The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti
Expected publication September 13th, 2022 by Labyrinth Road.
From the award-winning author of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart comes a gorgeous and fiercely feminist young adult novel. When a teen travels to Hawaii to track down her sperm donor father, she discovers the truth about him, about the sunken shipwreck that’s become his obsession, and most of all about herself.
Harper Proulx has lived her whole life with unanswered questions about her anonymous sperm donor father. She’s convinced that without knowing him, she can’t know herself. When a chance Instagram post connects Harper to a half sibling, that connection yields many more and ultimately leads Harper to uncover her father’s identity.
So, fresh from a painful breakup and still reeling with anxiety that reached a lifetime high during the pandemic, Harper joins her newfound half siblings on a voyage to Hawaii to face their father. The events of that summer, and the man they discover—a charismatic deep-sea diver obsessed with solving the mystery of a fragile sunken shipwreck—will force Harper to face some even bigger questions: Who is she? Is she her DNA, her experiences, her successes, her failures? Is she the things she loves—or the things she hates? Who she is in dark times? Who she might become after them?
Thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours and the publisher, Labyrinth Road/Penguin Random House, for providing me with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley.
Today is a big day on the blog because it is the day I post my first-ever author interview! 😍✨
First of all, thank you so much for letting me interview you! I’ve been a fan of your work since I was 13 years old and picked up Honey, Baby, Sweetheart for the first time (quickly followed by the rest of your catalog). What is your biggest motivator for writing books for teens?
Ahhh! Thank you so much for connecting to my books over the years. Hearing from readers who’ve grown up with me just seriously fills my heart. Being part of your lives like this, being able to (maybe, just maybe!) be a guide or an outreached hand through my work, are my biggest motivators. I’ve always wanted to give my readers what books have given me – understanding, refuge, and a sense of being seen. I think younger readers particularly need this.
In The Epic Story of Every Living Thing, Harper’s journey begins when she discovers the identity of her sperm donor father. What inspired you to explore this relationship?
I wanted to explore issues of identity, especially in the context of social media use. Harper is sure that her anonymous sperm-donor dad holds the answers to her real self, the one who is more real than the girl, girl, girl in the Instagram squares. It can be confusing, to look at that person in the square and wonder who she truly is, and wonder what is real in all of it. What makes us who we are? In the book, Harper asks – is she her DNA, her experiences, her successes, her failures? Is she the things she loves? And how can we not get muddled up with the constant influx of messages about ourselves? Young women, in particular, are told in hundreds of small ways that we are not capable of handling hard stuff. Harper grapples with some other questions, too, ones I think we’ve all been experiencing over the last few years: who is she in dark times? Who is she after them? Is your real self revealed in the moments that ask something of you, that call for you to be something more? Harper’s relationship with Beau allows her to get clarity on what makes us most ourselves.
You’ve written about anxiety before in your novel, The Nature of Jade. What made you want to revisit this topic now?
Well, I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been anxious. Oh, man, have I been anxious! And I know that young people, especially young women, have been anxious, too, in huge and alarming numbers, and that our time online is making this worse. Over the past few years, before the pandemic, I’d been thinking a lot about young women like Harper, ones who are under such pressure from academics and expectations and social media and awful world events that are so much out of our control. I was thinking about the way we are told that imminent disaster was everywhere, likely to happen at any moment, and the daily toll of that on our psyches. So, during the pandemic? I was really thinking about them. I wanted to say, I hear you. Me too.
The Epic Story of Every Living Thing is set during the summer of 2021, at the height of the pandemic. How did the pandemic affect your writing process for this novel?
I actually worried a lot about including the pandemic in the novel. I knew that I really needed a book to speak to me about what we were going through, though, so it felt important to write about it in spite of the risks and complications. The risks: we were all so tired of it, and there were the very real losses and personal grief that people were experiencing, too. The complications: It was an evolving situation, with an unreadable end-point, which required some real-time editing. There were also the issues of mask use, gatherings, travel – stuff that was changing on a sometimes week-by-week basis, which made it tricky to write.
If Harper were to meet any of your other main characters, who do you think she would get along with best?
This might be mostly due to geography, but I think she’d like Mads and Billy from my book, Essential Maps for the Lost, and Jade, from The Nature of Jade. They all live very close to each other, in basically the same neighborhood of Seattle. But they do share character traits as well, like gentleness and introspection.
Finally, what do you hope your readers take away from The Epic Story of Every Living Thing?
I wanted to tell my readers, and young women, especially, that it’s a false story, the one you’ve been told, that you should be afraid all the time, and that you aren’t capable of handling hard stuff. I wanted to say that caring about everything is exhausting and impossible besides, but that your empathy is a pure and permanent thing, a cherished gift, a birthright. I wanted to say – you may look at yourself in all those squares, but there is only one you, the you yourself, a you with your own epic story, as every creature and human being who ever lived has an epic story. I wanted to say that knowing your full, true story, telling your full true story, living your full true story is the most basic right of every human being.
About the Author
Deb Caletti is the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of nearly twenty books for adults and young adults, including Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, a finalist for the National Book Award, and A Heart in a Body in the World, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Her books have also won the Josette Frank Award for Fiction, the Washington State Book Award, and numerous other state awards and honors, and she was a finalist for the PEN USA Award. She lives with her family in Seattle.
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