The Next Chapter

Why Mariko Tamaki writes about awkward teenagers

Mariko Tamaki discusses the freedom of writing about a happy (though mystery-obsessed) character in her new young adult novel, Saving Montgomery Sole.
Mariko Tamaki's latest YA novel, Saving Montgomery Sole, revels in the freedom and safety of having a few really, really good friends in high school.

Mariko Tamaki's latest, Saving Montgomery Sole, is about a young girl who is a square peg in a small town. She has two moms. She has to go to a school where there is bullying and homophobia. Montgomery is not part of the in crowd, and she's fine with it. She's in a mystery club with two friends. But then she buys a crystal amulet online and mysterious things start happening to people she knows.

The advice she gives that inspired the book

One of the inspirations for this book was definitely one of the questions you get asked as an author all the time, which is, "What advice would you give to kids these days?" One of the things I've always said is, "It seems horrible right now. It's not going to be horrible. You will leave this school, you will go on and do other things. This feels like everything right now but it's not. This is one year or two years of your life and you're going to get past it and move on and do other, great things."

The origins of her nerdiness

I had this very informal group of friends and we'd all just sit on my friend's porch and talk about things that can't be explained. It started spontaneously. This group was the first group I did remote viewing with, where you have one person who puts an object in a box and a couple of other people who are far away try to draw what's in that box. Let's just read as much about unicorns and let's see what's going on with this. Let's find out everything we can about witchcraft. That was always a saving grace. As a teenager, that was always a thing that I felt safe in, was that kind of nerding out with a small group of people.

Happy characters as therapy

It's very freeing to write a happy character. It's fun to strip away the frustrations and just write somebody who is present, in the moment, enjoying the moment as it is. And it's definitely something I'm trying to do more as an adult — just be in the moment and be where you are.

Mario Tamaki's comments have been edited and condensed.