An emotional YA romance about small town secrets, high school football, and broken hearts.
Julian Jackson has a short to-do list for his senior year at Crenshaw County High School in Meridian, Texas: football, football, and more football. He knows he’s only got one chance to earn a college scholarship and make it out of his small town, and keeping his head down, his grades up, and his cleats on the field is that one chance. And then Elijah Vance walks back into his life, throwing all of his carefully-laid plans into a tailspin.
Elijah and Julian used to be best friends, maybe even on their way to something more than just friends. But three years ago, Elijah broke into the school to steal money from the coach’s office, and Julian was the one who turned him in. After that, Elijah and his family disappeared without a trace. And now he’s back, sitting at Julian’s grandmother’s kitchen table.
But time and distance haven’t erased all of their feelings, and Elijah knows that he finally has a chance to prove to Julian that he’s not the same person he was three years ago. But with secrets still growing between them and an uncertain future barreling towards them, it may be harder to lean on each other than they thought.
Julian Jackson knows what to do in senior year: get good grades, play football and hoping to get a scholarship and make it out of Meridien, but all his plans are upset when his best friend (and maybe something more) comes back in his life. Elijah Vance and Julian Jackson were best friends years ago, but when Julian caught him breaking into school to steal the car wash money and turned him in, Elijah and his family left without saying goodbay. Now that he’s back, Julian and Elijah realize time and space didn’t erase their feelings and Elijah is determined to show Julian he’s not the person everyone thinks he is. Between secrets, between them and in the city and the fear for their own futures, Julian and Elijah fight to be themselves and together.
Sidelined was a brilliant, sweet and funny read I devoured right away. The story is told by two POVs, Julian’s and Elijah, while they navigate high school, expectations from others, their history together, their past and present. Julian and Elijah are very different from one other. Julian is the son of the town hero, a town obsessed with football, traditions and history, while Elijah is, unfortunately, seen as the son of Eric Vance, who is in jail and who tried to steal money, three years ago. Both of them are weighed down by people’s, right and wrong, expectations and both are struggling to fit and escape them, to show the world and themselves they are more than their fathers’ sons. Elijah’s return to Meridien upset Julian’s plans and changes everything, unearthing secrets and so much more.
The story focuses on Julian and Elijah, on their journeys, getting more and more close to one other and facing the world and future together, understanding each other better, while, also, focusing on football, friends, town’s traditions and funny and moving moments.
Through Julian’s and Elijah’s POVs, the author talks about their feelings, attraction and love, their passions and friends, their struggles and fears. Julian and Elijah are teenagers, dealing with school’s pressures and expectations, unpredictable futures, friends and family and they are very realistic in their feelings and actions. They fight, laugh, they are scared, upset, in love with one other, afraid to lose each other in a windwhirl of emotions and beautiful and intense moments.
Their relationship is lovely, complicated by misunderstandings and secrets and I loved the way they are open with one other, talking and explaining, trusting, helping, supporting and loving one other.
The author also deals with people’s prejudices and preconceptions, expectations and how hurtful they can be, how often push others into boxes and refuse to let them out. Julian and Elijah are determined to be themselves, to be seen as they are, to be free from others’ expectations and be in love and together.
Here’s my interview with the amazing author!
1) 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐨 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤?
I lived in Texas for a few years and worked in a high school guidance office and later in the school
library. I learned so much about the culture of high school football and homecoming, and just how
important some of these traditions are to the students and honestly, the whole school community. I
also had a personal wish to see more joyful stories with queer characters falling in love, feeling safe
and respected in their neighborhoods, and being loved and celebrated by their families. These two
things were front and center in my life when I began writing Sidelined.
2) 𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐛𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐢𝐧 𝐚 𝐪𝐮𝐨𝐭𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐢𝐭 𝐛𝐞?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I think I’ll go with a Maya Angelou quote: “In all the world, there is no heart
for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.”
3) 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐲?
I think Julian and Elijah were both equally hard to write. There was never a point in which I felt
overwhelmed by either of them, though, and I think that’s important. If I absolutely had to pick
between the two of them, I think it was slightly harder for me to fall into Julian’s voice. He’s a rule-
follower and often sees the world in black and white. While I’m definitely a rule-follower, I think I
see the world a whole lot differently than Julian does.
4) 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐮𝐬 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐟𝐮𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐣𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐬?
I have a couple of (secret) YA projects cooking at the moment. I’m so excited to share details when
the time is right!
5) 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐨𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬?
I think most writers will tell you that there’s a tiny little bit of themselves in every character they
write. There are some things about Julian that are very much like me, and some things about Elijah
that I can relate to. Usually, my characters tell me little quirks about their personalities throughout
the writing process. I don’t know that readers would be able to pick out the pieces of either Julian or
Elijah that are me, even readers who know me really well.