By Aleah Gornbein
Today we’re pleased to welcome Roachel Roasek to the WNDB blog to discuss Love Somebody, out January 11, 2022!
A sparkling YA debut rom-com about a popular high-school girl, her ex-boyfriend-turned-best-friend, and the girl they both fall for—perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli or Casey McQuiston.
Sam Dickson is a charismatic actress, ambitious and popular with big plans for her future. Ros Shew is one of the smartest people in school—but she’s a loner, and prefers to keep it that way. Then there’s Christian Powell, the darling of the high school soccer team. He’s not the best with communication, which is why he and Sam broke up after dating for six months; but he makes up for it by being genuine, effusive, and kind, which is why they’re still best friends.
When Christian falls for Ros on first sight, their first interaction is a disaster, so he enlists Sam’s help to get through to her. Sam, with motives of her own, agrees to coach Christian from the sidelines on how to soften Ros’s notorious walls. But as Ros starts to suspect Christian is acting differently, and Sam starts to realize the complexity of her own feelings, their fragile relationships threaten to fall apart.
This fresh romantic comedy from debut author Rachel Roasek is a heartfelt story about falling in love—with a partner, with your friends, or just with yourself—and about how maybe, the bravest thing to do in the face of change is just love somebody.
Congratulations on your debut novel! What has the debut author experience been like?
It’s been an absolute trip! Nothing really prepares you for it. There’s been lots of edits, lots of emails, and LOTS of Googling my own name to see if any reviews come up. I don’t recommend doing that last one.
What was the writing process like for Love Somebody, and did anything surprise you?
I wrote Love Somebody faster than I’ve ever written a full prose book before. Usually it takes me multiple years to get a book done, but this one was on a deadline, and had to come together in about six months. I was terrified I wouldn’t get it done, but shockingly, I managed it! It proved to me that I can actually finish things in a timely manner, so I guess I don’t have much of an excuse for next time.
Also, when going into Love Somebody, the character I felt the least prepared to write was Christian. I knew what his voice would sound like on the page, and some of the details of his arc, but I didn’t really feel like I got him as much as I got Sam and Ros. Then I started writing, and all of his characterization just jumped out at me. I like to completely understand my characters and their arcs before I start a book, so I always assumed other writers were making it up when they said a character “told” them who they were halfway through writing. Christian did that, though. Everything about him suddenly clicked into place, and I’m so proud of how his story turned out. That definitely surprised me.
You’ve described Love Somebody as being a modern retelling of the play Cyrano de Bergerac—what inspired you to base a contemporary queer YA rom-com off this story?
I was actually approached to write this particular story and completely fell in love with the idea of it. It ticked all my boxes: queer romance, complicated relationships, and plenty of theatre knowledge. As a queer bisexual with a degree in acting, I couldn’t wait to get my grubby little paws on it. And for those who’ve never read or heard of the play, Cyrano de Bergerac is chock full of things like idealized relationships, issues with self-image and self acceptance, and understanding your own feelings about love and what it means to you. It couldn’t have been easier to bring those themes into the modern day.
Without giving too much away, what were some of your favorite scenes and/or lines of dialogue to write in Love Somebody?
I loved writing all the texting conversations. I had to give all three characters their own unique way of texting and then figure out how they’d word things. Writing the scenes where Sam pretends to be Christian (and has to mimic his word choice/texting style) were a uniquely fun challenge. Christian and Ros’s first in-person date was also one of my favorites for the same reason.
As a writer who used the “helping someone get into a relationship with another person, but then catches feelings for them” trope, what are some of your favorite popular tropes in YA fiction?
Rivals/enemies to lovers!!!! I absolutely eat that up (and tried to incorporate it a bit in Ros and Sam’s early dynamic). I’m also a sucker for any and all “found family” stories.
Family is a really big theme in the book, and each protagonist has their own family dynamics that are very unique (Sam lives with her grandmother after her mom moves to LA, Ros’s dad passed away so she is very close with her other dad, and Christian’s brother left home after their dad kicked him out). Why was the inclusion of a variety of family structures important to depict?
In the end, the main theme of Love Somebody is—shocker—about love. That isn’t just the romantic relationships, either. I wanted different, unconventional types of love represented in every aspect of Ros, Sam, and Christian’s lives, including in their families.
A lot of kids don’t get true, unconditional love from the places they’re supposed to, and that means finding it in other places, whether that’s from a grandparent, an adoptive parent, from outside your family entirely, or even from yourself. We talk a lot about representation in literature and why it’s so important to give readers a mirror to see themselves in. To me, representation for different types of relationships is just as important as representation for marginalized genders, sexualities, races, religions, etc. If I’d read a book about Christian’s family dynamic when I was younger, for instance, I might have figured a few things out a lot sooner.
What, if any, research did you do into support groups for children born via surrogate to write accurate representation in this book?
There really isn’t much information out there about support groups for surrogacy kids. It all tends to focus on children who were adopted and raised by entirely non-biological parents. I did do a good amount of research on the surrogacy process and how it works to understand what Ros’s dads would have gone through, but mostly, I based those scenes on my own experience in plain old therapy.
Christian’s friend Monty is nonbinary. Why did you choose for him to keep using he/him pronouns?
Gender identity isn’t a monolith. I know several people who use gendered pronouns but identify as nonbinary, myself included! I’m somewhere on the queer/genderfluid spectrum and use all pronouns, but “she” feels just as comfortable as “they” most days. A lot of folks seem to believe that you’re either a trans woman or trans man (and then only use she/her or he/him, respectively), or you’re nonbinary and use only they/them, but in my experience it’s a lot weirder and more wonderful than that. Vibing with the pronouns you were assigned at birth while still being completely queer is just as valid as any other presentation.
What is the main thing you want readers to take away from Love Somebody?
If they take absolutely nothing else away, I want them to know that they don’t have to have it all figured out. All three of the main characters struggle with knowing who they are and what they want, Sam in particular. In a society where kids are expected to decide exactly who they are before they go to college, that’s a lot of pressure! But it’s fine if you don’t know anything for sure yet, and it’s fine if the things you do know end up changing. You’ve got your whole life to figure out what you want, who you love, how you love, and there will inevitably be screw-ups along the path. You can be a mess for a while. It’s okay.
Ros bases her project on the prompt: “What does love mean to you?” What would your answer be?
That’s a really good question, and honestly, my answer changes all the time. It depends on the kind of love, I guess, and what I need in the moment. I have a hard time describing it (bold move for somebody who wrote a romance), but when I feel loved, I just know. Also, there’s a scene towards the end of the book where a lot of different people answer that question. Is it a cop-out to say that my answer would be all of theirs?
Which books do you think Love Somebody is in conversation with? And do you have any recommendations for recently published or forthcoming YA books?
I’ll fully admit that I tend to read more fantasy than contemporary fiction, but being in the publishing loop for the last year or so has really turned me around! As far as recently published books, I can’t recommend Nita Tyndall’s Who I Was With Her enough (bisexual rep, angry female protagonist, INCREDIBLE voice). As far as other recent and upcoming releases, Love Somebody definitely has kindred spirits in Becky Albertalli’s Kate In Waiting and Raquel Marie’s Ophelia After All. You’d better believe I’ll be snapping those two books up as soon as I can!
Rachel Roasek (any pronouns) received their BA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2017, with a degree in Drama and two minors in Sign Language and Anthropology. When not coming up with fictional worlds, she works as a voice actor. She currently lives in New Jersey with a few dying plants and her dog, Lupe.
Aleah Gornbein currently works in publicity at Holiday House, the first American publisher founded with the intent of only publishing children’s books. She liked school so much she went back to get a Master’s in Publishing a year after graduating college. As someone who has yet to read a story with all of her identities represented, her goal is to help put diverse books into the hands of kids. You can find her shouting about books on TikTok and Twitter (@bookworm613) or at Books of Wonder events sitting in the back row (when we’re not in a pandemic).