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May 2, 2016

An Evening with Siobhan Vivian, Author of THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD

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Last Thursday evening, I had the privilege of attending my first ever book signing of Siobhan Vivian’s THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD with Teenreads.com’s own Rebecca Munro at the Books of Wonder bookstore in New York City. As someone who has never been to a book event, I had a general idea of what to expect --- rows of folding chairs in front of the featured book on display and a tray of grocery store chocolate chip cookies next to an old pot of coffee and paper Dixie cups. Well, let me just say I was completely blown away --- not only by the charming display of appealing treats and drinks, but by the gracious atmosphere and pleasant aura of the entire event!

When we first arrived, there was a lovely woman standing over to the side of the room, setting up gold trimmed floral napkins and matching plates. I assumed this woman worked at the bookstore, and I offered to help her finish setting up the goodies since we had arrived a few minutes early. She was very appreciative and offered me one of the adorable blue and white cupcakes she was placing on display. We chatted for a bit as I admired the plates, napkins, decorations and delectable spread when another woman made her way through the now crowded room and over to us, and said it was time to begin. My new friend was Siobhan Vivian! I could not believe this delightful woman had put together such a beautifully detailed event when we were the ones here to celebrate the success of her new book! I smiled as she said “Well, excuse me it’s been lovely chatting with you!” I felt foolish for not realizing she was the author, but I had never seen a photograph. When Vivian began to address the room, I found myself smiling from ear to ear --- something told me I was about to fall even more in love with this woman ---  and I was right. 

As Vivian began talking about THE LAST BOY AND THE GIRL IN THE WORLD, she stated that this was a “story about a girl losing everything…senioritis on steroids” and chose to read an excerpt from the book that best described her feelings about her team at Simon & Schuster. The excerpt was from a section of the book that describes Keeley, the main character, finding the perfect dress for her spring formal dance. The moment Vivian began to speak into the microphone, the audience could hear the shaking in her voice. A few more words and then --- she stopped, looked down, wiped her eyes and looked back up at us. She smiled --- giggled uncomfortably and apologized to the audience as we cheered for her.  This may sound silly, but it was a moment in my life in which I will never forget. The unfolding of Vivian’s raw emotion was so humbling and inspiring to watch. She was so thankful for having such an amazing support system of women at Simon & Schuster in the creation of THE LAST BOY AND THE GIRL IN THE WORLD, similar to Keeley’s experience with her mother and friends at the dress shop. Vivian’s honest display of gratitude was contagious, and I felt like I could sit there for hours, just soaking it all in.

After Vivian and I composed ourselves (since she practically brought a tear to my eye), she addressed the audience for questions. I was surprised to hear that the preface of THE LAST BOY AND THE GIRL IN THE WORLD stems from a true story based in Livermore, Pennsylvania in which there is a whole historical society dedicated to a town that no longer exists. Vivian’s discovery of this tragedy during the 1930s was from a series of paintings that were created from a YA perspective. Vivian explained to us that she really locked onto the emotion evoked from these paintings and the narrative began to blossom from there. From the very beginning, it was vital to her that the book was told in a YA perspective. To my surprise, Vivian stated that character development doesn’t come as easy to her compared to plot summary. Her background in screenwriting made her a confident outliner ---she can “move cardboard people around [her] first few drafts very well.” Specifically in regards to THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD, Vivian stated she had never written something with “such a heavy setting component” and worried she would not do it justice. Worry not, I say, because Vivian’s description of the rising water and submerging town will shake any reader to their core! This book simply cannot be put down, despite the anxieties it fuels. Vivian explained to the audience that she really wanted readers to be able to grasp just how slow-moving this process was for the citizens to get out of town. She wanted readers to really feel the tension rising, along with the water. At times, Vivian felt the pacing of the book was lagging, but knew she had to “narrow in on the most important relationships” to build on. Vivian wanted the chapters of the book to play out appropriately and not seem rushed, and I think we can all agree that she was successful.

Vivian was also kind enough to share with us the title for her next book, DESSERT FIRST. This, she describes as, “the feminist book she has always wanted to write.” This was like music to my ears and enticed my excitement for her next project even more. She explained the idea of the book stems from a nearly-satirical experience she had one day at an ice cream parlor in which all the female employees were wearing t-shirts that said “Hot fudge hotties.” The audience broke into unanimous laughter when she said this. I wanted more details, but knew I would have to be patient and wait for the book to be published.

Overall, my experience at the Books of Wonder bookstore was an utter success. Maybe it was because Siobhan Vivian went out of her way to make this book signing a pleasant experience for everyone involved --- or maybe it was because her reading was beyond moving and heartfelt, or maybe it was because the sheer sense of gratitude for such an amazing text, THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD was overwhelmingly palpable. Either way, I cannot wait for Vivian’s next book! At the end of the evening, I had the pleasure of meeting Vivian for a second time --- a more formal introduction in which she out did herself yet again when she told me the bowl of adorable pins on the table were for us to take as souvenirs! The pin features a cut out of a boy and girl kissing under an umbrella and was designed by Vivian's husband. I can't think of a more perfect way to end the evening!