Paula Stokes Stops by to discuss The Heart of Lainey & What Makes a Positive Role Model

 "A satisfying and sweet story." -Publishers Weekly

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?
Paula is a dear author friend of mine, and when we hashed out what her eventual guest post would be, I was beyond excited when we decided on character development. THE ART OF LAINEY has been one of my favorite contemporary reads ever. It is the perfect summer read, too! However, Lainey is a very polarizing character. While this was done intentionally, Paula is awesome enough to walk us through her characterization process and explain why different people interpret different character traits in unique ways. I loved learning why Lainey is the way she is because, though she can be frustrating at time, the girl has a lot of heart and is definitely a character younger girls can idolize. And when Paula lays it out this way, it's just impossible not to read the book and love it! Keep on reading to get to the true heart of Lainey!

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The Heart of Lainey—Why I Think Lainey Mitchell is a Positive Role Model for Girls

I’m going to start by stating the obvious—some of you will disagree, perhaps
vehemently, and that’s fine. Don’t be hesitant to share those thoughts. Lainey isn’t me. Okay,
we share the same big heart, bad skin, fascination with mohawks, and unfortunate tendency to
let our emotions make us a little crazy sometimes, but that’s it. I was more like Bianca in high
school--liked but not popular, sporty but not a superstar, the kind of girl who spent most Friday
nights studying for her SATs. These days I’m more like Trinity, or I try to be ;-)

The reality is, sometimes the book in my head doesn’t make it to the page. And sometimes I
manage to write what I mean, but what readers read is totally different from what I intended.
And then sometimes readers get exactly what I meant, but still hate the book. I find it kind of
fascinating, the different filters we knowingly or unknowingly apply to our reading experiences.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about Lainey.

She’s flawed, but she’s trying to be better.

Enough with The Art of War. Enough with winning. People aren’t prizes. They’re not foreign
territories or the spoils of victory or whatever Bianca said I should equate them to. Micah clearly
wants Amber or he wouldn’t still be strategizing to win her back. And she’s better for him. She
knows how she feels and isn’t afraid of it. They like the same stuff. For once in my life, I’m trying
not to be selfish. Why does it have to be so difficult?

I loved Katniss Everdeen, but I never connected with her in the “that could be me/my friend/
someone I know” kind of way. Let’s face it: Katniss is basically a superhero. I WANT to be her,
the same way I want to be Hit Girl and Storm and Black Widow and the Invisible Woman, but
who knows if I would last ten minutes in that arena. You might not want to be Lainey, but you
might have been her at one point, or known a girl like her. Or you and your friends might have
different flaws. Me? I was painfully shy. I prided myself on getting all As in high school, but
actually took multiple failing grades rather than stand up in front of the class and give a speech.

Nowadays I have this flaw where if you hurt me, I just kick you out of my life. No arguing. No
dramatic confrontations. Rear-view mirror, baby. Life’s too short. It’s tempting to rank my own
flaws as more desirable than Lainey’s, but can we really quantify such things? I don’t think so.
My intent was for people to recognize Lainey’s issues, and the fact that she’s working on them
throughout the book. Basically to say “If this messed-up girl can get it together, so can I.”

She knows what she’s good at.

I think acting would be awesome, but I can’t imagine not playing soccer. It’s not like it’s the only
thing I’m good at—I get decent grades and stuff—but soccer gives me that rush of power.

Note to girls: it is not arrogant or stuck-up to acknowledge your abilities. I feel like, in the
U.S. anyway, women are expected to downplay their skills and successes as luck or “no big
deal.” This makes me crazy. It makes me crazy that even having multiple contracts with major
publishers, it’s still hard for me to say “Yeah, I’m a good writer.” Failure to acknowledge your
accomplishments is unintentionally offensive to everyone else striving to be where you are—
it’s like being that skinny girl in a room full of bigger people trying to lose weight who keeps
obliviously talking about how fat she is. It can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Spend enough
time talking about how you’re not very good at something and you’ll start believing it. Of
course it’s different if you’re using your successes to put other people down, but Lainey doesn’t
do that. Instead, she compliments Bianca on her improved soccer performance and tries to
convince her to try out for her select team.

She knows what she’s bad at.

It doesn’t matter if Micah’s ex is hotter than I am, so then why do I want him to like me better?
I feel a twinge of shame. Maybe I am shallow. Kendall is all about collecting ‘fan club members’
as she calls them, but I’ve never been one to lead on boys I wasn’t interested in. Again, I wonder
if being without Jason is wrecking my self-esteem.

Because Lainey starts out as prickly and hard to love, I layered in self-awareness to make her
more sympathetic as the story progresses. She recognizes herself being shallow. She admits
that she cares what other people think. She fights against her selfish impulses. When she finally
sees that Micah likes her, she’s too scared to reach out to him because she’s afraid of getting
hurt again.

She has a big heart.

For a moment, I consider sneaking past all three of them and out into the night. But no, I’m
the cause of this scene, and even if Micah might have earned a little of Kendall’s wrath, Amber
doesn’t deserve to be sliced and diced with her razor-sharp tongue.

Lainey snaps at Micah and Ebony early on in the book, but there’s no part of her that believes
she has the power to hurt either of them. When Micah throws her own words back in her face
and they sting, she pauses to reflect how her own words could draw blood. After that, she’s
frequently thinking about other people’s feelings throughout the whole book. She wants to
help Leo be more confident. She doesn’t want Trinity to be alone when she’s scared. The only
person Lainey ever considers hurting is the girl her ex starts dating, and that’s only until she
meets her and realizes that she can’t judge her, that it doesn’t even matter what kind of person
she is because Jason is with her now, and that’s life. When Lainey realizes she’s inadvertently
pissed off Bianca in the past, she’s crushed because she had no idea about what she did. Even
at the end of the book when she tries to tell Micah how she feels and gets humiliated, instead
of running away to hide she thinks of Amber’s feelings, even though she’s jealous of her.

She figures things out:

The whiskey burns my throat. “I am not Kendall’s clone,” I say. “Not anymore.”
But I was. She told me what to like and who to be, and I let her. Once I got popular, well, who
walks away from the feeling that everyone else wants to be you? Not me, apparently.
Who better to look up to than a girl who figures things out and becomes a better human being?
She realizes she’s been a sponge-person in a lot of ways, letting her friends tell her what to be
and who to like. She realizes that Jason is all wrong for her, that their relationship was safe and
comfortable, but not what she wants. And she doesn’t just sub in one boy for another, either.
That was deliberate. That’s why the book is not a love triangle book in my opinion. Lainey
walks away from Jason because he’s wrong for her without ever once assuming she has a ready
replacement.

So yeah, even though she’s far from perfect, I think Lainey deserves her story. And I think the
person she becomes by the end of this book is pretty solid, a girl that teens can admire. If you
give her a chance, she just might surprise you too.

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Thank you so much for stopping by today to share your thoughts with us, Paula. To everyone reading this post, this book is a book that cannot be missed! If you're looking for the best summer read, look no more! You've found it right here!   

And, as always, every comment is greatly appreciated. <3

6 comments:

  1. What a fantastic guest post, Paula!
    Lainey did get on my nerves a bit at first, but somehow never too much, I could just understand how she was trying to find her footing on her own, and that's never easy! She frustrated me only when dealing with Kendall and how long it took her to stand up to her, but I loved that she did!

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    1. My frustrations were the same as yours initially, but I recognized the immense character growth and really learned to love her. But the way I look at it is that any strong emotions that a character brings forth is a sign of good writing because it takes amazing writing to make you FEEL. And Lainey, love or hate, definitely makes you feel.

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  2. I've not read Art Of Lainey yet but there's something about flawed characters. It's more easier to connect with them.
    Dying to get my hands on this one, sounds awesome!

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    1. It is freaking amazing. Honestly, an amazing book for the summer and one of my favorite contemporaries in a while. Plus, the love interest is PERFECT! If you like flawed characters, you will LOVE him!

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  3. The more I read about this book, the more interested I become in it! Lainey sounds like such an intriguing character and I definitely think she sounds like a good role model! Thank you Paula for an amazing guest post!

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    1. Paula is such an awesome author, right? I can't wait for her next novel, LIARS INC! It's decidedly not fluffy like Lainey though haha

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