Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Kids Are Gonna Ask

Title:  The Kids Are Gonna Ask
Author:  Gretchen Anthony
Publication Information:  Park Row. 2020. 416 pages.
ISBN:  077830874X / 978-0778308744

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the Harlequin Trade Publishing 2020 Summer Reads blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The house had become an aquarium - one side tank, the other fingerprint-smeared glass - with Thomas McClair on the inside looking out."

Favorite Quote:  "Some people are meant to stay put, and some people are meant to go. But running is different than going. When you're running, you spend the whole time looking over your shoulder. To go forward, you gotta look forward."

***** Blog Tour *****


Thomas and Savannah are twins. They have never known their father, and they lost their mother Beth to a sudden accident. They are being raised by their grandmother Maggie in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This is not your typical household. Thomas and Savannah are in high school. Savannah is a budding screenwriter and producer. Thomas is an aspiring sound engineer. Maggie seems to collect friends, often inviting people into their homes for dinners prepared by their personal chef. (Yes, they have a personal chef.) Somewhere along the way, they have combined all their interests and started a podcast of Maggie's dinners and the conversations around those dinners. "It's a reminder. That everyone has a voice, and every voice deserves a place at the table."

A time comes that the question of paternity looms larger in the twins' minds, particularly for Thomas. The only information their mother shared was the fact that their conception was the result of a short time association while on vacation. She never expected the relationship to last, but she never said why. Unfortunately, Beth passed away before the twins or Maggie questioned or learned more.

Putting their skills to work, Savannah and Thomas decide to make their search public and conduct it via podcast. One because it's something they know. Second because a podcast will reach more people than they ever could, and someone may know something that will answer their questions.

The question of the father's identity is actually resolved rather early on in the book. The central theme of the book becomes the podcast. Of course, it goes viral. A big name producer gets involved. Social media gets involved. There are proponents and opponents. Both sides are equally vocal, and both sides speak often with no actual information.

This book picks up on the drama that takes place daily online these days of almost any topic in the world. It gets into the manipulation of social media and the influencers who can change the stream of public opinion. "Stories are shaped by the ones who tell them."

Embedded in the public story is the family story of two young people who are surrounded by love and who are looking for answers. Thomas and Savannah display both their maturity and their youth. Maggie loves her daughter and loves her twins, but where are her needs considered? There is a man adrift, who suddenly discovers that he may be father to two children. These emotions ebb and flow with the family trying to address its private concerns in the midst of a public media whirlwind. "And he learned that the worries you think are confined to the space in your head can just as well show up outside it, written in bright letters for all to see."

The characters are quirky, sometimes too much so. Yet, I find myself rooting for them. The topic of podcasts and social media influence is timely, and I have never read a book featuring a podcast as a central component.  Both the personal and the public story leave me with a lot to think about.

About the Book

A whip-smart, entertaining novel about twin siblings who become a national phenomenon after launching a podcast to find the biological father they never knew.

The death of Thomas and Savannah McClair’s mother turns their world upside down. Raised to be fiercely curious by their grandmother Maggie, the twins become determined to learn the identity of their biological father. And when their mission goes viral, an eccentric producer offers them a dream platform: a fully sponsored podcast called The Kids Are Gonna Ask. To discover the truth, Thomas and Savannah begin interviewing people from their mother’s past and are shocked when the podcast ignites in popularity. As the attention mounts, they get caught in a national debate they never asked for—but nothing compares to the mayhem that ensues when they find him.

Cleverly constructed, emotionally perceptive and sharply funny, The Kids Are Gonna Ask is a rollicking coming-of-age story and a moving exploration of all the ways we can go from lost to found.

About the author

GRETCHEN ANTHONY is the author of Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, which was a Midwestern Connections Pick and a best books pick by Amazon, BookBub, PopSugar, and the New York Post. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Medium, and The Write Life, among others. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Q&A with Gretchen Anthony

Q: What message do you hope readers take away from The Kids Are Gonna Ask?

A: I hope readers grow to love the book’s characters in all their imperfections. One of the themes in all my work is how quick we are to judge each other (and yes, I’m guilty, too). Modern tools, especially social media, have only exacerbated our tendency to criticize — not by making us fundamentally more judgmental, but by forever expanding the horizon of our potential outrage. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and SnapChat are Las Vegas buffets for our egos and I’m as guilty as the next person for over indulging.

In contrast, through story, we are transported into our character’s worlds. If a story is well told, we understand why it must unfold as it does. We understand the characters’ choices — we may not like those choices, but we understand how they came to be. Stories have the power to make us humans more empathetic. Less reflexive. Slower to draw our conclusions. And sometimes, we readers even carry a tiny bit of that grace with us into our daily lives.

Q: What's the story behind the story/how you came to write it?

A: I am a huge podcast fan, so the idea of putting a podcast at the heart of a novel was not a stretch for me. The question of what that podcast would be, however, evolved in the aftermath of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Florida. The students there decided they were finished waiting for something to be done about guns in the U.S. and took over the debate, starting a national movement in which their most outspoken leaders, still just kids themselves, became public lightning rods. One side of the debate celebrated them, the other vilified them.

As a mom, I was both moved by and worried for those kids, proud that they stood up so bravely for change, but horrified at the emotional, life-altering toil they had to endure in the process. I wondered, what other issues could cause that sort of public reaction? And what would a personal-public experience be like for someone who’s no longer a child, but not yet an adult? The Kids Are Gonna Ask became my answer.

Q: What's your favorite podcast?

A: How much time to do you have? I have too many favorites! Here are a handful of the shows I look forward to each week.

Pop Culture

Office Ladies — If you’re a fan of the show, this is a must listen. “The Office co-stars and best friends, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, are doing the ultimate The Office re-watch podcast for you. Each week Jenna and Angela will break down an episode of The Office and give exclusive behind the scene stories that only two people who were there, can tell you.”

Mamamia Out Loud — A podcast described as “what women are talking about” from the team at the news and pop culture site, Mamami.com.au. Yes, it’s Australia and yes, they cover some topics we don’t talk about in America, but most of the conversation is universal. These women are so smart and so funny, they brighten my day. Plus, it’s always good to broaden our horizons, no?

Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air — Actor, producer, writer and comedian Larry Wilmore in conversation with leading experts about today’s news and pop culture. Thoughtful, provoking, and funny, every show makes me stop at least once and think, “Okay, that’s brilliant.”

Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend — Who knew celebrity interviews could be this good? No pitches about movies or TV shows, just real conversation between friends. Surprisingly good. For real. You can trust me on this.


You’re Dead to Me — “The history podcast for people who don’t like history.” Part comedy, part history lesson, all terrific. Also, it’s a BBC podcast, so the accents are swooney.

Evil Genius — Another BBC podcast, described as, “It’s good, bad, ugly — and very funny. Changing the way we see heroes and villains in history.” I think of it as a new take on cancel culture.

Web Crawlers — History and comedy meet again. This time, two “internet sleuths” go down some very twisty rabbit holes about recent history’s biggest mysteries. And they don’t take themselves too seriously while they’re at it.

Q: Would you be like the twins and try to find your biological parent?

A: I think a person has to face that question personally in order to answer it truthfully. In researching The Kids are Gonna Ask, I spoke with several people who have non-typical origin stories, and each of them answered that question differently. They taught me again and again that to search or not to search is a deeply personal decision based on innumerable emotional, cultural, familial, geographical, and cultural factors — none of which come with any guarantees. For those who did look, some had happy outcomes, some stories were mixed, and some were heartbreaking. I can’t begin to speculate on what their experience was like or what I would do if faced with the same questions. I do know, however, that I have as much respect for those people who search as for those who choose not to.

Q: Do you have any specific writing rituals (outfit, snacks, pen,music, etc)?

A: I’m quirky about two things: my notebooks and my pens.

I dedicate one notebook to each manuscript I work on. In it, I brainstorm, work through character development, keep track of plot points and dates, etc. The only catch is that, because the brainstorming process is very tactile for me, the notebook has to *feel* right. Not too big, but not too small. Not flimsy, but no hardcovers. Sturdy enough to last the year-plus of manuscript development, but not so sturdy it will lie in the landfill for a thousand years when I’m done with it. And because this *feeling* isn’t a constant from book to book, it often means spending an hour of my time in the stationary aisle at Target flipping through every notebook at my disposal. Good news: I like the notebook I have right now very much. Maybe I’ll even buy another one next time.

As for pens, I sign books and brainstorm with medium point felt tip markers. Don’t give me a fine point. Don’t give me a Sharpie. And don’t even come near me with that plastic ballpoint throw away. I am an artist, can’t you see that?!

Q: Which character do you most relate to in this novel and why?

A: I <3 Savannah. She’s smart and outspoken and she knows what she wants. Only problem is, she’s a girl, and that means she’s also often punished, silently and overtly, for exercising her best traits.

I’m a product of the 80s, when Madonna and Cyndi Lauper wanted us to believe we girls could do anything, and so it makes me want to scream when I see my kids’ friends dealing with the same double-standards in 2020 that we did thirty years ago. I was smart and outspoken like Savannah and I feel protective of her as a character. As I wrote her scenes, the teenage girl in me wanted to whisper in her ear, “You’re doing great. Don’t back down. Stay true to who you are, no matter what happens.”

Q: What can you tell us about your next project?

A: I am currently working on a short, audio-only novel for Audible Originals about a celebrity wellness guru whose personal life isn’t nearly as perfect as she’d like her fans to believe. The title and release date are to come, so watch my website or subscribe to my newsletter for details. www.GretchenAnthony.com

Social Links

Author website: https://www.gretchenanthony.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45297823-the-kids-are-gonna-ask
Twitter: https://twitter.com/granthony
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gretchenanthony.writer/

Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kids-Are-Gonna-Ask-Novel/dp/077830874X

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-kids-are-gonna-ask-gretchen-anthony/1131329819
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778308744
Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Kids-Gonna-Ask/Gretchen-Anthony/9780778308744?id=7941582454467&_ga=2.251093830.1162369720.1594158248-529522754.1594158248#
AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-kids-are-gonna-ask/id1460789878
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Gretchen_Anthony_The_Kids_Are_Gonna_Ask?id=siOYDwAAQBAJ

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