Thursday, January 23, 2014

2 Wish I'd Written Post by Len Vlahos

I love the concept of “Wish I’d Written,” because, if I’m being honest, I think about it with almost every book I read. I generally read books recommended to me by a friend, a fellow writer, a bookseller, or a librarian, so it’s rare for me to spend time with a book that simply doesn’t work. The point is, I wish I’d written a whole heck of a lot. But among my recent reads, there are standouts:

Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan (Balzer + Bray, 2013)
Okay, full disclosure. When Egmont, my publisher, was finalizing the cover for The Scar Boys, they solicited blurbs from authors. The only author to respond was Michael Hassan, author of Crash and Burn. Only, I’d never heard of Michael and had never heard of the book. Panicked, I rushed out to Posman’s, the indie bookstore in Grand Central Station, and bought myself a copy. And here’s the thing: it’s brilliant.

It’s the story of how Steven “Crash” Crashinsky saves his high school from David “Burn” Burnett. Crash is telling the story of their complicated relationship and how it led to that one fateful day when Burn laid siege to the school. The characters and their relationships to one another are incredibly well drawn and the story never stops moving (finishing with an edge of your seat climax). But that’s not why I wish I’d written this book. I wish I’d written Crash and Burn for two reasons: 1) It’s a masters class in writing voice. Crash, the narrator, is pitch perfect. And 2) it captures the current generation of teens better than anything else I’ve read – be warned, it is rife with sex, drugs, and violence, and is not for younger readers. It took real courage for Hassan to write this, courage I hope to emulate in the future.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013)
I kind of want to cheat here and say that I want to be Rainbow Rowell, rather than say I want to write one of her books. The reason? Both Eleanor and Park and Fangirl are So. Freaking. Good! But since cheating doesn’t generally pay, I’ll choose Fangirl.

Gun to my head, I probably enjoyed Eleanor & Park as a read better, but Fangirl has stayed with me longer. It’s the story of Cath, a freshman English student who is also a widely acclaimed writer of fan fiction. Cath has trouble adapting to life at college, wanting instead to be home with her father, a kindly soul who suffers from mental illness. This is a love story, a coming of age story, and a love letter to writing. What I like most of all, what I wish I’d written, is the story within the story about Simon Snow. Snow is a Harry Potteresque wizard, and Rowell does a masterful job in capturing the spirit of Harry Potter while writing something completely original. The story within the story is absolutely compelling, and I wish it had come out of my pen, er, computer.

About The Author

Len Vlahos is the Executive Director of BISG (Book Industry Study Group) and the former COO of the American Booksellers Association, where he worked for the past 20 years. Len has also worked in numerous bookstores, was an on-air personality for a commercial radio station in Atlantic City, and worked for a time for Internet marketing guru Seth Godin. THE SCAR BOYS is his first book.

You can visit him online at and on Twitter @LenVlahos, and on Goodreads

About The Book

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock 'n' roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world...even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay--help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores--Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry's description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he's looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

Be sure to check out all the stops on THE SCAR BOYS blog tour:

Mon, Jan 13

Tues, Jan 14

Wed, Jan 15

Thurs, Jan 16

Fri, Jan 17

Mon, Jan 20

Tues, Jan 21

Wed, Jan 22

Thurs, Jan 23

Fri, Jan 24

Rock on with THE SCAR BOYS playlist on Spotify:

Len is visiting 20+ cities and bookstores around the country--and he’s bringing his guitar. His tour schedule is here.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of THE SCAR BOYS (U.S. addresses).


  1. Well, every time I come here, my tottering TBR list gets bigger! This was an interesting post. Scar Boys is very high on my list. I can't wait to read it.

  2. I'll be super honest here - at first sight, The Scar Boys wouldn't so much appeal to me. It looks more like a guy book to me. But actually just the other day I read about it on one of the tour stops (I think it was at The Book Monsters) and it actually sounds really great and now I would love the chance to read it! It was the post where Len detailed his story of being in a band and recording in a single and I found his story entertaining, so I'm sure the book will be great too.

    Also, I added Crash and Burn to my list - I had seen it plenty of times but didn't know what it was actually about until just now. Much like The Scar Boys, it just looked more like a guy book to me so I never really looked into it. I'm so glad I saw this post though because it sounds really great as well!


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