Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ARC Review: Immaculate & Author Interview

Title: Immaculate
Author: Katelyn Detweiler
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Source: ARC Provided by Viking
Goodreads | Amazon
“Even if everyone thought I was lying, why couldn’t they just leave me alone? I hadn’t asked for any of them to believe me. I hadn’t asked for them to worship me.

I hadn’t asked them for anything.”

Mina is top of her class, girlfriend to the most ambitious guy in school, able to reason and study her way through anything. But when she finds herself pregnant—despite having never had sex—her orderly world collapses. Almost nobody believes Mina’s claims of virginity. Her father assumes that her boyfriend is responsible; her boyfriend thinks she must have cheated on him. As news of Mina’s story spreads, there are those who brand her a liar. There are those who brand her a heretic. And there are those who believe that miracles are possible—and that Mina’s unborn child could be the greatest miracle of all.

My Review

When I first came across Immaculate, I made up my mind that it would probably be a book that I would borrow from the library. I'm not a huge fan of books with religious themes, so it seemed like a good idea to save some money rather than buy it and risk not enjoying it. However, Viking/Penguin contacted me for a review, and I gladly accepted. And I am so glad that I did because it's a rather interesting and unique book that covers a lot of genres - contemporary, retellings, religious fiction, and even a bit of realistic fantasy.

Like I said earlier, I'm not really a fan of religious fiction or books that are heavy on it. I don't really know what it is, but I think it dates back to the time when my mom told me that the Catholic priest from our church didn't want to baptize me because I was born out of wedlock. But, I still do give some religious books a fan because I like to read from all genres.

Immaculate by Katelyn Detweiler is a beautiful book that wasn't too pushy when it came to religion and religious aspects, even though it is a biblical retelling. I found myself enjoying Ms. Detweiler's writing, and I loved that she even included a few references to the Bible and other religious texts in the book. It made understanding the history behind Mina's story a bit easier for me. (Because if I'm being honest, I don't know absolutely everything about the birth of Jesus - just the basics.) The brief inclusion of the religious aspects also makes the book feel more graspable than I thought it would be, and I felt like Detweiler was reaching out to readers who aren't Christians.

The characters in the book were realistically flawed, despite this being a book that seems unrealistic. I loved getting to know Mina and her friends, and I loved the fact that Detweiler's characters of choice were the smart, popular kids. I feel like sometimes smart kids get put on the back burner in YA, she she brings them to the front. Mina's characterization was done very well. She is this tough, little thing who is the Mary of the story, and her strength only grew throughout the novel. Her best friends, Hannah and Izzy, are different than Mina but still similar. Together, this trio was well-balanced. There are struggles with their friendship, but I loved how Detweiler characterized them and used them within the plot. It felt like a real friendship. Jesse is also a wonderful character. He's very likeable, but he's so helpful. Together, Mina is definitely covered in the friends department.

I did feel like the ending was a bit rushed and that we lacked a little bit of an explanation, so I more or less think this book is a 3.5 star rating for me. But... now that I know something (check the interview!), I'm looking forward to seeing the reasons behind Mina's pregnancy.

If you're looking for a unique book this summer, definitely grab a copy of Immaculate. It really surprised me, and I'm sure that it will surprise other readers and just make them feel good about life. There might be a lot of bad in the world, but this book teaches readers that there is always a little bit of hope.

An Interview with Katelyn Detweiler

  1. You’re an agent. How does it feel to be on the other side of the door and have a book out?
Surreal. Still very surreal. Going in, I thought I’d be more mentally prepared for each step of the journey, but there was so much I couldn’t know—not really, not until I was going through it all for myself. In some ways, I’ve maybe been a bit calmer than I would have thought—probably because I have mostly realistic expectations, I know the process, I know more or less what’s coming up through the long (very long) journey.  But at the end of the day, this book is still my baby, and I’d be a bad mom if I wasn’t biting my nails with anxiety sometimes, too.

  1. Upon first look, the book appears to have a bit in common with the hit TV show Jane the Virgin. Have you seen the show? If so, are you a fan?
YES. I was planning on watching just a few episodes—“homework,” I called it, to justify the extra TV time—to see how similar it really was. I was hooked immediately, and binge-watched. After the first episode, it was clear that IMMACULATE took the idea of a “pregnant virgin” on a very different path, but it was still so fascinating to see how it played out. I absolutely adore the show—the great acting, the hilariously over-the-top and totally refreshing drama—and am so pained by the fact that I’ll have to wait another few months for a new episode. Hooray for a second season!

  1. I see the book is set in Pennsylvania and that you grew up in that state. (I did too!) What part of PA are you from? Will readers familiar with PA be able to recognize some places and towns?
    Hello, my fellow PA native! : ) I’m from a small town about an hour northwest of Philly. Suburban in some stretches, rural in others. My house was in the more rural area of town, an old farmhouse with fields and woods on every side of it, rather than actual neighbors. Green Hill is very much a reflection of my childhood there, all the best and the worst bits about growing up in a small town.

  1. How did you come up with the idea to write this book?
    The idea had been buried in me for a long time—ever since, as a teenager, I’d asked my mom if she would have believed me if I claimed to be a pregnant virgin. She thought about it for a few seconds maybe, and then she said yes. I filed it away at the time, laughing probably and moving on to my next obnoxious hypothetical question (they’re my absolute favorite form of entertainment). But a few years ago, it very suddenly and mysteriously came back to me. I started wondering what people would really say if someone were to make this claim—and stand behind it, no matter what the consequences—in our world today. I was amazed, given all the other re-tellings and twists out on the market now—fairytales, myths, Shakespeare, Austen—that this old story hadn’t been touched yet, at least not for teens. From there, I couldn’t not write it. It felt meant to be, a story that just had to be retold.

  1. Why is one thing that you admire about Mina?
    Her ability to shift the way she defines “success.” At the beginning of the story, it’s all about grades, straight A’s, a 100% at the top of every exam or essay. It’s about getting into the dream college, always working toward the dream career. And it’s also about walking down the halls with her perfect, athletic, brainy, handsome boyfriend, the clear marker that she’s made it socially as well as academically. Mina had a shiny reputation. She had shiny goals. With the discovery of her pregnancy, everything instantly changes. She has to find a different way to value her life; she has to accept that happiness isn’t the same as achieving perfection. Real life isn’t perfect. Happiness isn’t a grade—it’s trying your best, and being proud of the struggle.

  1. Do you have anything in common with Mina or any of the other characters in the book?
    I poured a lot of my own life into Mina, mostly because I was so curious thinking about how the people in my life would have responded to me if I’d made this claim at seventeen. I was the valedictorian of my class, hyper-focused on getting straight A’s, constantly thinking about getting into the best college, having the best career. I was on a very rigidly set path, a path that didn’t leave much room for any unexpected variables—variables like… becoming a pregnant virgin, for example.

  1. The book is broken up into sections based on Mina’s life and pregnancy. Did you set out to write it that way or did it just feel like the right way as you were drafting and writing?
This was more or less in place from the very beginning. I wanted to make sure that I was giving equal weight to the challenges that would come up in the different stages of pregnancy, and then reflect how those challenges played out in Mina’s life, both with herself, and with the people around her—spreading from her family and friends to the town, the country, the world. I wanted to make sure I didn’t brush past any key moments a new mom would be facing. And I worked hard to be accurate about this part of the novel—I read a lot of pregnancy books / articles / websites to prep for it. What to Expect When Your Expecting was front and center on my desk for months.

  1. Readers are often drawn to books based on similar titles or themes. Are there any books that you think readers of Immaculate would like or vice versa?
    Yes, absolutely. I love similar books with hypothetical twists—contemporary novels with that added “what if” perspective to play around with the concept of our everyday realities. Books that are all still very grounded in a world that we can understand, even if the impossible vs. the possible have dramatically shifted. David Levithan’s EVERYDAY, Gayle Foreman’s IF I STAY, and Lauren Oliver’s BEFORE I FALL all immediately come to mind.

  2. Who are some of your favorite authors? Did their books inspire this story in any way?
    I’d say the above list all certainly make the cut. I love contemporary and I love fantasy, and I really love the stories where elements from both of those worlds meet.  Oh, and J.K. Rowling. Always J.K. Rowling.

  1. We all have to read books in school. What was your favorite school read?
    The Scarlet Letter, maybe? Which, now that I think about it, probably explains where some of the ideas for IMMACULATE first began…

  1. Do you have any plans for future books? (Don’t worry… I won’t make you spill any details about them.)
I do! I can’t say too much yet, but there will be a follow-up novel coming out next year. It’s the story of what happens seventeen years after IMMACULATE ends, when Mina’s baby is now a teenager, discovering the truth of his/her past, and what it means for the present (and future). There’s been a massive tragedy that the world is still reeling from; it definitely goes a bit deeper and darker in this second book, but it is still very much grounded in the big questions that drive IMMACULATE.

About Katelyn Detweiler

Katelyn Detweiler was born and raised in Pennsylvania—in a small town much like Mina’s—living in a centuries-old farmhouse surrounded by fields and woods. After graduating from Penn State University, she made the move to New York City, where she is a literary agent representing books for all ages and across all genres. Katelyn currently lives, agents, and writes in Brooklyn. 

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  1. OMG Your questions for Katelyn were so much better than mine! I loved this book so much and I'm glad you mostly thought the same things when it came to the religious themes and aspects. The ending really hit me in the throat though because I wasn't quite prepared for what happened. YAY I'm just glad u didn't think this debut took a turn for the worse. HAH the interview with katelyn was so fun, right? Lovely review Erin!

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

  2. I was immediately drawn in through the synopsis! Definitely adding this to my TBR.

  3. Okay, I wasn't so sure about this book at first glance, but OMG, I've got to get my hands on it now. Especially the fact that there's going to be another book about Mina's baby... ooh. I'm sure it's definitely unique; I certainly haven't seen this in YA before! Plus I will be interested in the biblical aspects of the book...

  4. Yay! I'm so glad you plan on reading it, Tina! I hope you enjoy the book! :)

  5. Kayla @ The Thousand LivesMay 24, 2015 at 2:14 AM

    Ahhh this interview makes me want to read it x_x I'm just so nervous about the religious aspects because I've never EVER read a book that works with me even when there's even a small bit of religion. But hey - maybe this one will be different!

  6. I completely understand. I'm usually like that too, but the religious stuff is just pretty straight forward and never feels pushy. Mina does research to find out as much as she can, and it just feels like she's sharing what she's learning with you.

  7. Once again, you're the reason why I added another book to my huuuge TBR list. I came across this book a while ago, but didn't pay much attention to it. Reading you review and the interview, it made me curious about it. So, definitely I want to read it! :D

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  8. Awe, Carla! That means so much to me that you always add books to your TBR because of my reviews! :)

    I really hope you enjoy the book. It definitely surprised me, but obviously in a very good way. And I know what you mean about a huge TBR list. I swear that I have an entire shelf (double stacked) just full of TBR books.


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