Sparks didn't fly when author and Perry High School teacher Rachele Alpine was first kissed during summer camp. But for Grace, the young heroine in Alpine's new middle school novel Operation Pucker Up (Simon and Schuster, $7.99), there still may be a chance for first-kiss magic — even if it is while an entire audience watches her portray Snow White in the school play. We spoke to Alpine, who also wrote the Benjamin Franklin Award-winning YA novel Canary, about the trials of growing up, both onstage and in the halls of school.
On writing for girls
"I want them to do things and take charge. ... The readers from Canary were often teenagers who shared their own stories or shared how my book helped them. And I'm starting to see [that] with early readers of Operation Pucker Up. ... Those times can often be confusing or awkward. It's important to give girls a voice so that readers can find somebody they can identify with."
On onstage love
"I was in Cinderella at the Beck Center, and I was in a waltz number. I had to dance with another boy. ... It wasn't even a kiss, we were just holding hands, but I remember being so nervous about it. Like, Oh my gosh, I have to hold his hand in front of everybody! I've never danced with a boy before!"
On tackling tough topics in Canary
"There are still a lot of gray lines and things that teens don't know about sexual assault and consent, and I see that in conversations with my students. ... It takes two years from when you sell the book to when it's on the shelf usually, and during that time the Steubenville [football team] case happened, which was really eerie and really sad, an example of life imitating art."