Season two of the podcast kicks off with a trip down hot mess memory lane. In this episode, Mackenzie and Lily reminisce about the YA books they read during their teen years that gave them the absolutely wrong romantic ideas in adulthood. Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00), Housekeeping (3:34), Introduction to Main Topic (5:04), Discussion of The Clique by Lisi Harrison (13:52), Discussion of Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar (17:08), Discussion of the Alice Series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (23:26), Discussion of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (28:59), Discussion of Sarah Dessen’s Books (35:56), Discussion of the TTYL/Internet Girl Series by Lauren Myracle (44:09), What Else We’re Reading (48:30), Conclusion (58:03). You can get full show notes and episode transcriptions on the Bad Bitch Book Club website: http://badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. Give us a five-star rating wherever you get your podcasts, and say hi to us at @F2LPodcast on Twitter and Instagram. You can also join the private F2L Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/292095932008569/.
If you want to support Bad Bitch Book Club's initiatives (including this podcast), become a Patreon member: https://www.patreon.com/badbitchbookclub. Buy all books mentioned on Friends to Lovers: https://bookshop.org/lists/friends-to-lovers-podcast.
Friends to Lovers is a Bad Bitch Book Club podcast hosted by BBBC founder Mackenzie Newcomb and writer, editor, and bestie Lily Herman. Each week, they use books as a jumping off point to talk about sex, relationships, dating, love, romance, and more. Podcast logo by MKW Creative Co. (https://mkwcreative.co/) and music by Eliza Rose Vera (http://www.elizarosevera.com). Full episode transcription by Colleen Ward.
The Clique by Lisi Harrison
Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
ttyl by Lauren Myracle
ttfn by Lauren Myracle
l8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle
The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
Hands Down by Mariana Zapata
The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo
The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan
Famous Authors Drag Student in Surreal YA Twitter Controversy by Lila Shapiro (Vulture, 2019)
A student opposed a YA novel for mandatory college reading. The backlash from famous authors was fierce. by Katie Shepherd (The Washington Post, 2019)
Young Adult Writer Sarah Dessen Apologizes for Tweet Rallying Fellow Authors, Fans Against Northern State Graduate by Jeanine Marie Russaw (Newsweek, 2019)
Lily Herman: Hello everyone, and welcome back to season two of Friends to Lovers, a podcast where we use books as a jumping-off point to talk about sex, relationships, dating, love, romance, and more. Friends to Lovers is part of the Bad Bitch Book Club network, and you can learn more at badbitchbookclub.com/podcast.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Hi everyone. And welcome back. I'm Mackenzie Newcomb. I'm a retired relationship blogger. I'm an influencer marketing expert and I'm the founder of Bad Bitch Book Club.
Lily Herman: And I'm Lily Herman, a writer, editor, person who suddenly really likes the scrunchie trend, and one of Mack's best friends. We both have scrunchies on.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Welcome to the scrunchie gang. I feel passionately about this.
Lily Herman: It's like falling in love. It happened slowly and all at once. I don't know. I don't know when it occurred, but it occurred. And now, someone help me. It's bad.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Actually keep this in here. Don't edit this out. If anyone needs a recommendation for the best scrunchies on earth, lululemon, and I would prefer to recommend a small biz, but they're just lululemon. They are the best scrunchies on planet earth. There is no competition. They are about $8, which seems like, "how expensive for a scrunchie," but it's not, it's the best deal of your life.
Lily Herman: Interesting. Okay. I'm very intrigued now cause I had these off of Amazon for something else and then kept three or four of them and I just rotate. And yeah my mom is super confused. I didn't even wear scrunchies as a kid. There's no reason for me as an adult woman entering my late twenties to be wearing scrunchies. And yet here I am. Should we also talk about the fact that we are in season two of the pod?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Could not be happier! And my goal is to get us in the top 50 book podcasts. So if you're listening, review us. But review us for five stars or else don't review us.
Lily Herman: Yeah. There's one, one star review on Apple podcasts. And I hope that person has a horrible holiday season. Just putting that out there.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, you're getting coal.
Lily Herman: But also tell your friends, tell everyone we have quite the season coming up, we already have it all mapped out and are obviously pre-recording some episodes. Some will be a little closer to the actual date that they go live. But it's a good season. I think we both agree. I mean, we will have to sign off on it. I hope we both think it's a good season. Anyway, what can we expect this season? We have this episode, which, you know the title of, we have a lot about the steaminess of romance novels. We may or may not be revisiting a certain BDSM series that was popular in the first half of the 2010s. That then went on to be a three-part movie phenomenon. So,
Mackenzie Newcomb: Or if you're me, you'll be visiting for the first time. I have never read this particular BDSM book. And actually when it arrived in the mail, Ben looked at it, looked at me, and goes, "Aren't you a little late?"
Lily Herman: And you're just like, "The things Lily is making me do."
Lily Herman: So we should move on to housekeeping. Everybody's favorite 60 seconds. So you can find show notes to every episode, including every book we talk about at badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. You should also join Bad Bitch Book Club's Patreon, which is at patreon.com/badbitchbookclub. That supports all of Bad Bitch Book Club's initiatives, including zoom calls with authors, merch, as well as things like this delightful podcast. You should also follow us on Twitter and Instagram @F2Lpodcast, and that's two as in the number 2, and join our Friends to Lovers Podcast Facebook group, we're doing a bajillion giveaways in there in addition to just being a really lovely bunch of people chatting about books. So 10 out of 10 recommend. And then lastly, you can follow Bad Bitch Book Club itself on Instagram at badbitch.bookclub and on Twitter at @badbtchbookclub, but the "i" in "bitch" is not there because Jack Dorsey still sucks in 2021.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Nothing's changed except that I'm kind of a Jack Dorsey apologist because he's given away more of his fortune than any other social media person. Sorry, sorry. I know he's bad.
Lily Herman: The only person I'm stanning is MacKenzie Scott, AKA formerly known as MacKenzie Bezos, Jeff Bezos's ex-wife who gave away $4 billion. So the only billionaire that we can put up with is MacKenzie. Another MacKenzie. Spelled the same way as you.
Introduction to Main Topic (5:04)
Mackenzie Newcomb: A fellow MacKenzie. You're so right, we definitely stan her, there's no question about that. So today, we are talking about books from our adolescence that essentially ruined our adult love lives, that set us up for romantic failure from the very beginning and set us off on these really bumpy real life journeys trying to recreate the same "magic" in air quotes that we found in these books. And you know how Lily and I feel about modern YA, but I'm going to let her go a little bit further into our grievances mostly. All right, Lily, take it away.
Lily Herman: Once again, to pull from ja-rule, I feel like we were bamboozled, hoodwinked, led astray by the YA genre and the market in the mid-late 2000s, I'm very upset about what we were offered. I feel like I should be sending my therapy bills to the YA publishing market and anyone who existed in that sphere from circa 2004 until maybe 2011. All of you, I should not be paying to discuss things with my therapist. It's all them. So I think the first important thing for us to note is before we get into our lists, Mackenzie and I are white women who grew up in relative socioeconomic privilege and were pre-teens and adolescents during the pre-recession era of the mid-2000s through the post-recession era into the early 2010s. So just to give you an idea of what's kind of coloring our experiences, but also what time period we're talking about and why we're referencing books from that specific time period and not, let's say, the excellent YA that came out a decade later when we were no longer in the genre's demographic age-wise. But looking back, because of that, many of the books I read, especially longer series during that pre-recession era, really focused on big themes of wealth and excess as a virtue in ways that you won't see portrayed in late-2010s and early-2020s YA books and in YA culture. So that's, I think, thing number one that we were thinking about and that I've been kind of reflecting on a lot of, "wow, all these books were really into rich people doing bad things and getting away with it and still getting a happy ending." And then you think about how all the kids today are like "eat the fucking rich," "stick their bones in your teeth and run around on TikTok with it." It's a very different world. But I think the other critical thing to note is that the YA genre has completely changed, but most of the characters at the time where we were reading YA and were of YA age were white people, especially love interests and protagonists were always typically white. You maybe had one friend or best friend who was a person of color. And I feel like the lessons and the journeys they were on were kind of different to a certain extent than what you see today. But when I think about books that were popular when we were in middle school and especially early high school, I think of stuff like Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, that was a huge series. I remember that being on display at the bookstore near me. You had Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han and there's a lot of internalized misogyny amongst white girls in all these different books. And a lot of them are about seeking revenge or where the villain is another girl as opposed to the system at large like what you see with today's YA. And I think if you wanted something deeper, you maybe went to The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak. And that was kind of it at the local Books-A-Million in Florida that I went to. The other thing to note too, is that there were a few authors of color who were at least somewhat prominently featured at the time. Obviously we're not saying that it was only white people writing white characters and that's it. But a lot of YA authors at the time have talked about the fact that they were sort of told that they needed to write white characters doing white people things because that's what publishers told them they needed if they wanted to get a book deal. So, forget about any other form of diversity in terms of other identities like sexual orientation or gender; no one was talking about having a non-binary character, for instance. That didn't exist in our lexicon. And again, that's not to say that non-binary people didn't exist. It just meant in YA book publishing at the time, that was not something that was on the radar, specifically for being mainstream releases. I mean, the idea of a gay character in a book was controversial and it was very rare, especially, again, we're talking about big mainstream releases, not necessarily indie publishers or self-published books because people have been putting that stuff out there for forever. But if you look at sort of YA history, so to speak, YA genre history, when we start thinking about the books that really make up the genre now, there was sort of a really big shift around 2014 in terms of what started to be I would say kind of the more modern, current era of YA, but really around 2017, 2018, so only three to four years ago is when you see the huge shift and the publication of books that we know well as being kind of core to the current genre. So The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, Children of Blood and Bone, and The Poet X, these are all books that came out 2017, 2018 that have really kind of upended the genre. And it becomes sort of mainstays that other aspiring authors and just authors in general look to as well as the publishing industry. So that's the quick little to-do about how publishing fucked up our lives in general and did not help on the romantic front. And I hope that the youths of today are better because publishers actually publish shit that speaks to them on a variety of fronts in a way that it did not when we were 14.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And now my grievances have just shifted because we have all this amazing YA and you and I have read a lot of the really good YA that's out there. But there's no adult fiction books covering the topics that YA is covering now. I mean, we are truly the starved generation of representation, if you will.
Lily Herman: I feel very upset. Oh, so upset.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Very upset all the time about this, all the time about this.
Lily Herman: I was going to say, just to give an example for people, Mackenzie and I spent a lot of time obviously reading romance for this podcast, for the romance challenge that Bad Bitch Book Club does annually, for other book events, we have, for instance, a women of color in romance readathon for the Bad Bitches in Love romance subgroup. And what we talk about all the time is the dearth of mainstream published queer romance. You can find plenty of self-published or indie-published queer romance, but obviously something we have to think about is accessibility for people - can they find it at a library? Is it easy to request a library to-get, things like that, because obviously you want as many people to be able to read the books that are curated as possible and the dearth of adult queer romance.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh my gosh. All the time. Especially when our Haus of Bad Bitches, our LGBTQ reading group was curating their list for the fall, the problem we kept running into was all these amazing books that we wanted to read to cover specific topics, for example, we wanted an asexual romance, it's all YA. But again, happy for the teens. Just not happy for myself. And that's fine. Obviously we've spent a considerable amount of time complaining to each other about books that were popular in our adolescent years that are truly the opposite of what we're seeing now. Including just for the last five minutes on this podcast. But to keep it honest and authentic, we're going to tackle books that we actually read as teenagers, not the ones that we wish that we read, and we hope that this episode encourages you to perhaps reflect on the books that you loved as a teen, how they shaped you, and view them maybe through a different lens this time. So without further ado, Lily, what was your first pick? Oh, and these are not recommendations.
Lily Herman: First of all, these are not recommendations. I mean, if you want to read them, sure. But just to be clear, I'm not saying that mid-late 2000s was the golden era of YA books for adolescents? So that's, thing number one. Thing number two: a lot of these books have been out for 15 years or more. So we have light spoilers. I think at this point and many people reading probably will not be revisiting them.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Heavy spoilers on my end.
Discussion of The Clique by Lisi Harrison (13:52)
Lily Herman: Yeah. One of Mackenzie's picks, there was a TV show based on, you had plenty of time is what we're saying. These are not new releases, especially this first pick for me. The first series, it's a series, that I think has made somewhat of an impact on me generally, but especially back in the day, was The Clique by Lisi Harrison, which, people will remember that The Clique was a series about a girl whose family moves from Florida to, I believe it's Westchester, New York, that sort of really affluent area of the country. Maybe it's Darien or Stanford, Connecticut. I can't remember. But that kind of area, richest zip codes in the US kind of shit. And they end up staying at the guest house of her parents' friends, and the friends have a daughter who is Claire's age named, Massie. And Massie is a human terror who's very popular at their all-girls school, and she has these three friends who are her sidekicks, of course only one of them is a woman of color. And that's never really quite dealt with in the series, but is kind of dealt with in other ways. It's very awkward. But the series is kind of known for being almost a soapy middle school version of Gossip Girl in a lot of ways, so less sex scandal kind of stuff but a lot of girls arguing over a Balenciaga bag, a huge part of the series was Lisi Harrison name-dropping fashion and beauty and lifestyle brands constantly. And on the love life section, I feel like a huge part of this series at the time was about girls getting boyfriends but fighting over each other's boyfriends, or the boyfriend drama. And it sort of normalized for me this idea of female cattiness around everything, particularly men. So Claire, for instance, has a boyfriend for the majority of the series, but they break up several times over different tiny things, at one point and Massie has a crush on her boyfriend at first and there's a fight over who gets him. There's all these little things like that, where you're just looking back, "Oh goodness." That definitely set the scene for I think as a youth, I was like, "If there's not drama, it's not real." And now I'm like, "Fuck that, if there's drama run in the other goddamn direction. Do not associate with that." But 12-year-old me did not know that and thought that these books were a bible of how to deal - I shouldn't say bible - torah, torah for my people, a torah of how to be a good or a cool young person, both in terms of style and fashion, as well as how to handle boys and friends. A mess. A true mess is basically what I'm saying.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Never forget how they treated her when she wore overalls and Keds.
Lily Herman: Which is now very hip with the youths, like what?
Mackenzie Newcomb: But I wouldn't wear overalls after that. I was like, "Oh, shit. I can't wear overalls. Do you see how they treated Claire?"
Lily Herman: Yeah. Massie and her band of sidekicks. Oh yeah. That whole series. I really should just find Lisi Harrison's address and send her the therapy bills. Yeah. She can pay them for me cause I'm still scarred by the series.
Discussion of Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar (17:08)
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think I'm going to go into Gossip Girl next, because I feel like it kind of plays off The Clique. It was kind of The Clique, but for people who wanted more blow jobs in their reading, despite not really being at the age where you are giving blow jobs. I think I might've had at this point, I'm not sure.
Lily Herman: I definitely was not, so.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. For those of you not familiar with Gossip Girl by Cecily von Zie - first of all, I can't pronounce her last name and I'm not going to try 'cause she's canceled.
Lily Herman: I looked this up. Cecily von Ziegesar. It's the "ge" in the middle is what's accented. Yeah. Anyway, Cecily. We'll call her Cecily. But I figured this out, I watched 12 different YouTube clips 'cause I was curious.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, way to go. I should've asked you to do that for all of mine. So Cecily wrote this book, Gossip Girl. I think there's 18 books in this series, but really the first four or five were really popular. So it's a very lengthy series about super-rich privileged teens living in the Upper East side and teens that thought they had no money living in Brooklyn that actually did have money. There are dozens of romantic -- I'm calling you out, Dan, you weren't poor. You lived in Williamsburg. There were dozens and dozens of romantic storylines, but I think the one that was the most critical to the story and I think everyone would agree about this is, the one of Blair and Chuck. So Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass were just friends, part of the same social crew in the Upper East Side of super, super rich kids, and one night they were at Chuck's club, even though they were in high school, and they ended up -- right? Why'd he own a burlesque club? They were in high school. I know it's normal to give your kids investments, but why do you own that already? You weren't even 18. That's so weird. And Blair was like "I have moves," and he's like "What?" And she did a little dance and then they fucked in the back of the limo, which was her virginity. And then from there it was just a beautiful disaster. So first of all, they were so toxic but they were goals. We all wanted to be Chuck and Blair. If you didn't have a Chuck, what, were you going to have a lonely boy? A Dan? A guy who actually liked you? Absolutely fucking not, absolutely not. But of course, the only thing that we could relate to being teens was not the excess wealth living on the Upper East side. It was this toxic relationship that we could throw ourselves in. And I really believed that these two were OTP, which is one true pair. I wanted them together so badly. I cared so much about them. I cried on numerous occasions about Chuck and Blair, but I just want to go over a list of things that Chuck did to Blair that were really, really, really, really, really bad that we didn't really address at the time now that I have this moment.
Lily Herman: Please go for it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: First and foremost, he offered his uncle, his girlfriend for the night in exchange for ownership of the hotel that had been given to his uncle when his dad died. So that was weird. That was weird. And also did not get Blair's consent on that. So that was fucked up all around, but we totally forgave him for it, which is so weird. He fucked all of her enemies, including, but not limited to, Vanessa from Brooklyn and Little J who is Dan Humphrey's little sister, who actually he raped and did not have consensual sex with. But again, we totally just brushed it off. We were like, “Stuff happens, things get weird. Chuck raped Little J but him and Blair need to get married.” And all of this could have been avoided, especially the stalking and ruining her life thing, if he just said, "I love you" from the very beginning and the whole time we were just trying to get Chuck to say, "I love you." So we really do give men the benefit of the doubt way too often. And that is reflected in no place better than with Chuck and Blair. So they were not goals. They were not OTP. And yet I thought that the boy who couldn't tell me he loved me was just simply my Chuck Bass. And I was just Blair.
Lily Herman: Oh my god. I think also, so I haven't read the books - for whatever reason, I was very like, "I'm too cool for Gossip Girl. I'm an A-List by Zoey Dean reader," "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Things that I thought at 14 were important. Same exact culture, but A-List I will say almost made my list, but there was another series I threw in last second, right before this recording, 'cause I realized it was way more important romantically to me than the A-List. 'Cause I remember the A-List being fun. Anyway, I watched a lot of the Gossip Girl series and I feel like what's a really big part of Chuck and Blair is the fact that one: they are both equally fucked up people in different ways, so I think that appeals to a lot of people, you found your fucked up soulmate, and two: again, I'm speaking more to the TV series than the books. They're very much partners in crime, even when they are not on the same side, there's a lot of give and take there that, again, causes a lot of sexual tension and other things between them. But people read that, especially when you're young as, "Oh, that's so romantic and sexy, you know, finding this person, who's a goddamn disaster and needs to be in prison, and at the very least therapy, who can do fucked up shit with me, oh, so cool. That's the pinnacle of romance." And now as an adult, I'm like, "Run in the other direction." I would say, "Call the cops," but the cops are useless. So tell someone that something's wrong. I don't know. But that's how I've always pictured them as a couple, as a duo. And I think that's where at least as an outsider perspective who didn't read the books, that's always what I felt like everyone was really into with them was this fucked up, can't-leave-each-other, always-kind-of-helping-each-other-even-when-they're-not dynamic.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes, so much drama, encouraging each other to be their best version of their terrible selves. It was really quite the book. All right. What's your next one?
Discussion of the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (23:26)
Lily Herman: Okay. So this one is a random one where I feel like there'll be exactly three listeners who know what I'm talking about, but if they do, they are diehard stans of this series. And I know it. So I have to explain it a little bit more. And here's the thing. I racked my brain about this for several, 10, 15 minutes, and could not think of when I found these books, who introduced them to me, and when I read some of them, but there's this series called the Alice series by a woman named Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. And all the books are named things like Perfectly Alice or Something, Something Alice, they all have "Alice" in the title. And here's what's interesting about these books. So I obviously was born in the mid-90s. These books were first published in the mid-1980s. I think the first one came out in 1985. And I can not remember if I got my hands on them back when I was in elementary school and still lived in New Jersey or if someone introduced me to them when I moved to Florida, but I have read several of them. And essentially there's this woman, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, who wrote this series. She, like I said, started in 1985, and the final book was published in 2013, which is, if I'm doing math correctly, what is that? Almost 30 years, 28 years - and I think she wrote a total of 28 books about this woman named Alice. So what this series is, is it starts with this young girl, Alice, as she's in sixth grade and goes all the way basically from her being a new middle schooler all the way through, I want to say it ends with her senior year of high school or senior year of college. Yeah. It might be high school. And then there's actually a book, the final book that came out in 2013, is 500 pages and covers her life from ages 18 to 60.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Wow. There must have been a demand for it.
Lily Herman: Oh yeah. These books had a cult following, which is why I'm saying if you haven't heard of them, that's fine. But if you have, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But these books were considered really, really cutting edge for the time in that they were very plainly talking about things like sex and menstruation, and at one point I think later in the series, there a Nazi rally or something that Alice has to contend with, so there's anti-Semitism and white supremacy thrown in. And these books were, I think I read online somewhere that they were amongst the most challenged books by schools and libraries and parents in terms of not wanting school libraries for instance, to include them or have them for kids to read because they do speak so plainly about different topics, especially for the times that they were published in the 80s, the 90s, the early 2000s. So I love them. I didn't read all of them 'cause 28 books is a lot and the only series I'm probably gonna finish that will definitely have 28 books is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Which we know, as your fans of the pod.
Lily Herman: But essentially for instance, this scene sticks out to me and stuck out to me at the time when I read it, as I want to say I was a preteen or maybe very early teen. And there's a scene in one of the earlier books. So Alice has this ongoing on and off relationship with this guy named Patrick, who I think in the last, the final book that covers the rest of her life, I think she ends up marrying him. But she has an on-again, off-again, boyfriend Patrick, and in middle school, he's her first kiss. And I remember this so vividly because I still think about it now in my late-20s, which is that they have their first kiss, and then he turns it into a French kiss and runs his tongue along her teeth. And she starts freaking out 'cause I think they had just eaten pizza or something with garlic and she pulls away dramatically. And for the rest of my life, I'm like, "Oh my god, what if a man..." And I'm thinking about this and it's not a very sexy move now that I think about it, mechanically speaking, but imagine some 12-year-old, just running his tongue across your teeth. Not just a lick - across your teeth, all the whole way. Go ask Ben to do this later, just to see how awkward it is as a concept, even with someone you love and have hooked your whatever car to for the rest of your life, whatever that phrase is. But I just remember that being, again, so vivid and explicit in terms of how it was talking about that in a way that other books weren't. If it mentioned kisses, you didn't get sort of this adult romance genre level detail as to what was happening. I remember there were similar things when she got her period in the books and things like that. But I just remember that one scene to this day when I just am thinking about the mechanics of romance and not even just sexually, just in general. I always think of that moment. I don't know why, it's just that one moment where I'm like, "You have to think through things like what you eat right before in case a man takes his tongue and just needs to piano key swoosh across your entire set of teeth."
Mackenzie Newcomb: Traumatizing but potentially really good for dental hygiene? Is it a bad thing to be worried about what's in your teeth? Probably not.
Lily Herman: Exactly. I have very mixed feelings, but if you ever just want to dip into a bizarre series that was very cool and different for its time, the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. But anyway, I will forever remember that one scene because it haunted me as a youth and I thought my first kiss, some guy was going to be sticking his tongue all up in the crevices of my mouth. Anyway, that's the long and short of that. Mackenzie, you had one other big, rant you wanted to go on - a monologue, I should say. Rant sounds angry. A monologue.
Discussion of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (28:59)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Of course. I would love to talk about Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. So this is a book about - if you don't know this, I don't know where you were in the years 2000-2006, but spoilers are coming. It's been 15 years, we definitely are allowed to have that. So this is a three-part book series about four best friends who are all super different, who magically find a pair of jeans at a thrift shop that's miraculously fit all of them perfectly despite having all different bods. And so as they go to separate for the first summer ever, they decide to send the pants back and forth - 'cause everyone looks so sexy in them that they have to split them equally - with letters to stay in touch. This was the first book I thought of, because I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, to me, this book was just perfect. It's all about friendship, it's sisterhood. And it's pretty deep. And it was definitely one of my favorite books as a kid. And I thought of it at the time, as my more wholesome pick. But as I decided to dive back into the plot, I realized I was actually kind of wrong and that there actually were some seriously messed up storylines in here. So everyone obviously remembers iconic duo Lena and Kostas. So, Lena was played by Alexis Bledel in the movie if you saw the movie and you want just a reminder, and essentially she went to Greece to spend the summer with her grandparents in Santorini and she meets this man, or boy I guess, Kostas, who her grandparents are like, "Lena, you gotta meet Kostas. He's a hunka, hunka burning love. He lives here in Greece. He's your man." And she was like, "No, I'm here to see my grandparents and explore Santorini. I don't need no love." And then she meets him and he's so sexy. And she eventually decides to give in, but not until she is skinny dipping one night by herself, which first of all, skinny dipping by herself is weird. As someone who has skinny dipped hundreds of times 'cause I lived on the beach growing up, skinny dipping alone is kind of weird. And if you have hate to give me about this particular exclamation, put it in our Facebook group. Anyways, so she catches Kostas checking her out while she's skinny dipping. And she's like, "Oh my God, this guy's a freak. He's a stalker. He's not the guy everyone thinks he is." And she goes and tells her grandparents that Kostas has been stalking her and that he's basically disgusting, even though she knew it was an accident, which is kind of weird, accusing someone of sexual harassment. But then while knowing he wasn't really sexually harassing you, that's kind of messed up, Lena. Okay? But she apologizes. She tells everyone it's a miscommunication and they end up going on this very long love affair that lasts throughout all three books. And what I want to say about this is first of all, how many people do you think went to Santorini strictly because they saw Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the movie? No less than a million, but in that same vein, how many people have gone on vacation expecting to find a man that they will eventually marry because Lena did it from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? I know I wrote love letters to several guys that I met on vacation, and I can't say that this wasn't her fault. Lena made everyone want a vacation love and truly convinced us all that we could, in fact, marry our study abroad bae, who will not marry you, but instead later text you and tell you that you probably gave him chlamydia. Oh wait, that was just me. Then my other gripe with the series is Bridget, who is played by Blake Lively in the movie, goes away to soccer camp where she decides to relentlessly pursue her soccer coach/camp counselor, who is of age when she's not. Now, have no fear, they are in Mexico. I think the laws are a little different, but actively pursuing your camp counselor, that's a really messed up thing to do. And then I did it, right? So, definitely messed up my love life. I ended up hooking up with my camp counselor as well. And I think I got the idea from Bridget. So overall zero out of 10 would recommend this book, it will ruin your life, for sure give you unrealistic expectations. And it's actually pretty cute, but I think it's terrible, I can directly correlate all of their bad decisions to all my own bad decisions. And so this is essentially every decision I've ever made that didn't pan out well in my love life, because I followed her direction is actually Ann Brashares's fault. I would like a fruit basket, just something to soften the blow. Did you read these books? Did you then go bang your camp counselor?
Lily Herman: I didn't, but I think I always -- and I don't know if it was this series or in general, from media -- got the idea in my head that anytime I went on any sort of excursion, whether it was a vacation, I did some trips, bike trips and whatnot and backpacking trips in high school, that I was going to meet the love of my life on one of these, which is, I think partially just the teen experience in general. And also I'm a weirdly hopeless romantic like that, but I was always looking for "the one" and I have a series of unrequited feelings and moments based on that. But I can't pinpoint it to this specific series, but we've all done it where I specifically remember going to a YMCA camp for a couple of days over a holiday break once and saw a guy from across the room was like, “This is going to work out.” In hilarious fashion, he had a best friend and because I would hang out with them, the best friend thought I had a crush on him and the guy I liked also thought I had a crush on the best friend, which I did not at all. And so that was a whole, not even a love triangle because it was unrequited on my end, but a mess, a true mess. So it's stuff like that where I look back and I just sigh because, oh, it could have been so much better. And nowadays, I do not go out looking on a night out or something - pre-pandemic, of course - I'm not saying to myself, "The one is going to be there, blah, blah, blah."
Mackenzie Newcomb: Now you need to unpack your girl. You need to unpack your person.
Lily Herman: Oh, it's my turn for my monologue.
Mackenzie Newcomb: You need to unpack her. The moment has come.
Discussion of Sarah Dessen’s books (35:56)
Lily Herman: I'm excited to talk. I saved this for last, because I actually know several people in Bad Bitch Book Club are reading her books. Some of whom are rereading them in adulthood, some people who were like, "Oh, I never read her when I was a kid or a teen, so I wanted to check 'em out." And it's again, not so much one book as it is a series, but it is Sarah Dessen and all of her books. But I'm particularly talking about the ones that came out circa, I would say 2003-2009/2010, particularly books like Just Listen, This Lullaby, Lock and Key, and The Truth About Forever. So, I will never read another Sarah Dessen book and I'll explain why in a second, and I have very chaotic feelings about her, both in terms of the content of her books and just her as a person. So I'm ready to, it's early in the season, obviously, given this is episode one, but I'm ready to spill some hot goss, talk all the talk. I have my mug ready. And so for those who don't know, Sarah Dessen found herself in controversy a little over a year ago in November of 2019. What happened was she randomly tweeted out this screenshot and there's no context to where she got this, what the new source was, where she was getting it from, it was just a screenshot. And it's where a young woman named Brooke Nelson was calling her books "fine for teen girls" but not for a larger audience. And Sarah Dessen kind of made some comment to the effect of, “People are underestimating teen girls. It sucks to get stuff like this as an author, F--- this.” That was kind of her vibe, right? And again, she provided no context to what this was, what was being talked about, what this article was. It was just this random tweet with this screenshot. And what was odd is all of these big-name authors started piling on the bandwagon to basically say, "Fuck that person" to this person they do not know and that Sarah Dessen has provided no context to. So you had Jennifer Weiner said some comments that were really not great. Roxane Gay joined in when you'd think she'd kind of be above this at this point. Siobhan Vivian called this girl a "fucking bitch," and Dhonielle Clayton said she was a "raggedy ass fucking bitch." And again, this is just a random tweet from Sarah Dessen. So everyone's kind of sitting there, like, "What is this, why is this big name author who has probably seen plenty of criticism and people not loving her books over the years, why this? Why now? What is happening?" But people, of course, start doing more digging. And they found that the quote that Sarah Dessen had put on her Twitter with no context was actually from an article that came from the Aberdeen News, which is the news source for Aberdeen, South Dakota, the fuck? And it was about Northern State University, a public university in Aberdeen, which has an initiative called Common Read where a number of students read the same book, different news sources said different things about if it was the entire student body that reads the same book or just freshmen. But the idea is that they pick a book every year and some large group of the student body reads it. A lot of colleges had this, Wesleyan had this, of course, a lot of people just did not read the book, et cetera, et cetera. So it turned out that the quote that Sarah Dessen had kind of cherry-picked from this larger article was a recent grad, young alum of this random college, Brooke Nelson. She was maybe 23 or 24 at the time tops. And her larger quote was essentially about why she wanted Bryan Stevenson's book, Just Mercy, to be the pick for this Common Read, as opposed to something like Sarah Dessen's books.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Which seems really reasonable.
Lily Herman: Yeah. Again, with the context.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's college! You don't want to read Sarah Dessen.
Lily Herman: And not to rag on South Dakota, but super random, right? You're just like, "What are you doing finding this random news source from the local newspaper of a random South Dakota town to rag on some early-20s girl? Just wild.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Who just wants a little bit deeper of a selection. She's not wrong.
Lily Herman: Well then you had all these authors who had to awkwardly try to do the whole notes app apology thing, trying to backtrack because obviously they look like not only assholes, but mean girls, right? So a lot of the takes at the time were about mean girl behavior and how, obviously a lot of the themes in Sarah Dessen's book about women rising above and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and how she looks like an asshole, which I'm fine saying that. She was an asshole. That made no sense. And to be completely honest, I, despite never reading an Elin Hilderbrand book, have always thought of Sarah Dessen's book as sort of YA Elin Hilderbrand light in terms of both the weird names of characters and the sending of the books and all this other stuff. And similarly, to spill a little bit of tea, Elin Hilderbrand has kind of been known to randomly attack tiny bookstagrammers online over very, very mundane reviews of her books that are not bad or ripping them apart. So I think both of them I'm like, "Nah, I have more to read than both of them." If you like Elin, or you like Sarah, that's great, but just know the context through which you are reading their books. But anyway, that's the tea on Sarah Dessen for those who didn't know it. So, that's now, right? I always liked her books, but however, I was always aware that her books are very much books about upper middle class or upper class people, or on very rare occasion, lower class people who are found in kind of upper class worlds. And they're of course, very, very white, right? White, typically white protagonist, white love interests. You occasionally get something else thrown in, but very rarely, and usually not done with a ton of nuance. And I will say though, her books, I think, which is why I have to include them is they were the first time where I really understood and identified with broody love interests, which if you listened to a single episode in season one of this podcast, you know I love a grumpy, broody love interest, regardless of gender. Love it. And hers, which also are always cis straight characters as well, especially in these early books is what I'm talking about. The broody man, she loves a broody man. And even if they're charismatic and fun, there's always a broody element to them. And there's always some hipster cool factor, like this book Just Listen. The love interest is a loner guy at school who loves music and they bond over music, or This Lullaby, the love interest is a full-on fucking musician. I'm sitting here now again as a full-fledged adult and just sighing at myself. But when I trace where the love of the broody man, and also both in my reading life and my actual life, as well as where I came to be really attracted to these kind of men who seem like misunderstood creatives, it's all Sarah's fault. It is all Sarah's fault. And I have many issues and this whole controversy last year on Twitter with this recent college grad has only made it worse, but those books have set me up for a lifetime of disappointment when it comes to broody men. Let me just say this: broody men do not have more personality because they're kind of quiet. They're not more mysterious 99% of the time, and you should just leave them. But again, I could not tell my 14-year-old self that. I just read these books and swooned constantly.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We all had a really - I mean, I don't know if your broody man phase ever ended - but we all have had one. They're not deeper just because they're blacked out.
Lily Herman: But now I read Emily Henry's Beach Read and freak out over Gus, who's the modern day broody man. I'm just like, "Somebody help me." But Sarah Dessen is a large part of who's to blame for that. I just wish I could feel less chaotic about her and her books in the present day, but that's, again, I needed to give the context, 'cause that would be unfair if I did not.
Discussion of the TTYL/Internet Girl series by Lauren Myracle (44:09)
Mackenzie Newcomb: I have mine. So I had it originally set up where I was going to talk about the people who gave me super low expectations for men, which was Gossip Girl and Chuck and Blair, people that gave me too high of expectations for men, which is Lena and Kostas from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. But I also want to mention this one series that gave me the right expectation from men, which is to expect absolutely nothing except that they will upset you, which is the TTYL/Internet Girl series by Lauren Myracle. Lily, did you read TTYL?
Lily Herman: I did so long ago. What, I had to have been 14.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Same. I'm not going to reread this book.
Lily Herman: No, no, but I know the cover, the cover was really cool and hip and cutting edge at the time.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, it was so cutting edge. The concept of this book was very cutting edge, but also one of those things that could only work for a really short period of time. These are the definition of books that did not age well. There is no place for them in modern society because this entire three-part series TTYL, TTFN, which is "ta-ta for now," and I don't remember the last one, but there was one and I read it. So in this three-part series, which is written entirely in instant messenger, which is why it doesn't age well, although I actually read that she updated it for modern times, five or six years ago. So it's actually all in text message now, which is interesting. But at the time, this book written an instant message was revolutionary. It followed three best friends: Maddie, whose screen name was @ Mad Maddie, Angela who was SnowAngel, and Zoe who is Zoegirl. So, essentially the majority of this book is about these girls' bad luck with men and how they treat them like shit. And then they go on and they tell their friends how they treated them like shit. And so this book really told me that - oh, I'm sorry, these girls are all in 10th grade. It starts following them their first day of 10th grade. This book told me that men are trash and that we should expect absolutely nothing from them, and that your friends will start to hate you if you talk about a man who did you wrong too much. Both fair life lessons. Because even if your friends shouldn't hate you for talking about a guy who's trashed way too often and how much you want to get back together with him, it's the truth. They're going to start to get bothered by it. Also this book, I think the one way it did kind of hurt me, after reading this, I have somehow left a digital trace of every man I've banged, or hooked up with, or had a crush on from - you remember Myspace blogs?
Lily Herman: Oh, who could forget Myspace blogs?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay, yeah, from Myspace blogs talking about my crush, to my LiveJournal where I would talk about my crushes, to starting a blog in college all about my crushes, called Sparkles and Secrets. And I think Lauren is to blame. However, all things ended up working really well for me. And therefore, TTYL slaps. Don't read this book. If there's one book, if you are to not read any book from this list of recommendations, I highly recommend that book be TTYL. Don't read it, do not read it. This is not a recommendation. It doesn't hold up. You're not going to like it. You're going to hate it. That's all I have to say. Oh, and it taught me about period farts. Do you remember that part?
Lily Herman: I do remember that part. Wow. Throwback. I haven't thought about this in 15 years.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Right, right? I think that's the most memorable part of this entire series was the girls talk about how period farts smell worse than any other farts. And ever since then, anytime I fart on my period, I think of this book. I can't believe I just said that on a podcast that people actually listen to, but I bet you that anyone who's listening that read this book remembers that part 'cause it's impossible to forget. Anyways!
What Else We’re Reading (48:30)
Lily Herman: I think all these books had nuggets; I have the Alice book, whatever book in the series that was, that talked about the teeth and the tongue thing, you have the period fart section. These are really important parts of our upbringings. To wrap things up, I don't know if also we're going to leave this in. Maybe, I just want us to record it just in case. So to wrap things up, and especially 'cause several people told us this was one of their highlights of season one - they were upset whenever we didn't do it - is when we talk about what else we're reading or books we're reading right now. So we wanted to spotlight some of those. I promise that these are both more contemporary reads. We are not going to continue the YA theme. And as a reminder too, these books aren't necessarily always romance books. They're just kind of whatever we're reading right now. However, I can not read anything except romance right now. I'm just emotionally not able to commit to anything else, but I will say I finished rereading the Bridgerton series ahead of the Netflix adaptation, which will, of course, be out by the time y'all listen to this. And I got an early screening of the series on Netflix because of my job doing culture writing. So I've just been in a delightful place with Bridgerton. So I've been reading the follow-up series to that series that Julia Quinn put out a couple of years after that series ended called the Smythe-Smith Quartet. But the book I'm currently reading that I will admittedly say I'm struggling with is Hands Down by Mariana Zapata. So, those of you who know Mariana Zapata know she wrote this novel called The Wall of Winnipeg and Me. If you're in Bad Bitch Book Club, our Autumn of Latinx Romance actually read this book and I inhaled this book in a single sitting despite it being 600 fucking pages long. And when I say it is the slowest of slow burns, I am not even fucking with you. It is the slowest slow burn I think I have ever read for a book. So that came out four years ago, I think in 2016, and over the summer in 2020, Mariana Zapata released the sequel to it called Hands Down, which covers a character who was a side character of The Wall of Winnipeg and Me named Zac. And essentially the book is about, he's a - she has something called the NFO, which is basically the NFL; he's a professional football player. And he's essentially just found out that he's going to be a free agent. And the book is told from the perspective of this woman who was his -- Zac's best friend's cousin growing up. So this woman, Bianca, used to hang out with her older cousin and his best friend, Zac when they were little, but she hasn't seen him in years and for a variety of reasons, she suddenly has to get back in contact with him. And so it's sort of this unrequited young love and brother-cousin's best friend trope sort of situation. But I feel like because Mariana Zapata loves these slow burn, five to 700 page novels that she writes, you kind of, you have to hit a stride with them. And I think the problem is I haven't quite hit the stride yet. I'm not saying I won't, it just feels like the main character has just been repeating herself over and over for a good 150 pages. And I'm just getting, I'm maybe, yeah I'm definitely probably over 20% in, probably close to 25% in. And I'm just struggling a little bit 'cause, I don't know. I think the style I found charming in The Wall of Winnipeg and Me is kind of grating on me with this second book, but I'm hoping that I reach that inflection point soon because I do love her writing. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me is like a master class in how to write a true slow burn book well, where you actually do build the tension and the relationship - it is the tortoise of tortoise and hare romance books. It is the ultimate slow burn. So, that's what I'm reading. I'm hoping it gets better. I've heard some people loved it. A lot of people did say it did take a while with this one, so I'm just hoping and praying that it gets better 'cause I really want to be able to stan another one of her books. So that's Hands Down by Mariana Zapata.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. I'm also currently reading something I don't love. So I maybe won't go super far into it. I'm also reading something I'm really liking. Right now I'm reading The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo and I want to like it. I really do. It's supposed to be a thriller, but it hasn't hit it yet for me. And I actually just looked it up on Goodreads. I hadn't looked it up before to see what the description was so I could describe it, and it has a 3.3 rating. So I think I'm going to DNF. And so you can cut this part out of the podcast and I'm going to talk -- or you can leave it we'll fuck it. And I'm going to go into The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan, which I am also reading. I just started it.
Lily Herman: Yes - I think we talked about this briefly. Oh yes, no go for it. Sorry.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes. I've only, have we gone over the description of this book already?
Lily Herman: I feel like I have, we touched on it briefly. I can't remember if last season -- again, some listener will know better than us about our own podcast. I feel like we might've touched on it, but if you want to rehash for anyone who maybe didn't listen or if it wasn't as much of a summary as I'm remembering.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, I feel like at that point they might not have been thinking about it 'cause it wasn't the book of the month yet. Anyways, our November book of the month was The Roommate by Rosie Danan and we are getting a followup to that called The Intimacy Experiment. And this is going to follow Naomi, who may be known to you as Josh's ex or Clara's business partner. We love her. She's a fiery, redhead, sex positive queen. And she wants to, after starting her sex positive startup, she wants to become a educator. So she already is an educator, but she wants to work in a college or somewhere where she can really get her IRL experience or whatever. And then she meets a sexy rabbi who wants her to come and give lessons to his synagogue because he's having a hard time getting millennials into Judaism and wants to give them something cool to look forward to in the form of Naomi's sex classes. But at first she's not into it. And then, I don't know yet because I haven't gotten there. But I have heard that this is even better than The Roommate, which was my favorite romance novel of 2020, so that's something big for me to look forward to. And I just absolutely love Rosie Danan, and she is a friend of Bad Bitch Book Club. This book is great and I'm gonna let Lily say a few words about this book, 'cause I know that she feels passionately about the representation. Lily, what would you say about The Intimacy Experiment?
Lily Herman: I will say -- I actually talked to her, I had DM'd with Rosie about this because I loved this book. So both protagonist and love interest are Jewish. And first of all, I love that it's not one of these weird taboo romances of an Orthodox Jew, a Hasidic Jew, falling in love with a non-Jewish, it's a book that is -- it's also written in such a way that, and Rosie Danan had kind of - we had DM'd about this - written it not to be written for non-Jews to educate them on Judaism. It's not kind of a -- there's no afterschool special on Judaism. They're both, I think reformed Jews, which is kind of the -- what some would describe as the "chillest" denomination of Judaism. It's just a really interesting, well-done book. I loved this book personally, partially obviously 'cause I'm Jewish and I love to see Jewish representation. I love that Judaism was at the center, but a different part of Judaism. And I just, I feel like 2021 is going to bring the Jewish romance protagonist fire, 'cause there's also a book by Rachel Lynn Solomon, yep, The Ex Talk, which Rachel Lynn Solomon, this is her debut adult romance, she's written only, I think YA up until this point. And that comes out in late January, I believe the 26th, and also has a notably Jewish protagonist. And the book is not as Jewish in terms of themes as The Intimacy Experiment, but that's kind of the point, right? That we show a variety of people under a similar identity, but in a number of situations. But I think the name of that character in Rachel Lynn Solomon's book is Shay Goldstein. So it's very clear that she is in fact, Jewish. She talks about having this sort of voice that's commonly made fun of within Jewish culture and dealing with it. But again, not in the context of her Judaism. I just love this for the people. Love this for the people. But I think it's -- I think The Intimacy Experiment is definitely a book that's pushing the genre, especially I would say mainstream publishers 'cause there have of course been indie- and self-published people publishing books about Jewish characters for a long time. But I'm glad that we can have an inherently and explicitly and proudly Jewish book out there published by mainstream publishing America. That's my rant, monologue, diatribe. Whatever.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We love it.
Lily Herman: Yay, we love to see it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We absolutely love it. So thank you all for listening to our podcast.
Lily Herman: First episode back. So next week we have a very exciting episode, where we are talking about steaminess in romance novels and why everyone seems to have a different idea of what makes a "steamy romance." For those who are Bad Bitch Book Club members, specifically members of the Bad Bitches in Love romance subgroup, you all know that since June of 2020, we have had an iconic thread where people talk about the cringiest sex scenes and writing and phrases they've seen in romance novels. So we will be diving a little bit into that as well for the people. So don't say we didn't give you nice things. Mackenzie, take us out.
Mackenzie Newcomb: All right. Back to keeping the house just a little bit. Thank you all so, so, so, so, so much for listening to our podcast. Since you made it through an hour of it, I'm hoping that you enjoyed it or you're just hate-listening. Either way, give us five stars so we can stay a podcast, write us a nice review telling us how smart and insightful we are, or how much you hate us, as long as it's covered with a five star. Please follow us @F2Lpodcast on Twitter and Instagram for really solid romance memes, and join our Friends to Lovers Podcast Facebook group. It is just spelled out Friends to Lovers Podcast Facebook group. You can also follow Bad Bitch Book Club on Instagram at badbitch.bookclub and on Twitter @badbtchbookclub, without the period and without the "i." We are so happy to have a season two we've been really, so pleasantly -- I would say even a little bit surprised at the amazing response we've had from season one. We kind of expected to be under the radar, and that has not been the case. We've been really lucky to have amazing guests, and we just are so thankful that you people think that we're worth listening to. So thank you, thank you, thank you. Five star review. Five star rating.
Lily Herman: Bye!