Today, I have the pleasure of having Kai Strand on the blog, and she's talking about her latest book I Am Me! She's a fellow Pacific Northwesterner, and an all-around awesome lady, so I'm so stoked to introduce you to her latest book!
About I Am Me
Best friends. A best friend keeps you grounded – or gives you someone to ground. She knows your favorite music, snack food, taste in boys. She even knows your triggers – like how when your mom smooths her perfectly arranged bun, your stomach clenches because you know a lecture is coming.
Lola’s best friend is no different. Cyn is one of the popularity elite, which pulls Lola into the fringes of the spotlight, but even so, Lola knows Cyn would do anything for her and Lola would do the same.
A shame really, that life gets in the way of their friendship. Let’s read an excerpt from when things are still good.
I choose to wear a sunny yellow shirt, denim capris, and Keds to Eddie’s party. I leave my freshly washed hair loose, so it falls in light red waves to my elbows. Wearing my hair down and the yellow of my shirt combine to accentuate my freckles, which isn’t something I like to do, but I want to feel like it’s still summer time—without actually freezing my butt off—and this outfit does that for me.
Cyn’s sigh when she walks into my room and scans my clothing makes it seem like I’m a petulant toddler who unloaded the contents of the kitchen cupboards into the middle of the floor. She waves a hand to encompass all of me. “And this is why the speech outfit surprised me so much.”
I know if she had her way, I’d have blown my hair out to add volume and drama. I would always wear navy blue or black, unless it was a satin, strapless, turquoise ball gown. And my outfit would end no further down than mid-thigh, not the matronly mid-calf I currently wear. Regardless, I’m still crushed by her disdain. I hoped she’d understand the nod to summer I was going for.
“Lola, don’t you at least want to try to get Rome Bennett’s attention?”
I scrunch my brow wondering why she’s so convinced I don’t stand a chance dressed as I am. “I guess not.”
With another dramatic sigh, she turns her attention to the contents of her purse. “Do you have gum or mints or something? I couldn’t find any.”
I dig through my jewelry box and pull out a pack of gum and drop it into her purse.
My mom knocks on my door as she swings it open. She’s dressed as elegantly as ever in a cream color pantsuit with gold embroidered cuffs on the sleeves and legs. I don’t even think she and Dad are going out tonight, but she’s always ready to be seen in public. Always.
“Lola don’t forget we have the planning meeting tomorrow. 10:00 am.”
I nod, though I want to groan. I’ve been helping Mom with the Viva La Designs Fashion Show Fundraiser since I was twelve. When I was twelve, the fashion show seemed glamorous. By the time I turned fifteen I realized it’s just a bunch of middle-aged woman trying to feel young and pretty for a day while raising money for underprivileged students to attend fashion school. Yep, fashion school. So the students can become designers making overpriced clothes for over privileged people. Ugh. I fully support scholarships and higher education. I just wish it were for something I considered to be a more worthy cause than clothing a bunch of rich ladies.
“I’ll be out of here by then, Mrs. R.” Cyn adds.
“You’re always welcome to sleep in and leave at your leisure, Cynthia. You’re like family here.” Mom scans Cyn’s outfit and her expression is a mixture of maternal pride and adoration. Then she looks at mine. “I’ll let you change. Wouldn’t want to make you late for your party.”
As Mom swings the door shut Cyn raises an eyebrow at me. I hold up a hand and shake my head. “Don’t even start.”
She grins. “Our mothers are wearing matching buns tonight. When do you suppose we’ll start doing that?”
“Not before we’re fifty. Skin care will be even better by then and fifty will be the new forty. We’ll have a good ten years longer before we have to start the facelift hairdo.”
With a snort, Cyn snuggles up next to me, phone in hand, and leans her dark head next to mine. We smile as she snaps a selfie. Within seconds my phone is buzzing like a beehive as her worshippers click the like button under the picture she clearly tagged me in. A tone sounds, meaning someone commented, so I swipe the screen to see who said what. For some reason I’m disappointed by the shallow response of, “Beautiful as always.” But studying the picture, I have to agree. Cyn’s forest green eyes and so brown it’s almost black hair is a stunning combination. Sharp facial features; cheekbones, nose, chin, make her model quality. Her look is reminiscent of the girl from Pulp Fiction.
I can even appreciate myself in the photo. People always use fruits to describe me. Peaches and cream complexion, strawberry-blond hair, eyes like green grapes. Studying the picture, I think I’m only pretty when I’m in contrast to Cyn. Alone, I sort of wash out. Stifling a sigh, I shove my phone in my pocket and realize I’m also only popular because of Cyn. What would my world be like if I didn’t have my “old soul” of a friend? Even though she’s wilder than me and does some stupid teenage stuff, such as drinks—too much if you ask me—she has always had a certain maturity about her. I still remember five-year-old Cyn looking at me with that all-seeing expression, as if she could look all the way inside me to see why my very soul chose to jump off the swings and sprain my ankle. Though she might just seem old because of her life experiences. The kind that make you grow up before your time. I give a mental shake. It isn’t likely I’ll find out what life without Cyn is like anytime soon. The girl is everything to me.
I Am Me by Kai Strand
Despite—or perhaps because of—her fancy car, private school education, and life of privilege, Lola Renaldi has become a volunteer junkie. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, visiting the elderly—if it’s a good cause, she’s done it.
Lola’s favorite stint, building affordable houses, puts her directly in the path of Rodney. He refuses to discuss why he’s doing community service, but it’s clear he’s hiding something dark about his past. As their friendship grows, Lola begins to question the true reasons for her obsessive volunteerism and her view of those she has pledged to help.
She is only beginning to understand how lucky she truly is when her life falls apart. After losing friends, her boyfriend, even Rodney, Lola finally recognizes which parts of her life she wants to hang on to and what specifically she wants to go after. But with all she’s been through, will she be able to hang onto who she wants to be? Or will she lose all that defines her?
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About The Author
When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.