Published by Sourcebooks Fire on January 1, 2019
Genres: Young Adult
When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.
The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn't care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver's exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.
Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver's face.
Rebecca Hanover discusses her Young Adult novel The Similars
Please provide a capsule description of The Similars, and a brief explanation of your inspiration for the book.
THE SIMILARS tells the story of Emma, who arrives at her prestigious boarding school freshly grieving the death of her best friend, Oliver, only to come face-to-face with his clone. Levi is Oliver’s exact DNA copy, one of six “Similars” joining the junior class right alongside their originals. A few years ago, the idea of clones arriving at a high school came to me in a flash, and I knew right away it was a story I wanted to read. Since it didn’t exist, I resolved to write it myself!
Have you long aspired to write fiction for young adults? Why YA?
I’ve wanted to write a YA novel for ages, ever since I waited in line till midnight at a Harry Potter book release to get my own pair of Potter glasses (I still have them). Though I’ve been a rabid children’s and YA reader ever since, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I committed to writing THE SIMILARS full-time. Getting this story onto the page has been all-consuming at times, and thrilling, and it’s ridiculously exciting to finally see it in actual readers’ hands.
As for the young adult genre, I think it’s hands-down the most compelling, envelope-pushing and completely gripping category of fiction out there. Which is why it’s not just teens who are reading it—it’s everyone. There’s not a topic that’s off-limits, and it’s a space where you can ask those burning, big “life” questions that teens are grappling with—that all humans are grappling with—and those questions are entirely welcome. The settings and situations can vary so greatly—from realistic high school settings to space operas—but, fundamentally, young adult novels are always asking readers to hold up a mirror to themselves and question what they think they know.
What questions were you interested in asking when you sat down to write THE SIMILARS?
Identity was a huge one, of course. When kids are in high school, they’re literally confronting themselves, learning who they are—and who they want to be—and coming to terms with their own preferences, histories, families and culture. High school is a bit like a petri dish, and I loved the idea of giving these boarding school kids a set of newcomers to stroll in and throw their world order into chaos. The fact that those newcomers are exact DNA replicas of six of the kids at the school took it all to the next level. Imagine your rival in high school being another version of you. From there, the ideas and questions kept flowing. How would those kids handle these clones arriving at their school? And, on the flip side, what would it be like for the copies? Kids who, from their perspective, felt like individuals, but knew they’d been replicated from other kids’ DNA? The premise was a springboard for so many social and emotional conflicts between the characters.
You used to write for television. What’s your storytelling process like? How does your TV background influence that process?
I’m a big-time plotter. If I learned one thing from TV writing (and I learned a lot more than one thing, but this one’s probably the most important!), it’s that a detailed outline is essential. I know a lot of authors don’t use outlines, and I am in awe of them and would love to live in their minds for a day! But for me, plotting is the key to being able to write a story that works from start to finish and doesn’t end up doubling back on itself. With both books in THE SIMILARS series, I wrote an extensive outline before even attempting to draft the book. The outline for book one was a 90-page binder that included character studies, extensive family trees, and a whole lot of stuff that didn’t even make it into the book, or was saved for book 2. But it was all fundamental to creating the world and plotting out the mystery of the book. When you have clues you need to plant, and when your main character needs to uncover certain bits of information throughout the novel, you have to know ahead of time where you’re going to reveal those nuggets, and how, and pace it all out. That’s where an outline really comes into play.
Do you work with a critique partner?
Yes! Two, and they have been my lifelines. I have a critique group I’ve been fortunate enough to work with for the past 5+ years. My two CP’s have pushed, challenged, an encouraged me endlessly, and their constructive feedback has been so invaluable that I’m dedicating Book two to them.
Where are you from?
I was born and grew up in Memphis, TN, but I’ve lived in San Francisco for nearly ten years with my husband, Ethan, and I definitely consider it home. Living in the heart of SF is a constant adventure, one made all the more exciting (and often chaotic!) by our two sons, who are seven and four.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
So many things! But mostly, that everyone’s journey is different, and every last life experience we have plays a role in getting us to where we want to be, career-wise. Every acting class I took, every essay I edited, every script I wrote for daytime TV, and, of course, every last young adult novel I devoured—it all brought me to here. So be patient. I’d also borrow a saying from my son’s first grade teacher, which is this: “Be who you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Seriously wise words!
How did you overcome any difficult challenges you encountered pre-publication of your debut novel?
The anxiety is real! I’ve worked on THE SIMILARS for so long that it’s become like my third child (and it’s nearly as stubborn as my kids, too). It’s hard in your debut year not to get caught up in outcomes and to remember that if you love and believe in your work and the story you’re telling, the rest is out of your control. What matters is that you keep writing, work as hard (or harder!) than you were before, support other writers in the community, and spread your love for booksellers. Because they are everything! It’s also hard not to compare yourself to other authors as you go down the social media rabbit hole. Again, I channel my kid’s teacher. Her words are genius and basically apply to all of life.
Advance Praise for The Similars
“Reads like Veronica Mars set in the future… will delight mystery readers.”—Booklist
“Fascinating. I was captivated.”—Francine Pascal, bestselling author of Sweet Valley High and Fearless series
“A page-turner that more than delivers on its premise. Hanover takes on sci-fi and high school with equal wit and understanding.”—Allison Raskin, New York Times bestselling author of I Hate Everyone But You
“A brilliantly imagined near-future world where six clones and their counterparts grapple with profound questions of identity and what it means to be human… Part cautionary tale, part gripping teen romance, THE SIMILARS is as immersive and fast-paced as it is shrewd, compelling and heartbreaking.”
—Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist, and New York Times bestselling author
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