Friday, November 29, 2013

Mystical High by Lisette Brodey (Excerpt, Review and Interview)

Title:  Mystical High
Author:  Lisette Brodey
Published: October 7th, 2013
Publisher: Saberlee Books
Word Count:  72,700
Genre:  YA Paranormal
Content Warning:  Mild sexual content and non-gratuitous profanity
Recommended Age:  14+
In Mystekal, a small, dying town in the Southern California desert, only 75 students attend the old, sometimes creepy high school dubbed “Mystical High,” where strange things have been known to happen. Jessie Dalworth and Jinxsy Patterson are juniors and lifelong best friends. At home, Jessie deals with the pain of an absentee mother who has abandoned the family for the lure of Hollywood; Jinxsy contends with a 17th “birthday present” she never wanted or expected.

Meanwhile, at school, the unexplained activity begins to escalate when Jinxsy keeps seeing a long-haired guy in the hallway checking her out. Jessie can’t see him, but her younger brother, River, can.

Then, in English class, a stapler mysteriously flies off teacher Eve Carrow’s desk, hitting a student in the face who has just mouthed off to her. The beloved teacher is in the unenviable position of having her brute of a father as principal, so she hates sending any student to his office. As Principal Ernest Carrow begins to terrorize Eve and others more openly, something or someone unseen decides that it’s payback time.

School is getting stranger, and Jinxsy and Jessie are faced with mind-boggling changes in their home lives that complicate everything. When a string of shocking events expose explosive secrets, decades-long mysteries are finally revealed.
Excerpt from Mystical High by Lisette Brodey

Eve Carrow, Mystekal High’s English teacher, glanced at the giant wall clock as Jessie and Jinxsy slipped into their seats seconds before the bell.
“Welcome, you two. I wasn’t sure you were going to join us today. I like to be fashionably late at parties sometimes, but school is a different story.”
The old bell sounded loudly.
Jessie opened her notebook, grabbed To Kill A Mockingbird, the current class book, from her backpack, and sat upright in her chair. “See? We’re on time. Ready to go.”
“Yes, you are.”
Jinxsy, still fumbling through her backpack, looked at her friend, then at her teacher. “Jess had a mishap with her locker. Cut her finger.”
From the back of the room, Taylor cackled. “Yeah, it took her ten minutes for Her Vampiress to suck a few drops of blood and ten more minutes for the Jinx to calm her down.”
Jessie turned abruptly in her chair. “You are so exaggerating, Taylor. Keep out of my business.”
“Your boring business.” Taylor ran her fingers through her blond and purple hair. “No wonder you don’t have a boyfriend when the biggest part of your day is a little boo boo on your finger. Waaaaaaaah!”
Eve, though usually of the sweetest demeanor, slammed a book down on her desk. “Taylor Dennison. Stop. Now. Everyone else, face front.” As she looked around the room, her angry look softened. “Okay, who wants to begin our discussion about Boo Radley?”
Sophia Chavez raised her hand. “I will.”
“Thank you, Sophia. Please go on.”
“Well, I know the kids made up a lot of stories about him, but it’s only natural, you know? I mean, he never came out of the house. There were creepy rumors, like how he stabbed his dad in the leg with scissors. If I heard that about someone, I would be thinking the same way that Scout, Jem, and Dill did.”
Eve nodded her head in agreement. “It’s very easy to assume all kinds of things when we don’t know the truth.”
“So why is that, Ms. Carrow?”
“Well, Sophia, I think it’s because as human beings, we like answers. If an answer can be looked up or found out, most of us will choose that route. But when the answer to a question isn’t readily available, we tend to make things up, to satisfy our inquiring brains. It’s not a good thing to do, but human beings engage in this practice quite liberally. What do you think of my assessment?”
Jessie, with little animation on her face, responded to her teacher’s question. “I think you’re right.”
Taylor yelled from the back of the room. “Why? Because people talk crap about your hermit crab aunt?”
Jessie turned and glared at Taylor. She bit her lip so hard it almost bled. She knew that if she responded, the words would be ugly ones she wouldn’t want to be heard saying.
Eve was furious. “Taylor, that was positively uncalled for. And just plain cruel. I’m being extraordinarily generous by not sending you to the principal’s office. But one more outburst and I won’t hesitate.”
Silence fell over the room. The principal of Mystekal High was Eve’s father, Ernest Carrow. He had been the principal since Eve herself was a student. The only person who seemed to tolerate him at all was his secretary, and he seemed to like children as much as picnic goers like ants.
Carrow was the wealthiest man in Mystekal and owned a large percentage of the real estate, both commercial and residential. He didn’t need the salary he earned as Mystekal High’s principal, but he liked to control people, and being in charge of everyone at the school helped him to do just that.
Even though she couldn’t stand sending students to her father’s office, Eve hated making empty threats even more. She despised him, and sending a student for discipline meant that she had to deal with her father as well. She would have to endure a lecture about how she wasn’t able to control her class or how she had failed to mete out proper discipline. Eve pretended not to hear Taylor’s last remark and prayed she would not step over the line again. At least for the remainder of class.
“Would you all please take out your class assignment for this week? We’re going to share.”
Cade Swift raised his hand.
“Yes, Cade?”
“Do you mean the paper you asked us to write on who we thought Boo Radley really was? The one where you wanted us to write a description of how we saw his life inside that house?”
“The one and only.”
Cade bit his lip. “Uh, would you mind calling on me last?”
“Since when are you shy?”
“I’m not. But after what you said to Sophia I’m thinking maybe I need to rewrite my paper.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, Santino Vega, laughed. “Dude, don’t you mean write it. Period.”
Cade, the dark-haired boy known for his smiling eyes was quick to respond. “No, Vega, I mean rewrite it.”
Eve Carrow was intrigued. “Why do you want to rewrite it, Cade?”
Cade looked embarrassed and responded more softly than usual. “Um, I think maybe I was too judgmental. Just want to do it over.”
Jessie looked admiringly at Cade, then at her best friend. Jinxsy knew Jessie had a crush on him but had been denying it. Jessie’s glance confirmed that she was ready to admit it. But whether or not she was ready to seek out Cade’s affections was an entirely different story.
Eve Carrow smiled. “Actually, Cade. I’d like you to read your paper as you wrote it and then tell us how you’d like to change it.”
“Oh, man. Do I have to?”
The class giggled and Jessie’s eyes grew wide with anticipation.
“As your teacher, I would truly appreciate it.”
“Read it, dude. Then tell everyone how you’ve gone soft on Radley.”
Eve looked sternly at the class loudmouth. “Mr. Vega, I can only surmise by your comments that you would prefer to lead the class into this exercise. By all means, why don’t you go first?”
Santino looked angry. “Listen, Ms. Carrow. I think it was really a stupid assignment. I mean, Harper Lee already wrote the character. There’s no point in us rewriting the dude. Sorry, didn’t do it and I’m not gonna do it. Any questions?”
As Santino’s words fell on the shocked class and the disrespected teacher, a gust of desert wind rushed through the open window, blew a small stapler off Eve Carrow’s desk, and sent it flying through the air before it landed sharply on Santino’s mouth.
“What the —?” Santino wiped the blood from his mouth.
As the class focused on the freak accident, Eve looked out the window and noticed that it was a very still day. The sagebrush was not moving. There was not even the faintest trace of wind.

Review for Mystical High

Jessie and Jinxsy are just trying to get through their junior year of high school in the dying town of Mystekal. Jessie is just starting to build up some normalcy after her mother Arielle's abrupt departure for Hollywood (and a sleazy producer) and she thinks she's ready to start dating thoughtful (and cute) Cade. Now if only her aunt and brother River could be a little less eccentric, home life might not seem quite so bizarre.

But bizarre is just beginning for Jinxsy, who finds out a terrible secret the day she turns seventeen that turns her life upside down. But that's nothing compared to what she runs into after she tries to run away, and that doesn't stack up to what saves her after.

What does this have to do with the boy only Jinxsy and River can see, why is their English teacher Miss Carrow starting to get increasingly nervous around the girls and what finally pushes Jessie's aunt over the edge? And is Arielle's return going to mean life's going to get easier for Jessie, or is that going to make everything much worse?

While I don't read a lot of YA or paranormal, I found this short novel engrossing and finished the book in a day. Throughout the story, I was deeply impressed by the themes of second chances, complicated motivations and secret identities. While I could figure out pretty quickly who some of the mysterious characters were, I was genuinely surprised by others. The only disappointments I had were that the villain's motivations weren't explained as thoroughly as the other characters (but I wonder if this will be addressed in future installments) and that the ending wrapped up a little too neatly. However, I was still excited by the prospects that were hinted at for the characters and the town as a whole. I look forward to reading the next installment.

Recommended for fans of YA and paranormal.

About the Author:
Lisette Brodey was born and raised in Pennsylvania. After high school, she moved to New York City where she attended Pace University and studied drama. After ten years in New York, several of them working in the radio industry, she moved to Los Angeles, where she held various positions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and CBS Studio Center in Studio City, CA.

Back on the East Coast, she worked for many years as a freelance writer, specializing in PR and the entertainment industry. In 2010, she returned permanently to the Los Angeles area.

Her first-published book, CROOKED MOON (General Fiction) was published in both the trade paperback and Kindle editions in 2008. Her first-written, second-published book, SQUALOR, NEW MEXICO (Young Adult/General Fiction) was published in the Kindle and trade paperback versions in 2009.

Her third novel, MOLLY HACKER IS TOO PICKY!, a romantic comedy, was published December 1, 2011. The author blogged as her character, Molly Hacker, for over a year. All blogs can be found at

In January 2013, the author edited and published a book of her mother's poetry (written 50 years earlier) called MY WAY TO ANYWHERE by Jean Lisette Brodey.

Lisette's fourth novel, MYSTICAL HIGH, is the first book in her YA Paranormal Desert Series trilogy.

Author Interview

This is the second YA novel you've written. What do you like about the genre that keeps you coming back?
Oddly enough, when I wrote my first YA book, Squalor, New Mexico, I had no idea I was writing in that genre. I only found out when an agent, responding to my query, wrote to me and said something like, “I love your writing. Darla is a delightful narrator. I’m sorry, but I don’t represent YA.” Sounds silly now, but I was stunned.
I wrote the Squalor, New Mexico because I wanted to tell a story about a girl growing up in a family (in 1970s East Coast suburbia) who were consumed by the past and by the lies they kept telling to protect what they believed to be true. I came back to the genre because I believe that the teen years, when we transition from being a child to an adult (or to feeling like one), are a critical time in our lives. For that reason, it’s a special time to write about.
This time you went with a paranormal angle. What made you decide to venture into that category?
I’ve had a lifelong interest in the paranormal. Not only have I experienced some events, but also I know many people who have. I think it’s fascinating because there’s always that part of me that wonders, Could this really happen?
I also believe that the paranormal may be a bigger part of our lives than we think. Paranormal events may not always reveal themselves as such, but I believe they exist in ways we may never imagine.
In a lot of novels, especially for this age group, the story centers on one character. This story follows best friends Jessie and Jinxsy pretty evenly. What was your thinking behind having two protagonists?
Friendships have always been important to me, as I believe they are to most people, and many of my childhood friends are still my friends. My novel Crooked Moon also has two protagonists whom I write about evenly, but it’s a very different story. It’s about two women who went their separate ways at age 18 and reunite 23 years later after having lived drastically different lives. All of my novels to date have a strong theme of friendship.
In Mystical High, Jessie and Jinxsy are two girls who live in a dying desert town, so their friendship and close bond is of special importance, because there aren’t many people left in the town of Mystekal. The closeness they share is an integral part of their growing up. They learn not only from their own life events, but also from one another’s. I find it interesting, both in real life and in fiction, how the circumstances in people’s lives can change so quickly. For Jessie and Jinxsy, having an inside look at each other’s personal lives, not just their own, offers them a more complex view of the world as they come of age.
Not surprisingly, a lot of strange things happen in this book. They trace back to a pivotal event, but are we going to find out there's something about Mystekal that makes it conducive to the paranormal?
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I can tell you that there is more to the story I tell in Mystical High that will be revealed in the second book. Each book in The Desert Series can be read as a standalone novel but, of course, will be even juicier if you’ve read the previous one.
As much drama as was created by certain paranormal phenomena, there was much more created by the unreliable adults. Do you think that's something that's gotten worse or better in real life since you were a teenager?
Certainly not better. This is an interesting question and one someone could write a book about. For one thing, since I was a teenager, the world has become a different place. Although I had pen pals growing up, that was pretty much the only way for me to learn about the lives of others in different countries. Now, with technology, the Internet, and social media, our world is very small. People are mingling in ways that they never did before. There are pros and cons to almost every innovation. I think life is much more complicated in today’s world, though I never felt it was uncomplicated when I was a child.
Mystekal was really a short drive to Hollywood and Beverly Hills, but they're worlds apart in every other way. While there isn't such a place as Mystekal, did you have a particular location in mind when you were creating this world?
Mystekal and Beverly Hills are about two hours and change apart. I’ve visited many desert towns, both in the area where this book takes place and in other parts of California. Mystekal is not meant to be one particular town. It is a hybrid of places that I have seen. In all of my novels, I fictionalize neighborhoods and small towns.
Leaving aside Jessie and Jinxsy, which character did you most enjoy writing for?
Fourteen-year-old River, Jessie’s brother, is probably my favorite character. He’s smart, has a passion for knowledge and words, and sees dead people, plus his mouth is usually two steps ahead of his brain. He works hard to hide his vulnerability and sensitivities that have been formed through the hurts in his young life. He’s a quirky and complex character.
Most of Jessie and Jinxsy's classmates had a lot of shades of gray; I found myself rooting for people toward the end who had made me sneer in the beginning. I also found myself horrified in the middle by someone who had started out as a "good guy." Taylor, however, was consistently bad news. Are we going to find out more about her story in the next installments?
Perhaps. I can’t give away too much, but I can tell you that Taylor’s younger sister will be a main character in the second book in this series. So, at the very least, readers will hear about Taylor and know where she ended up after high school.
Without giving anything away, which character can we expect to see the most changes in as the series continues?
I can tell you that River will be a high school senior in book 2 and one of two main characters. (Yes, I’m doing it again: two protagonists, only this time with two boys who are best friends.) The Dalworth family will be a part of the story, especially Arielle. Many of the characters from Mystical High will be present, but I will be introducing brand-new characters/families and fresh stories that will add more intrigue to the story already told. There will be new paranormal elements as well. That’s a promise.

Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • $35 Amazon Gift Card (INT)
  • Print copy of Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! (US only)
  • Print copy of Squalor, New Mexico (US only)
  • Print copy of Mystical High (US only)
  • Tote bag (US and CAN only)

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