Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Smash It! by Francina Simone ~ Excerpt & Q/A


By Francina Simone
On Sale: September 22, 2020 
Teen & Young Adult Theater Fiction
978-1335146502; 1335146504
$18.99 USD
368 pages

About the Book

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why, God, why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me.

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned?

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

A lot, apparently.



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Excerpted from SMASH IT! by Francina Simone © 2020 by Francina Simone, used with permission from Inkyard Press.




I’m an idiot.

It’s Halloween and I’m the only one in a packed club on Teen Night not wearing a costume. Girls are jumping and screaming lyrics in cheap shiny wigs, and all the guys, dressed in a motley of cheap polyester, are scoping out the dance floor, their gazes hopping right over me. Even the bartender, sling­ing water bottles, has on pink bunny ears.

This isn’t an I’m seventeen and too cool for dress up moment. I like wearing costumes. I just thought I’d look like an unin­tentional clown doing it. We’re at a club. Who wears a Hal­loween costume to the club? Apparently, everyone except this freak in an Old Navy hoodie and khaki shorts. I’m wearing khaki shorts, like a nerdy loser.

Some girl bumps into me and does a double take at the sight of my hoodie. It’s Florida; I know October everywhere else is like that meme of the dog in a wig wearing a scarf be­cause “it’s sweater weather,” but we’re in Florida; the leaves don’t change here. They just fall off sometime between hot-as-fuck and damn-where-that-wind-come-from? So even though this white girl has on a mesh shirt over a nude bra—I don’t know what the hell she’s dressed as—I can tell by her raised brows and attempt to act like she didn’t see me that she doesn’t know what in god’s name I’m doing right now either.

Oh my god. Why am I like this?

This is what I get for not doing the yes thing. My mom bought this book by Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes, and—I’m not going to lie—some rich black lady with a gazillion TV shows shouldn’t be able to tell me, some sad black girl, how to be all, Say yes to the dress! But right now, I’m really wish­ing I had said yes when Dré asked, Are you sure you don’t want to put on something? It’s a costume party at a club. Don’t you have something sexy? Sexy nurse? Sexy vet? Hell, cut up your hoodie and go as a sexy hobo.

I’m wishing I had scissors or the foresight to go as Sexy Hobo, because now, while my best friends are onstage at the hottest teen club in Orlando, singing their asses off like rock gods, I look like the freak who has no social shame.

The truth is I have too much social shame. So much shame that it seeps out of me like fresh cut garlic on the back of the tongue.

I make eye contact with Eli. He’s on the keyboard, belt­ing out lyrics and twisting in and out of a rap. His voice is the love child of Sam Smith and Adele. He’s all suave and mysterious to everyone here, but I know him as the boy who shaved off half an eyebrow when we were thirteen and those Peretz Hebrew/Palestinian hairy genes started coming in. His mom and dad were on that Romeo and Juliet vibe back in the day, and even though it makes for an epic love story, with real war and faking deaths to escape their families and countries (epic as hell), their genetic combo gave Eli thick brows and hair like nobody’s business.

He smiles at me with his dark brown eyes just under his fedora. Of the three of us, he’s definitely the broody one, writing poems about nostalgia and love.

Dré, on the other hand—he’s got on shades. Who wears sunglasses inside at night? Dré. When we were in middle school, Dré used to hide his Spanish and pretend his name was Andrew. I don’t blame him. Our school had a lot of white kids, and they always asked dumb as hell questions. I always got, “If you can’t get your hair wet, how do you wash it?” One kid asked Dré if Puerto Rican meant legal Mexican in Spanish. The kid legitimately didn’t know. I know our educa­tion system is shit, but come the fuck on.

High school has been a game changer for all of us. Our magnet school pulls in kids from all over the county. But now there are too many kids from way too many places. Now we have to be different to fit in—cue Dré’s flashy, Spanish-heritage-day-is-every-day evolution. He’s a self-proclaimed Puerto Rican papi, and he kind of radiates like a sunny day on South Beach.

Then there’s me. In my hoodie, khaki shorts, and Converse, stuck in the middle of a club with hundreds of kids basking in the glory that is Dré and Eli. I look like an outcast from a bad ’90s movie. I’m not uncool, but I do these uncool things as if I’m addicted to self-sabotage.

Mesh Girl looks at me again; she’s probably wondering why Dré keeps pointing and making steamy eyes at me while he spits some rhymes in Spanish. I know she’s thinking, How’d she get him? Girls have asked me that. They see me, with my not-slim body and my brown skin, and say, No offense, but damn, girl, how you got with Dré?

I’m not. Never have, never will. This flashy thing that he’s doing is our signal for me to check his hair. My only job is to make sure it still looks good. I nod and sway to the music, ignoring Mesh Girl’s eyebrows, which are raised to the top of her blond head. Is it bad that I like the attention? I enjoy her envy, even though I’m not the girl she thinks I am.

Some girl dressed like a pumpkin shuffles past me and reaches out to touch Dré’s hand. What she doesn’t know is that he’s transferring half a store’s worth of product onto her fingers. He spends so much time on his hair, we have to speed to school—which is the last thing we should do in Dré’s rusty old car, the Bat Mobile. It’s already two gearshifts away from blowing up with us inside. We call it the Bat Mobile not because it’s cool, but because it looks like a hundred bats dropped turds all over it and eroded the paint.

Even though it’s pretty much trash on wheels, I’m so jeal­ous. I can’t even get my mom to let me practice my learners in her car. The queen of burning out engines thinks I’ll mess something up. Then again, here I am on Halloween, the only girl in the club not having fun because of my shitty choices.

Mesh Girl bumps me with her shoulder. “He’s hot, right?” She’s talking about Eli, and I do a weird laugh thing and nod, because I’m the worst at small talk, and it’s too much to yell, Yeah, I’ve thought that for years. I can like the way he looks, right? That’s normal, right?

She doesn’t seem to care that my laugh was borderline psy­chotic. “Oh my god, we should totally dance for them. Guys love that shit.” Suddenly this girl that I don’t know from Eve is pulling me toward the stage, and I start freaking out.

I’ve watched enough romance movies to have this scene planned in my head—but those are fantasies, and this is get­ting too real. People are staring at us as she starts twerking and swinging her arms around.

She waves at me. “Come on!”

Nope. I just smile and shrink back into the crowd. She’s clearly one of those people who really believes in herself—like, no one has ever told her she can’t do a damn thing, because, here she is, shaking her ass like she invented the booty pop.

Mesh Girl isn’t looking at me anymore. She’s dancing and looking at Eli, and—he’s looking at her. I know I’m not sup­posed to care, because he’s just my best friend and he and Dré are supposed to interact with the crowd—that’s part of the gig—but he’s looking at her and smiling like he’s impressed. He thinks this girl’s half-baked dance moves are cool. He thinks she’s cool.

I can dance better than that. I could be that cool.

Except I’m not.

I’m the girl who hides in the crowd. I’m the girl who isn’t even in costume. And now, the guy I maybe-sorta-like is smiling and singing to the girl who is doing the scary thing, even though she’s not that good at it.

Fuck my life. My crush is about to go up in tired-ass flames like the rest of my dreams. This isn’t the first time I’ve passed up doing what I want because I’m afraid of looking like a clown. It isn’t even the tenth or the hundredth.

Hell, just this morning I walked by a flyer for the school musical auditions, and when the drama teacher offered me one, I did the weird laugh, and—let’s just say she’ll probably never make eye contact with me again.

All I had to do was say yes. All I had to do was tell my­self I’d try.

Why am I so chickenshit?

I make my way to the bar and order a soda.

The guy at the bar eyes me as he sprays Coke into my glass. He puts the Coke down in front of me, and just when I want him to walk away and leave me in my despair, he pulls off his pink bunny ears and puts them next to my bubbly soda. “Take these. I don’t want you to stand out.”

I shake my head. Honestly, he’s got long hair and it’s kind of greasy, so there is no way I’m putting that on my head. “I’m cool. Don’t need pity ears, but thanks.”

He laughs, and it’s low-key judgmental. “Yeah, because cool people don’t wear costumes, right? You must be a blast at parties.” He looks around at the club behind me. “Oh, wait.”

Rude. “Look. I happen to be a very cool person, thank you very much.” I shouldn’t talk when I’m in my feelings, because my voice goes up an octave and I can never get my eyebrows to stay still. They’re up in my hairline now, show­ing the whole damn world that I have no chill.

Dude puts his bunny ears back on and leans on the bar. “Yeah, it’s so cool sitting by yourself at a Halloween party with no costume.” He shrugs. “I’m not saying high school is going to be the best time of your life, but you should get over yourself enough to have a little fun while you can. Oth­erwise, you’ll be a cool adult sitting alone at a bar wonder­ing why your life sucks.” He stands up, crosses his arms and looks proud of himself.

Is there a sign on my head that says, I’m having a hard time. Please do pile on? I take a deep breath and hate myself, because my first reaction is to smile and nod. But I stare him dead in the eye and say, “Because being a bartender at thirtysome­thing is so great.” I feel a little badass for saying it, but also super guilty for being a bitch.

“Well, one of us is having fun.” He wiggles his bunny ears. “And the other one is at a party full of kids and only has the bartender to talk to.” He pulls the white towel off his shoul­der and starts wiping down the bar. “Don’t forget to tip.” And then he’s moving away and pulling out waters for a group of guys in some anime costumes.

I drop my head to the bar, which, regrettably, is sticky. That turd of a bartender doesn’t know me, but he’s kinda right. Some girl on YouTube—the one with the minimalist white walls that look chic instead of broke as hell—said everyone has a moment in life when there are two paths before them. The cool one where you change your pathetic ways and ev­erything gets brighter and better. And the other one where you die sad and alone.

She obviously knows what she’s talking about, because she manages to make millions of people listen to her talk about hacking procrastination and how to make your room over with just a succulent and a few black-and-white photos strung up on the walls.

I don’t want to be sad and alone, or to freeze every time my moment comes to shine. I want to be the fierce inner beast I know I am. I want Eli to look at me like I’m the only one in the room.

Something has to change, because that bartender and the succulent girl are right. If I don’t, I’m going to disappear like I was never here.


About the author


Francina Simone believes in one thing: authenticity. She writes YA stories full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood. Her craft focuses on stories about girls throwing caution to the wind to discover exactly who they are and what it means to love. Francina is also known for her BookTube channel, where she discusses controversial topics in books.


Author websiteTwitterInstagramGoodreadsYoutube 


Q&A with Francina Simone

Q: Please give the elevator pitch for Smash It!.

A: Olivia James, is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her, does what any self-respecting hot-mess-of-a-girl who wants to SMASH junior year does—she makes a F*ck It list.


Q: Of all of Shakespear’s tragedies, to do a comedic retelling of Othello is an ingenious idea for a story, especially with all the drama of high school. Why did you choose Othello?

A: If I’m honest, I think Othello chose me. A long time ago when SMASH IT was more like my lie than a book idea, I read the play and fell in love with the villain Iago. I thought of Iago more as Othello’s Ego getting the best of him. He was a secure man until Iago used his insecurities against him. Fast forward years later, I had this story idea of this girl and these two boys in my head and I saw this climactic scene happening between them and it reminded me a lot of the themes in Othello: Jealousy, illusions, perception, womanhood, sexuality. How it all unravels in Smash It was just clandestine.


Q: Which came first: the characters or the plot line?

A: They came at the same time, a moment between the three characters that I’ll never forget. I won’t mention it here because it’s very spoilery. But one day it  just played in my mind on loop, and I needed to know how this thing that happened between them had gotten that far and how they could go on from there. The event is really one of those world ending things that you just don’t know how people are going to come back from. From there it was about listening to the story as Olivia told it. 


Q: Liv is a bright, authentic, relatable character. She slowly comes into her own in all the best and worst possible ways. She is a refreshing main character joining the YA space. What advice do you think Liv would give others going through a similar situation(s) as hers?

A: You’re going to mess up. You’re going to be problematic. You’re going to speak up when you should be quiet. You’re going to be quiet when you should speak up. You’re going to do all the wrong things even if you think you know you won’t. It’s human. The question is, can you get up and try again? Because, the world doesn’t end just because you fucked up. So go fix it.


Q: Why do you love Liv and why should readers root for her?

A: Liv is unapologetically herself. She’s not a cookie cutter you can copy and paste yourself into. She’s a person who can teach us all empathy and how to see the world from another perspective. She shows us how you can be aware and still not know right from wrong simply because life is skewed in as many ways as there are people breathing. Root or her because in doing so you’re rooting for yourself.


Q: Who or what made you decide to become a writer? What inspires your writing?

A: I like to think I’m a storyteller because when the stories come whispering I take the time to listen. Being a storyteller takes courage, belief in yourself, so I guess what inspires my writing is ignoring all the fears so I can write and discover the story just as the reader does. There is something exhilarating about experiencing a story for the first time and I get to do that with every book I write.


Q: I relate to Liv so much I thought we could be twins. For me, Smash It! is one of those books that you wish had been around when you were younger. What made you decide to write Smash It!? What impact has this story had on you?

A: I decided it was okay for me to be Black and write what it’s like being a Black girl in a world where all the other books just want me to be Black struggle and strife. You for sure can’t “paint” Liv white and the story be the same. She’s Black American and her perspective is so different and really eye opening into a sliver of Black culture. We live, we love, we laugh, we get to Eat Pray and Love, but we do it in a very different way. We do it while Black and that is the most beautiful and glorious part to me, because that me.


Q: I have to ask this next question because it’s one of my favorite things I love about Liv: If any, what are some of your favorite musicals?

A: the only musical I’ve seen live is Aida and I loved it. I mean, it was problematic as hell (the casting and such) but I loved the music and it woke me up inside. Phantom of the Opera has music that just delivers me. Hamilton of course! Wicked. Rent—I know I”m forgetting a few but honestly Rent was one that really made me want to be an actor!


Q: You write stories that are “full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood.” What conversation(s) do you hope readers will have after reading Smash It! (nerdy talks or otherwise)?

A: I just humor to help us get through tough conversations like: being a Black girl sometimes means we internalize racism and that can mean thinking the guy you like that probably likes you too, doesn’t because you’re not a white girl and can’t live up to that beauty standard. I want people to talk about intersectional casual racism and feminism. There are ways that PoC in America mingle that are very different than how we mingle with Whtie people. We talk different between groups in positive and negative ways. I want people to talk about how dark skin black girls have to wear armor and fight for every thought and opinion they have because they’re used to being less than second rate. I want to talk about sexuality and how girls don’t owe their sexual experience to anyone except who they want to have it with, boys too. I want readers to talk about how boys aren’t given the same space to be emotionally vulnerable. I want readers to talk about different family dynamics; that family life can be loving and toxic and how that shit doesn’t just go away because you joined a musical and sang a song.

That’s the biggest thing. I want readers to talk about how life isn’t fixed just because you got to the end of the book. That life goes on. It always goes on and the little problems will too.


Q: What was your last 5-star read?

A: I’m very much into graphic novels these days and the Awkward, Brave, Crush series by Svetlana Chmakova is a FAVORITE. I love the stories of everyday contemporary life, the emotional punches, the art, and the diversity. Honestly, her art is so moving I wish I could spend a day in her sketchbooks.


Q: What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?What inspired you to write this story?

A: Truth be told, I’m a curious person and researched via the internet, my author friends, agent, anyone who could give me an answer about all things publishing. I think a piece of advice I would give though is, know who you’re writing your story for, and stand in that proudly. If you know, then you’ll never make compromises unless it serves the story. That’s important.


Q: Describe your main character in 3 words.

A: awkward, brave, beautiful


Q: What was the most challenging part to write in this book?

A: The most challenging part to write is always the end. I hate saying goodbye. I almost always cry.


Q: What's a typical writing day for you?

A: HAHAHAHA. I laugh. I don't’ have writing days. I live my life and then when it’s time to write I type out a book anywhere from in a week to a month (depending on the length of the book). I’m not saying that’s my routine necessarily. It just is what it is right now. It’s been that way for years. I’m a very creative person I like to storytell in many ways, painting, illustration, music, etc. so If I were to write everyday it would be like milking a cow with no milk….sometimes you have to do other things on the farm to make sure the whole farm is working and happy, not just milk the cow all day.


Q: Where do you like writing and why? Favorite snacks and/or beverages?

A: I can write anywhere. I usually use music as a way to transport me into my mindspace so I’m not bothered by my physical space. With two small kids—it’s hard to be in two places at once but so far it’s working...kind of. I tend not to eat while I work though I do enjoy a cherry soda and licorice. I think when I’m really working I tend to eat high sugar foods because I write anywhere from early morning to early morning. I just—don’t sleep much. Once the story starts it’s like being in a movie theatre with the volume on high. I can’t focus on anything else until it’s done.


Q: What author or story inspired you growing up or inspired you in some ways?

A: I think everything I read inspired me. I mean, we talk about very specific stories or people all the time and not enough about how everything we consume is part of our making. That includes negative things (which can slow you on your way to inspiration) I think my family and friends inspired me once I realized how special they were. My friends read SMASH IT and the first thing they ask is “Am I so and so or so and so because I feel like both.”

Authors inspired me in that I dared to dream. I dared to do what they’d done. Stories inspired me in way that I wanted to replicate feelings or word pairings or in some cases I just wanted to prove that I could do something better than the garbage in front of me. Honestly. Movies and TV inspired me more than books. I’m very visual and my Kdramas know how to tell a rollercoaster of a story!


Q: Is there anything you can tell us about the book that is not a spoiler and not on the blurb? Something you'd like to share with us?

A: I will say, this story, while funny and light-hearted on the surface usually is making a statement about something serious in almost every scene. If you feel something positive or negative, you’re supposed to feel something. These characters aren’t role models or people you’re supposed to agree with just because you like them. You’re supposed to sometimes not agree and hopefully that will give you the courage to disagree with people in your life that like you like who do and say things that aren’t quite okay. Also, hopefully it helps you to see that just because they have a perspective you disagree with, itt doesn’t mean they are the root of all evil.

Ignorance, funny enough, is something we see in others because we too have it. So be careful putting people on pedestals, and be careful knocking them off too.


Q: How did you choose the title?

A: haha it was a wild ride. I wanted a title that summed up the book and SMASH IT means so many things from “You got this!” to “Sex” so I thought, it was the perfect way to say all of it in one phrase. The more you read the more you see the many layers of the title unravel.


Q: What scene, in the book, are you most proud of?

A: I can’t say there is any one scene. Instead I’m very proud of the way the scenes unfold. They seemingly don’t relate any more than “Liv living day to day” but once you get about a third of the way through the book everything starts tumbling and catching speed and everything from the beginning to that moment just comes crashing into a perfect cacophony of chaos.





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