Book Feature, Holiday House Books, Reader Kit

Reader Kit: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

On The Booked Shelf is a new feature known as the Reader Kit which is a fun way of learning more about upcoming Young Adult books by spotlighting a catered list of items from the author.

Today’s first guest is Crystal Maldonado author of the upcoming rom-com Fat Chance, Charlie Vega. Here she is to tell you more about the curated items from her charming debut:

As an avid reader, I love nothing more than fully immersing myself in a book, its world, its characters and its entire vibe. So, I’ve rounded up a few Charlie Vega-approved things that you might enjoy as you dive into FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA, which is out Feb. 2, 2021!

Chai Latte
A coffee shop called Jake’s is a place that Charlie and her best friend, Amelia, return to over and over throughout this book. A few kids at school hang out here, but for Charlie and Amelia, it’s officially their spot. Jake’s is equal parts cozy and warm, with delicious drinks and baked goods, as well as eclectic furniture (think well-worn leather chairs and end-tables-turned-checkerboards) and an assortment of used books. It’s everything you could ask for from a place to relax. A few of the story’s big conversations happen here — and always with a yummy drink! Charlie’s drink of choice is a chai latte. Hot or iced? Since they’re in Connecticut, it fully depends on the season. You do you!

A Cupcake of Your Choice
Food is a running theme in this book, with special homage paid to desserts, including delicious cupcakes. Charlie especially loves the chocolate raspberry cupcakes one of her coworkers always prepares for holiday parties, but I say go with whatever flavor your heart desires. The real question: Is it better to eat the cake-y bottom first and then save the frosting top for last (Team Charlie), or to create a cupcake sandwich by carefully breaking the bottom off and squishing it on top so that the frosting is in the center (Team Brian)? I’m Team Charlie all the way.

Charlie is a writer and avid reader and always needs to be in the right headspace before she can get any writing or reading done. This includes settling into her writing nook, finding the right music, and being surrounded by her twinkle lights. I also like to imagine she would have one or more candles going to help set the vibe. She would most definitely have a Beyonce candle on her desk — probably unlit and for decoration only. Since she’s a hopeless romantic, I imagine Charlie would also have this candle called Love Spell by Casa De Yan Candles burning every time she’s writing one of her romcoms.

Notebook & Writing Utensils
I definitely hoard notebooks like they are going out of style and I use them to make lists, capture story ideas, write down inspiration, journal, brainstorm, doodle, whatever. Your perfect notebook may change over time, but I imagine Charlie would have a notebook with some kind of motivational phrase on the front, like this gorgeous, red, leather-bound one that says Book of Jefa Moves by Hija de tu Madre.

Obviously you also need a good set of pens! I personally have and LOVE these gorgeous magic glitter pens from Jen Zeano Designs. Nice, smooth black ink, great sayings, and some glitter—what more could Charlie (or you) ask for?

Cozy Clothes
Charlie lives for fashion and looking cute. But when it comes to curling up with a good book, she’s all about comfort. So pile your hair up in a bun and snuggle under the blankets in something cozy, like these tie-dye shirt and pant sweatsuit sets from Viva La Bonita from its cloud collection.

They’re comfy enough to lie in your bed with your favorite read but cute enough that if you get an unexpected text from your cute crush, you can be ready to go in a second.

Deadline City and Hey YA Podcasts
As an aspiring writer and perpetual overthinker, Charlie would highly recommend checking out the Deadline City podcast, hosted by the immensely talented author of the Brooklyn Brujas series Zoraida Córdova and New York Times bestselling author of The Belles Dhonielle Clayton.

These talented (and hilarious) authors are besties who offer real insight into the art of writing books. As for Charlie’s ever-growing TBR list, she would get tons of recommendations from Bookriot’s Hey YA podcast—and it’s always a charming listen.

Spotify Playlist
The right music can be a game changer when it comes to your mood, regardless of what you’re doing. Charlie’s #moodmusic would be a mix of Beyoncé, Chloe x Halle, Lionbabe, Janelle Monae, and a handful of retro 90s songs — which you can actually find on Charlie Vega’s ***Flawless Playlist!

Charlie and I have an intense love of Beyoncé and Chloe x Halle in common, though my personal faves would also include Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Solange, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Brittany Howard, Leon Bridges, and literally any ’90s or ’00s pop music (especially boy bands like the Backstreet Boys).

Happy reading!

Author Bio
Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA, is available Feb. 2, 2021 in hardcover, eBook, or audiobook format from Bookshop, IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. By day, she is a social media manager working in higher ed, and by night, a writer who loves Beyoncé, shopping, spending too much time on her phone, and being extra. She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. Follow her everywhere @crystalwrote or visit her website at

Cover Artist: Ericka Lugo

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

Algonquin Young Readers, Book Feature

Interview with Nova Ren Suma discussing Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate The Magic of Reading and Writing YA

On The Booked Shelf we’re all about highlighting the newest Young Adult releases! Here’s a much-anticipated interview with co-editor/author Nova Ren Suma talking all about the Foreshadow anthology that released in October of this year and the digital platform it’s inspired by, FORESHADOW YA.

With this book of course being inspired by your digital anthology “Foreshadow,” it showcases new writers featured from past issues! What was the most special part of getting this anthology in print?

Nova Ren: Having the opportunity to highlight only the New Voices from These were dazzling short stories by writers new to the YA field, those who hadn’t published a novel yet, and a number of whom hadn’t ever published a piece of fiction before. We wanted to shout about these stories and these talented writers from the rooftops, and publishing them in print in the form of this book was a glorious way to do that.

This anthology doesn’t just feature new writers, but also handy craft advice for Young Adult readers/aspiring writers. Why do you think this was important to include in the anthology?

Nova Ren: The title of our anthology—Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA—speaks to everything we wanted to offer with this book. We wanted it to be more than a collection of stories, so this book truly became a celebration of what’s possible in YA. Including the craft essays and conversations was a way to acknowledge the seeds of writing magic that made these stories what they are. We hope you can feel our joy about digging in to what makes these stories shine and startle and thrill and tick. We wanted to pull the curtain back, so you could see what made us fall in love with them in the beginning. For readers, we hope that offers a fascinating look into the inner workings of crafting a story. And for writers, we hope it gets you thinking deeply about the craft choices and possibilities in your own work.

As editors of this serial YA anthology and authors yourselves, it’s clear there was much love put into this project from the very beginning! What does it mean to see projects like Foreshadow exist and although it ended in 2019, what was the most memorable part?

Nova Ren: Foreshadow was a dream project for both Emily and me, and on top of that initial dream we had a secret dream we articulated only to each other that after our year of online stories was over, we wanted to collect some part of the project in print form. So having the anthology published by Algonquin YR this fall with the craft extras really thrilled us. Having the opportunity to create a place for YA writers to publish their short stories was our initial aim, and we always wanted the door to be open to new writers who haven’t published anywhere before. There are so few venues like that in the YA landscape, and it’s only recently that YA anthologies have started to be more open to submissions to new writers. We’re hoping that Foreshadow, in all its forms, could be a nudge to other editors and writers to go off and make their dream projects a reality too. Let’s create more publications and venues that offer new writers a space and a singular chance to have their voices heard. Foreshadow may be the first YA publication of its kind, but we hope it’s the last. As for the most memorable part, I can’t help but think of the first moment when this gigantic and ambitious project started to feel real. Emily and I had a lunch date at a Ukrainian restaurant that turned into five hours of excited planning. When we walked out onto the sidewalk, stuffed full of ideas and pancakes, Foreshadow was real.

To conclude, Foreshadow is about not only showcasing underrepresented writers, but also boosting emerging ones as well. In the year of 2020, what writing advice do you have to offer marginalized or new/upcoming writers to keep them inspired?

To answer that, I’m going to share an image we made when promoting the online version of Foreshadow:

I believe these words. To the underrepresented voices out there who don’t yet see your stories in YA, and to writers who haven’t found a home for your work yet: The world does need your story. Foreshadow may not be taking submissions anymore, and our project may be complete in the form of the Foreshadow print anthology, but I’m hoping you will write for the future reader who will fall in love with your words. That person is out there.

To quote my co-editor, Emily X.R. Pan, from her introduction in our book, “What’s the point of storytelling magic if it isn’t shared?”

The Foreshadow YA anthology is out now from Algonquin Young Readers!