Monday, October 2, 2017

"A Messy, Beautiful Life" by Sara Jade Alan

A Messy, Beautiful Life
by Sara Jade Alan

A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan

A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan is currently on tour with Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Life is funny sometimes.
And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.
I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.
And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die.
So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.

Book Video
This is not technically the book video, but it shows the author performing a stand-up comedy routine that is the inspiration for Ellie's routine in the book.

From the outside, it must have looked like a weird improv girl about to lie right on top of a strange boy. Onstage. In front of almost two hundred people.
We had been doing near-acrobatics for the past two minutes. Snippets popped into my mind—entangled arms, wrapped legs, arched backs. My brain processed the building energy of the audience, the rising laughter, the hoots and whistles, and I realized our scene must have looked like an epic dry-humping session.
Mortification enveloped me, like all the naked, peeing nightmares of childhood but without the happy escape of waking. I feared this might be one of those shuddery life-moments to etch a forever-home on my memory’s instant-cringe list.
And yet. The rare connection, the out-of-body-ness… I understood what it felt like to be in the moment. I also knew there was “in the moment,” focused but aware, and really in the moment, where everything outside the scene slipped away. It was what I’d read about in all our improv books—like some Holy Grail of improvisation. But I hadn’t known it was possible to totally “lose your mind” and be completely in the moment. Now I did, and it was fun.
If only it could have happened in private.
But it hadn’t. And we were still in it—I was hovering perilously close to his face, as all this flashback processed in the embarrassment quadrant of my brain in an instant. I made the mistake of looking him in the eyes.
Our faces were so close. His lips formed a shy grin on one side, revealing a single, irresistible, dimple. We cracked up, and I released the rest of my weight onto him in a fit of nervous laughter, my head falling in the crook between his neck and shoulder. My nose informed me I had a new favorite smell. As he brushed off some of my hair that had fallen in his face, his arm mashed against me in a nice and only slightly suffocating kind of way, and he shouted, “Will someone please yell freeze already?”
Someone from the audience yelled, “No! We’re waiting for you to do it.”
“Yeah!” the whole audience agreed in unison.
And then they chanted, “Do it! Do it! Do it!”
Oh my God. It hit me that I was, in fact, still laying on top of him. Super speedily I stopped sniffing him like some crazed wildebeest and jumped up, only to be left standing downstage, caught and bewildered, a flush of embarrassment crying out like a face tattoo.
I decided I really should quit improv.
It would make life so much easier.

Praise for the Book
"A Messy, Beautiful Life appealed to every side of me: the theater geek, the romantic, the comedy lover, and the sister/best-friend who knows that family is only partly about DNA. I loved Ellie's journey ... and it's not every book that can make you ugly-cry and snort-laugh within a few chapters." ~ Rosemary Clement-Moore, author of Texas Gothic
"This book has the perfect mixture of lighthearted, fun moments and moments that will shatter your heart. But it's beautiful and gives you all the feels. [...] Read this book!!!" ~ Nicole, Buchwolke Tumblr
"Ellie's story flew off the page and took over my heart while tickling my funny bone and messing with my tear ducts." ~ Victoria Hanley, bestselling author of Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write
"One instant I was laughing and the next I had tears in my eyes when Ellie discovers that her world seems to be falling apart." ~ Sascha, Sascha Darlington's Microcosm Explored
"The cover is beautiful. The story was beautiful, even if it was sad. The friendships will make you jealous and make you want your own pack. There was even diversity and LGBT representation in here that wasn't forced. This is a good example of how YA books should be done. I highly recommend this book!" ~ Lacy, A Ravenclaw Library

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Ellie is a member of an improv theater group and, when she meets Jason, a member of a rival improv group, they form an immediate connection. With some new friends and a huge comedy competition coming up, things are looking good, but a freak accident brings Ellie crashing down - quite literally. What happens next will break your heart into little pieces and then put it back together again.
Ellie's story is based on the author's own experiences in battling chondrosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The author states that "the upside of tragedy is that it can be transformed into art." And that is exactly what she has done. A Messy, Beautiful Life is a touching account of a young girl's experience with cancer at a time when she should be fully living her life. The story is so good that I forgot to take notes, but I loved Ellie as well as her support group of Jason, her friends, her mother, and especially her stepbrother Craig.
Cute and funny and sad. Don't miss this one.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"Apparently my wits had been taken hostage and beaten to death by my hormones."
"Making a fool out of myself in front of hundreds of people by pretending to be someone else was way easier than in front of one person as the real me."
"I can hardly explain the double take Jason gave me. It was like an emotional sundae—two scoops of fear with a sprinkle of huh? and a dollop of awkward with excitement on top."
"That torso. Smooth and tan and apparently filled with a billion bio-magnets, because the entire organ that was my skin gravitated toward it."
"The sun was at his back so he looked like he was glowing—his hair shimmering, droplets of water running down his face. No fair providing special effects, Nature."
"I could think of no other words. Don’t I do improv? Why does it refuse to be a useful skill in real life?"
"... it was the nicest sort of hug. He held me so tight and so close, it was kind of comforting. Brotherly."
"My whole body was light and bubbly. And his lips felt amazing, more amazing that anything I could have imagined."
"... the nurse pointed out the button I could press to ease the pain. Isn’t that nice—relief at the press of a button? If only all of life were that simple—a morphine-drip for the soul."
"She was like an angel on earth or something—something beyond us mortals, at least."
"Real life was the hard part. Onstage I could be someone else, live in a pretend world for a while."
"My heartbeat was so loud and fast it was all Edgar-Allen-Poe-obvious in my head."
"... fearlessness is not being without fear, but being afraid and doing the thing anyway."
"I wondered how it was possible that my life was at its very best and its very worst simultaneously. Messy and beautiful. Heartbreaking and inspiring."

About the Author
Sara Jade Alan
Sara Jade Alan wrote her first comedy sketch during second grade recess, then cast it, directed it, and made costumes out of garbage bags. Since then, she has performed in over a thousand improvised and scripted shows all over the country. When she lived in New York City with her college improv group, she worked as an assistant to a best-selling author of young adult novels featuring strong female heroes and was completely inspired by her books and the awesomeness of her teen fans. Spending a year on crutches, Sara turned to writing her own young adult stories and was hooked. Currently, she is one-half of the comedy duo, The Novelistas, who perform about writing and teach performance to writers. Hailing from a suburb of Chicago, Sara now lives in Colorado with her husband - who she met in that college improv group - and daughter, who they waited a bunch of years to make. She is a member of and guest instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win A Messy, Beautiful Life Prize Pack, which includes A Messy, Beautiful Life tote bag, DVD of the anime rom-com Ranma 1/2, a disco ball keychain, and a bag of Marshmallow Mateys cereal (US only).