Like everyone at Merton Middle School, Karma Cooper’s smartphone is almost another body part. She’s obsessed with her LIKES on Snappypic. When her parents shut down her social media account and take away her smartphone, Karma’s whole world crumbles. She has to figure out what she actually likes and how to live life fully unplugged. This book will jumpstart conversations about how social media is changing the ways tweens are growing up.
“So we’re come up with a new punishment,” says Dad. “Something that will get your attention.”
Dad looks at Mom and Mom looks at Dad and I can tell that they are a united front against me. “We’re going to close your Snappypic account,” states Dad.
“What?” My stomach dips as if I’ve just dropped from highest part of a roller coaster. I want to flop against the nearest car in the parking lot. “You can’t do that. It’s my account. It’s private. You can’t.” Every day, I get smiley faces and hearts and balloons and LIKES. All of the time. Waking up and not being able to se what my followers are up to? Being totally cut off like that? My parents might as well send me to Antarctica because I’m going to be frozen out of everything. “This must be some kind of hallucination,” I say. “The parents I know would never do this to me!”
“Karma, I’m sorry,” says Mom. “But I think you are over-reacting. You knew the rules.”
“Please.” I clasp my hands together. “Please, please. Please. I’ll do anything. I’ll babysit Toby as much as you want. I’ll clean the house every single day. I’ll make dinner I’ll—”
“It’s a final decision,” says Dad.
“But I’m like… a professional. I have more followers than some companies.”
“Exactly our point, Karma,” says Mom. “You’re not a company. You’re our daughter and still a kid. And I don’t really love this obsession of yours.”
The parking lot is practically spinning. “You just don’t want me to grow up!”
I fling up my arms. “Please,” I beg. “Don’t do this.”
A link to the song QUEEN OF LIKES which was written just for the book. It’s a wonderful song. Here’s that link: https://soundcloud.com/ari-eisenberg/queen-of-likes
My new middle grade novel, Queen of Likes, is written about social media, a topic that parents are debating sometimes daily with their tweens and teens. It’s written for tweens in a fun, entertaining way. It’s from the POV of a 12 year-old girl whose phone is another body part, and I made sure never to sound preachy or judgmental—even though I’m a parent myself and have strong opinions about social media. However, I did manage demonstrate my point—that there are times to put down your phone and take a break.
What is your personal opinion about social media?
So glad you asked! I love social media. I think it’s a powerful connector and creates community in a fragmented world. I love being able to connect with readers online, as well as old friends and colleagues. However, that being said, it can be, like anything—highly addictive and, at times, toxic. I’ve seen tweens answer survey questions online that are highly personal and post them. Even though the kids answered no to all the questions, you hoped that they would, they didn’t understand that they didn’t need to take the survey or post it online. It’s a privacy thing, right? There are certain things that kids (or anybody else) should not be posting about). The questions in this particular survey that I saw asked questions like have you taken drugs before and are you a virgin. I think it’s important to talk with our teenagers and tweens about issues of privacy—when is it okay to post and when is it a breach? My youngest son has a Youtube account and he shot some footage of his friend in his underwear and I was very firm—this is never going online and that photo really needs to be deleted!
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing fiction for about 25 years.
How did you choose the genres you write in?
I remember being twelve or thirteen like it was yesterday, so I guess you could say I’m stuck there. I feel like I could endlessly write about the pain and also good times of being that age!
Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
Well, I can’t take any credit for the cover. It was designed by the incredible art department at Simon & Schuster. But I think the idea is that many tweens today are living on their phone so they thought it would be cool to use the phone as a framing device.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.”
Have you started your next project?
A resounding yes!
Anything else you might want to add?
It’s important to post on social media because you want to express what you like not for validation or approval from others. Talk to the kids in your life about this. Going to your local bookstore or ordering Queen of Likes online would be a good first step in starting this conversation!
Hillary is the author of the tween novel, THE HOT LIST (Simon & Schuster/M!X) which Booklist says “captures the angst of young teen friendships and fragile identities.” She’s also the author of the middle grade novel, THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY (Simon & Schuster/M!X), a Justice Book-of-the-Month, which was just optioned by Priority Pictures, and the forthcoming QUEEN OF LIKES (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X, April 2016), which is about social media, as well as the humorous chapter book series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), a Children's Book-of-the-Month Best Books for Children. Emmy-nominated Suppertime Entertainment developed the books to become an animated television series and it was sold to ABC Australia. Hillary’s young adult fiction has been published in TEEN MAGAZINE and anthologized (MUDDVILLE DIARIES, Avon Books). She has sold non-fiction and fiction projects to Klutz Press/Scholastic Books, The Learning Company and John Muir Books. With her frequent writing partner, Steven Arvanites, she has had film projects developed by Brooklyn Weaver’s Energy Entertainment. Hillary got her start performing and writing sketch comedy Off-Broadway, and was a Heideman Playwrighting Award Finalist. Hillary holds a master's degree in education from Temple University and a master’s of arts degree from Hollins University in children's literature and writing. Currently, she’s a visiting professor of children’s literature and writing at Hollins University.
Hillary Homzie will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.