There was nothing “stupid” about Monday night’s launch reading and party for Nicole Griffin’s debut YA novel, The Whole Stupid Way We Are (S&S, Atheneum). Even the city of Cambridge, Mass., seemed to get in the spirit of her book about 14-year-old Dinah and her friend Skint, whose life spins further and further out of control as his father’s early onset dementia worsens. The streets resembled the book’s cover photo, wintry and hazy after 28 inches of snow fell over the weekend.
Close to three dozen intrepid fans of Griffin’s work attended the reading at Porter Square Books despite transportation difficulties. PW’s reporter walked a mile and a half in the street to avoid unshoveled sidewalks after bus service to her neighborhood was suspended. Amtrak also faced problems, and Griffin’s editor, Caitlyn Dlouhy, and S&S head of publicity, Paul Crichton, were delayed when they were forced to take a later train from New York. Fortunately, Cantabrigians Griffin and her boyfriend, writer M.T. Anderson, didn’t have far to walk to reach the store.
In her introduction to the reading, Porter Square co-owner and children’s specialist Carol Stoltz praised the book and noted that with the publication of The Whole Stupid Way We Are, “[Nicole] has now officially become one of our store’s favorite authors.” Before, she was one of their favorite customers. Though the author was, as she put it, “nerve-wracked,” and the weather uncooperative, Griffin’s reading and q & a would have qualified as “fantastic” according to the rubric by which Dinah and Skint judge entertainment. Dinah looks for FoE (Fantastic or Excruciating) adventures in their small town in Maine to help Skint forget his troubles.
Griffin, who went through more than a dozen drafts of the book, said that both characters had been in her mind for years, “but they’d been in different books.” The Whole Stupid Way We Are took shape after she decided to put them together. Telling their story in the third person, present tense “just felt like the right thing.”
Readers won’t have to wait too long for her next title, a middle-grade mystery due out from Candlewick in the fall. She’s also working on another YA novel, but has no plans to continue Dinah and Skint’s story, which she says was a one-off. Griffin still thinks about the characters, but “I’m not one of those writers who say, ‘[the characters] are so real to me,’ ” she says. “I know I made them up.”