisa Calin’s debut novel, Between You and Me.
Read the rest of my interview on Lauren Kate's website.
"Nothing I like better than a fresh take on unrequited love. Calin keeps you guessing and there are no wrong answers."
Author of Printz Honor book, Hard Love
"Unconsciously we form all of these stereotypes in our head and cleverly and intricately Calin reminds us to forget them, check them at the door."
"Scattered jewels of detail here and there placed the reader in Phyre's world."
"Between You & Me is first and foremost a book about falling in love... Calin does a splendid job of making a story about a girl with complicated feelings so deliciously simple."
"Between You and Me is a brilliant story intricately plotted so that anyone can relate."
"Calin’s first novel, a story of romantic entanglements and self-discovery, has a few tricks up its sleeve that help it stand out from the pack. ...the novel reads more like an extended monologue than a conventional screenplay, but readers will feel as if they are sitting beside Phyre on her emotional roller-coaster."
"This is a quick read that addresses the pain and exhilaration of infatuation...the basic need to love who you love; and the confusion and possibilities of questioning one’s sexuality, without judgment or sensationalism."
- Booklist Reviews
"A really original, truthful story... I would recommend this to the following groups of people:
- theater people, especially people who were theater people in high school
- anyone who's been confused about their feelings toward someone
- anyone who's felt ignored by someone they cared about
- anyone who's ever realized they were being a jerk to someone they cared about
so, basically, all people, because if you show me someone who says that none of the above apply to him/her, I'll show you a liar."
- Mrs. S, Goodreads
"The simple fact of not knowing the gender of this character made me think so much about how gender influences story, and how different those small moments between Phyre and "You" could be."
- L.T, Goodreads
"... a relatable and contemporary glimpse into the complicated, confusing and often heartbreaking world of falling in love and growing up."
"Calin has created something very profound and exquisite with her un-gendered YOU."
"This is not only the story of first love... It's ultimately a story about friendship, the tunnel vision that is an epic crush, and finding one's identity... I can't recommend it highly enough."
"Between You & Me was a beautifully written contemporary that touched on important issues. I applaud Marisa Calin for the way she decided to write her story and for the way she addressed female sexuality."
"Oh wow, this book... Between You and Me deals with the complete wretchedness-meets-euphoria that is your first all-consuming crush on someone... Highly recommended."
"Phyre's voice is unique, but her story resonates because her confusion and longing and elation seem so familiar. Calin is an author to watch."
- Liviania, Amazon
"Between You and Me deliberately leaves [most of these] questions tantalizingly unanswered. The book is a Rorschach test of sorts to which the reader brings his or her own preconceptions and experiences. If you're looking for something completely different to read, definitely check this one out."
STARRED REVIEW! Top 9 teen books for August
A girl in love with the theater tells the story of her first great love in the form of a script.
The entire tale unfolds as a present-tense confessional addressed to the titular (and never-named) “you” by her best friend, the dramatic Phyre. Phyre sets her scenes by describing what “you” is doing or telling “you” about what has happened in her absence, folding in snippets of dialogue. The action takes place over the course of the fall semester, as Phyre falls head over heels for Mia, their charismatic new theater instructor.
It’s a textbook crush: Phyre seeks out opportunities to catch Mia alone and then muffs them (her running criticism of her social gambits is hysterical), and she interprets the slightest gesture as freighted with meaning. Her fascination is so intense she barely pauses to wonder that the object of her desire is a woman, instead throwing herself wholeheartedly into her exhilaration. The direct-address/script format works beautifully for her story; her self-absorption is so extreme that she can’t see what’s going on with “you,” but readers do, in those bits of dialogue Phyre records but does not reflect on. The play within a play that Phyre stars in (under Mia’s direction) is a tad metafictively obvious, but the device does introduce action and an intriguing and revelatory subplot.
Though hamstrung by a depressingly chick-lit-y cover, this total-immersion emotional experience is one readers will both recognize and thoroughly enjoy. (Fiction. 12 & up)
From Publishers Weekly
Calin’s first novel, a story of romantic entanglements and self-discovery, has a few tricks up its sleeve that help it stand out from the pack. First is the pseudo-screenplay format, which has dialogue appearing between prose sections written from the first-person perspective of 16-year-old Phyre, who comes across as the star, author, and director of her story. Calin’s second hook is that Phyre’s closest friend is referred to only as “You,” and his/her gender is never identified, recalling Steve Brezenoff’s Brooklyn Burning.
Phyre and “You” are inseparable until Phyre develops feelings for the school’s passionate new drama teacher, Mia. Acting class exercises unleash Phyre and You’s emotions, and when Phyre is cast as the lead in the school play (which blatantly mirrors Phyre’s situation) she becomes increasingly distant from You while remaining blind to her friend’s romantic feelings for her. With Phyre’s interior thoughts and descriptions taking the place of stage notes, the novel reads more like an extended monologue than a conventional screenplay, but readers will feel as if they are sitting beside Phyre on her emotional roller-coaster. Ages 12–up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/22/2012
Sixteen-year-old Phyre is captivated by her drama teacher, Mia, who has an unorthodox teaching style, a passion for theater that may even surpass Phyre’s, and an indefinable something else that leaves Phyre wondering whether she wants “to be [Mia] or kiss her.” Phyre’s roller-coaster emotions carry her through her crush, the school rumor mill, and a play within this loosely screenplay-styled first novel. Meanwhile, “you,” a steadfast companion and sometimes doormat with no gender indicated, is clearly in love with her. Phyre’s self-absorption prevents readers from truly empathizing with her, and although the format and second-person narration are a unique mix and the language is poetic, some readers may find the emotional thrust diluted by these trappings. Even so, this is a quick read that addresses the pain and exhilaration of infatuation—with a same-sex teacher, no less; the basic need to love who you love; and the confusion and possibilities of questioning one’s sexuality, without judgment or sensationalism.
Phyre wants to be an actress, and when beautiful new drama teacher, Mia, casts Phyre as the lead in the school play, Phyre has the chance to live out her dream. But working on the play has unintended consequences. Phyre’s relationship with her lifelong best friend is strained; Phyre’s leading man develops an unwanted crush on her; and, most significantly, Phyre develops a crush on Mia. Becoming infatuated with Mia—a teacher and a woman—sends Phyre reeling. But when the play’s content hits a little too close to home, Phyre is able to move beyond her obsession with Mia in order to re-see how important her best friend is in her life, and that s/he has been there all along.
What is interesting about this book is that Phyre’s best friend, referred to throughout only as “you,” is never named or otherwise gendered. Told in screenplay format, “you” could be read as a male or a female. If read as a female, this is an interesting choice; in the final scene Phyre pulls “you” into her arms for the perfect passionate movie kiss. Read as a male, however, Phyre’s story “resolves” when she returns to hetero-normativity, marking her interest in a woman as merely a phase or immature idolization, rather than real romantic love. Nonetheless, Phyre’s interest in Mia is depicted as being more taboo because Mia is a teacher than because she is a woman, which is worthy of note. The content, ambiguity, and play-within-a-play format are notable, though in certain ways the story itself is a bit ordinary.—VOYA, April issue
Blog Review of the Month
From A Bookish Libraria
"I'm very excited about this book. It's a truly unique read with all the components that make it a stand out for YA and general fiction. Breaking ground in the genre, "Between You & Me" is a screen play within a novel including a school play story that is so well written and so dynamic it will have you reading far more quickly and more compulsively than anything in your hands lately! I was blown away. While it sounds strange on paper, by way of my review no doubt, the format works amazingly well, and Marisa Calin is genius to think of it.
Quick witted and snappy dialog makes the book move at a bullet's pace. The depth of emotion conveyed seems unlikely with such spare words, which is one of the charming things about this book. We are brought into a situation of the love-lorn that it both poignant and profoundly expressive between two different teens, and two different scenarios simultaneously, and they both work in such perfect heart-stopping harmony. I found it timeless. If any of you remember "Love Story," you'll understand how few words can convey a world of angst and true depth of caring. This is such a book.
In the summary of the book, you'll find the outline of the story of Phyre and her obsessive crush on Mia, her drama teacher...and her "blind" relationship at the same time with the "You" of her play. There is nothing more I would give away on that count except to say that the invisible is so beautifully drawn here on the "You" character that you ache for him/her. This, of course, shows the writing talent and expressive gifts of the author.
I enjoyed very much, as well, her instructions to the drama class on how to find the emotions and meanings in their acting. What a wonderful way to work Phyre's emotional turmoil and "You's" behind the scenes feelings into the story/play. And then, the school play on top of the storyline play was so enjoyable a read.
This is a unique book. One that I won't be surprised to find visited with awards this year. Get it and experience a wonderful story. Guaranteed to please you. Good for Bloomsbury!"
* 5 stars *
Find out what my characters did on Halloween night during the semester of Between You & Me. Read my bonus Halloween scene as part of the Halloween Character Booktacular hosted at A Book Lover's Review or download it with the button above.
I often have music in my head - my personal soundtrack - so I've created a soundtrack for Between You and Me of artists and songs that reflect moments throughout the book. It was one of my most enjoyable goals, to tell the story simultaneously through songs that set the scene.
You can play them on the Grooveshark player here and check out the page numbers they correspond to by clicking the right and left arrows.
1) Feist, "Secret Heart"
“Secret heart, what are you made, what are you so afraid of… This very secret that you’re trying to conceal Is the very same one that you’re dying to reveal.”
2) KT Tunstall, "Suddenly I See"
“Everything around her is a silver pool of light…. Suddenly I see, this is what I want to be, Suddenly I see”
3) Ingrid Michaelson "The Way I Am"
“If you were falling, then I would catch you”
4) Regina Spektor, "The Call"
“It started out as a feeling, which then grew into a hope. Which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word. And then that word grew louder and louder, until it was a battle cry…”
5) Annie Little, "Telegrams to Mars"
“Hey there. Scoot a little closer. What’s your favorite color?”
6) Sara Bareilles, "Gravity"
“Set me free, Leave me be… I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.”
7) Lenka, "Roll with the Punches"
“That really hurt me, like a first to the face. Suddenly everything I was sure of Is sinking below the depths of the surface. You’ve got to Roll, roll, roll with the punches”
8) Lenka, "The Show"
“I’m just a little bit caught in the middle. Life is a maze and love is a riddle.
I’ve got to let it go and just enjoy the show.”
9) A Fine Frenzy, "A World Without"
“It must be written that the moon elbowed the stars and said lets do our best to make it hard for them... We can work this out.”
10) Adele, "Make You Feel My Love"
“When the evening shadows And the stars appear, And there is no one there to dry your tears, I could hold you for a million years, To make you feel my love.”
11) Adele, "Rumour has it"
“Rumour has it, Rumour has it”
12) Paramore, "That’s What You Get"
“That’s what you get when you let your heart win."
13) Pink, "Perfect"
“Pretty pretty please, Don’t you ever ever feel like you’re less than, less than perfect.”
14) Ingrid Michaelson, "Starting Now"
“Starting now…it’s my world, it’s not ours anymore.”
15) Oh Land, "We Turn It Up"
“Message to the world…can you see the lightning flashing?”
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Why did you become a writer?
I was excited to develop characters that I could really relate to. Pursuing an acting career played a big part in inspiring me to find other story-telling outlets. In every casting call, you are only ever given the opportunity to interpret someone else's words, stories and situations--using your experiences to relate to their characters. You’re trying to fit into a shape that someone else has drawn and it’s rare to feel just right for something, to fully relate to a character. I was completely enticed by the desire to spend some time in the head of a character of my creation, to develop relationships that made sense to me and reflected parts of myself that I didn’t often come across in other people’s work. I thought it would be fun. And it is the most amazing creative experience! The only thing more gratifying is having other people respond to your characters as if they were real people.
So I began by writing plays and screenplays to create stories of my own, but they're also open to numerous phases of interpretation via directors and actors. I loved the idea of taking charge of the whole creative picture in a novel. Every word I chose was the way in which the scene would be imagined. Everything I write comes to me in pieces and moments of interaction between characters, usually dialogue, so it seemed an organic extension beyond plays and screenplays to present a novel as immediately and visually as I could, as if watching it unfold.
What inspired you to write this novel?
I think my biggest inspiration was my desire to write something that I would have related to as a teenager--something that would have normalised and validated my feelings. I’ve never read a book that really reflected certain experiences I had at that age.
I felt a little alone in some of those emotions and wanted to put something out there that people with similar experiences might see a piece of themselves in. Books that I had read about people having crushes tended to lead to bold, brave, fiction-esque declarations of love, even expectations of reciprocation. In some cases, I never told a soul about the crushes I had, and I also never really knew what they meant for me.
Every book I had read (and most since) were more definitive and explicit than I was able or comfortable to be about a same-sex crush. But I wanted to try and capture the simplicity of the things about a person that can make them inexplicably special to you.
How would you describe your writing process and why did you choose the style you've used?
I write best between about midnight and two. It’s peaceful and quiet. I’m the only person awake and there’s nothing to be distracted by. I sit in bed with my computer on my knee (90% of my writing is done in pajamas,) and my imagination runs free.
I immerse myself in one scene at a time and conjure up the place and time until I can describe being there, the feel, the texture and the colors. When we think about our lives, we remember specific, vivid moments rather than the story as a whole. So that's the way I write.
The style I chose was also inspired by the punchy immediacy you can achieve with a screenplay. I enjoyed looking for the most concise visual way to paint a picture.
My intention starting out was also to stylistically write the most inclusive book of a reader that I could, which is why I began to play with the idea of 'You'.
Do you have a question for Marisa?
Send her an email and maybe she'll answer it! You can tweet it to her or post on her Facebook page as well.