On Strong Female Friendships: The Art of Lainey guest post + giveaway

April 28, 2014 2014, 4 star books, giveaway, hilarious, paula stokes, Wendy 82

The Art of Lainey

I love finding authors who write great stories with humorous dialogue, so The Art of Lainey was such a treat to read! Featuring memorable characters and just the right lighthearted tone, the book is a bit like Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen series (one of my all time contemporary favorites), or like a funnier Sarah Dessen.

My favorite thing about this book is the friendship between Lainey and her best friend–it was particularly enjoyable because the book is ostensibly about Lainey trying to get her ex-boyfriend back. The fabulously frank and funny Bianca is one of the best BFFs I’ve ever read, and I really enjoyed how familiar and comfortable and honest these girls are with each other. It’s our pleasure to welcome author Paula Stokes (aka Fiona Paul!) to The Midnight Garden to talk about why she thinks seeing these kinds of relationships in YA literature is so important.

~ Wendy

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Deconstructing Lainey and Bianca: Creating a Strong Female Friendship

Hey! I’m Paula Stokes. Wendy invited me here to talk about writing a strong female friendship. Thanks for having me on your site, Wendy :-)

I hadn’t really thought about it until a few different reviewers complimented me on the Lainey-Bianca dynamic in The Art of Lainey, but often the romance in a book tends to overshadow the friendship elements. I’m especially proud of Lainey and Bee’s friendship, because both my agent and editor pushed me to strengthen it during the various drafts of the story. First-draft Lainey was a little too mean and first-draft Bee was a bit of a pushover. “Why are they still friends?” my editor asked. I mumbled something I saw in a Diablo Cody movie about how sandbox love never dies. “Okay,” she said. “But we need to feel the past they had together. We need to understand why they accept each other unconditionally, even though they’ve grown in different ways.” Editors…so helpful ;-)

It wasn’t until my last revision that Lainey and Bianca’s BFFship really came to life. Here are a few elements that contributed to this dynamic:

  1. Lainey and Bee are both strong females.

I don’t mean physically strong or even emotionally strong. Lainey is tall and muscular and a star athlete, so sure, she’s tough. But she’s also really sensitive and vulnerable. Bianca is self-actualized and goal-oriented, and yet she has her own insecurities, too. What I mean by strong is tenacity, or strength of spirit. Both of these girls would be okay on their own. Their friendship isn’t based out of loneliness or insecurity. They choose to stay friends because they enjoy being together.

  1. They have a shared history.

This is what was lacking most in my early drafts of the book. I knew Lainey and Bee’s past—every sleepover, every soccer game, every marathon phone conversation, but it wasn’t coming through in the story. Now you find out about how they met, about how Bianca helped Lainey with an unfortunate hair-highlighting incident, how Lainey used to talk to Bee on the phone in the middle of the night when she woke up from a nightmare. I don’t tell you every detail, but I think it’s enough so that readers can kind of fill in the blanks and understand how the friendship got so strong.

  1. They have their own futures.

Real friends don’t need “together forever.” After graduation, Bianca is entering the premed program at Mizzou, about three hours away from St. Louis. Lainey doesn’t know what she’s doing yet. Sure, she’d like to go to Mizzou so she can be with Bianca, but her number one goal is to be able to play soccer in college. This friendship will continue to thrive, even if the girls end up thousands of miles apart. There’s no doubt in my mind that these two will stay close and be bridesmaids for each other someday. That’s just how they roll.

  1. They complement each other.

Both girls are fully formed people with their own likes, hopes, strengths, and weaknesses. Lainey is aggressive and emotional. Bianca is more reserved and laid back. Whenever Lainey starts to get all dramatic, Bee reels her in. Later, when Bianca needs someone to support her, Lainey steps up immediately. They have a certain synergy.

  1. They are supportive instead of competitive.

Lainey and Bee don’t compete—on or off the field. Lainey is very competitive, but she doesn’t need to remind herself how she’s better at soccer than Bianca to feel good. She knows Bianca is smart and beautiful and goal-oriented. Occasionally Lainey envies her friend, but that’s just because she wishes she were more like her, not better than her. Bianca knows Lainey is more popular and athletic, but she doesn’t feel jealous or play the role of second best. She’s got her own things that matter to her.

  1. They keep it real.

Bianca and Lainey talk about all kinds of stuff in this book—high school, college, soccer, boys, dating, fear—nothing is out of bounds. Bee calls Lainey out repeatedly in the book. “Maybe you’re lonely and you just want to be with someone.” “Maybe this is just about winning.” “I knew you’d pressure me into talking to him, even if I wasn’t ready.” Between lesser friends, these words could come across as hurtful. But Lainey and Bianca trust each other completely, so when Bee has something to say, Lainey takes it to heart, even if she doesn’t want to. These two know when to comfort each other and when to call each other on their crap. For me personally, that’s always been one of the hallmark tests of true friendship. Real friends manage to be both honest and supportive, even when it’s hard.

  1. They share amazing book-moments.

These girls have friend-chemistry, the same way certain romantic pairings sizzle on the page. I love every scene with them—the ones where Bee teaches Lainey how to interpret The Art of War, the heartfelt phone conversations, the scene closer to the end where Lainey is helping Bee get ready for a date but doesn’t want to slather her up with makeup because she’s perfect just as she is. All of these moments define Lainey and her emotional growth just as much as her scenes with Micah. I know Lainey starts out kind of vapid and clueless and that was intentional. But by the end of the book, she’s learned a lot about love, friendship, and what really matters. Much of that is thanks to her interactions with Bianca.

I try to write stories as they unfold in my brain, letting my characters do and say what they want to do and then gradually shaping their actions into books that (hopefully) work for both my readers and me. I wanted The Art of Lainey to be a very positive, girl-power story, not just another romance. I hope that people find joy in Lainey and Bee’s adventures, and perhaps even think of their own close friendships as they read.

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Paula Stokes photoAbout the Author

Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where she graduated from Washington University and the Goldfarb School of Nursing. When she’s not writing, she’s kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers! Find her website , Facebook, Pinterest, GoodReads, or on Twitter.


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the art of laineyThe Art of Lainey
by Paula Stokes

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with, if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?

The Art of Lainey will be released on May 20th, 2014 from Harper Teen.

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International Art of Lainey Giveaway!

Thanks to the author, we’re offering up an autographed finished copy of this book to one of our lucky readers! All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form, and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re interested in the book and/or what your favorite fictional friendship is.

This giveaway is international, and open to all readers aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. Please see entry form for complete details. Good luck!

Giveaway copy and photos appear courtesy of the author.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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82 Responses to “On Strong Female Friendships: The Art of Lainey guest post + giveaway”

  1. Courtney

    I’ve read some really great reviews for this book! I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Phyllis Huang

    I want to read this because of my heritage. The war methods is from my background and I grew up learning abut it so this so super cool!

  3. Fatima Balfaqih

    Hi, everyone! I really can’t wait to read this book because the premise is so interesting & I feel like my friend has gone through this a little bit and I’m sooooo wanting to see if art imitates life hahaha! Not only that, but I really really love contemporaries and the author! My favourite fictional friendship has got to be Sophie and Jenna from the Hex Hall trilogy! It was such an unlikely friendship and they were wary of each other at first, but the two believe in each other and that’s what I love about their friendship :)
    Fatima Balfaqih recently posted…TOP THURSDAY’S: Kick-Ass Female Characters!

  4. Katy Herndon

    I love reading really good friendships in books. Too often the best friend is just a side-note or a plot device, so I am really excited to read The Art of Lainey and read about her friendships and relationships.
    One of my favorite fictional friendships is that of Legolas and Gimli in Lord of the Rings. I just love how they get over their prejudices and trust each other completely. (Not exactly YA, but I’m a sucker for fantasy!!)
    Katy Herndon recently posted…Manatees Are The Best

  5. Kristen

    I’ve heard so much about this book, and I am so excited to read it. One of my favorite bookish friendships is the one between Harry, Hermione, and Ron in Harry Potter. :)

  6. Keely

    I accidentally messed up on the first entry (hit enter in the middle of writing my email) but it is ringette30(AT)gmail(DOT)com
    Also, I’m interested in this summer read mainly because it is in the summer and I heard the book is supposed to be amazing.
    Keely recently posted…Bout of Books Day #4

  7. Meredith @ Pandora's Books

    I want to win this book because, before I started blogging about a year ago, I wasn’t a big fan of contemporary. I mocked it, even. But since blogging, I’ve discovered some AMAZING contemporary novels that I’m SO GLAD I decided to read. It’s opened me up to a whole new group of authors. I think The Art of Lainey sounds amazing and I really want to give it a try. As for my favorite fictional friendship… I really loved Reagan and Dee in Open Road Summer. Some people become famous and forget the people they knew before, but through all her fame and touring, Dee never forgot Reagan. They remained great friends and saw each other through a lot of tough times!

    Thanks for an amazing giveaway!
    Meredith @ Pandora’s Books recently posted…Review: Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

  8. Miss. Lucinda Fountain

    My favourite friendship has to be Ron, Hermione and Harry’s. They are a terrific trio whose courage, unity and strength never ceases to amaze and is proven to stand the test of time – no matter what danger and outside influences threaten to tear them apart.

    Thanks so much for the giveaway! I am so excited about this book. x

  9. Emz Chang

    I’m interested in reading The Art of Lainey for many various reasons. The first one being I’m extremely curious how Lainey is going to use The Art of War to win the war of love. I’ve also had the chance to read a tiny excerpt of it, and I LOVED it! Plus, it’s always fun to read about a good friendship.
    Emz Chang recently posted…Investigated – What makes a good adaptation?

  10. Deyse

    My favorite fictional friendship has to be Harry&Ron&Hermione, from the Harry Potter series, this was my first fantasy read and seeing the way the three of them grow together (and made me grow) was something magical itself, this series and it’s characters are a important part of what I’m today.
    Deyse recently posted…I Become Shadow, by Joe Shine

  11. Nerissa

    Firstly, I love contemporary AND I have seen so so SO many people rave about this! Secondly, I find the premise of this book really interesting! It feels really fresh and new and I just need to get my hands on this book to know what happens in this ‘war’ :)! Also Micah seems so cute already! I want to love him!

    My favorite fictional friendship is that of Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley. Both of them are not your typical heroes and indeed they get into all kinds of trouble. But in the end, they never give up on each other and they will always have each others back. I want to have a friend like that one day who will never turn his or her back on me and will be loyal to me always.
    Nerissa recently posted…Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by

  12. Carol

    I love reading about women and their relationships. There is not enough literature with strong woman-woman bonds. I find it so refreshing when an author does this, and has them bond over real things, not just over talking about boys! I’d love a chance to read this.

    • Nerissa

      I agree with this too! Although, I wrote that my favourite fictional friendship is between two boys, I do feel that there is indeed not enough literature with straong woman-woman bonds because they usually fall out over something easy or one uses the other, or just talks about boys… I love it when they support each other and give advice which helps one another and helps the story progress!
      Nerissa recently posted…Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by

  13. Mary H

    This book is amazing, and I LOVE this post. Lainey and Bianca have an amazing friendship. I think it’s incredible that Paula wanted to focus so much on their relationship even while the book is technically about Lainey’s romantic goings-on. It shows that Paula was dedicated to making a good book! My favorite fictional relationship has to be Aria and Roar from Through the Ever Night. Best strictly platonic boy/girl friendship ever.

  14. Sashana

    My favorite fictional friendship is between Lena, Tibby, Carmen, and Bridget from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. All of the girls are such different people but they still love and support each other. Their friendship isn’t always easy but it’s always worth it.

  15. Jonnie

    I’ve been looking for another book to dive into…May 20, huh? I have it marked on my calendar!

  16. Siobhan

    My favourite friendship in YA literature would have to be the friendship between the four girls in Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. All four girls were so different, yet it felt genuine and believable, and had to be one of the most positive and healthy portrayal of friendship I’ve come across.

  17. Hope Tweeddale

    I really really really want to read this book!! Looks amazing!!
    Ummm its hard to say :P I quite like Roar and Perry’s, from Under the Never Sky :)
    Thanks so much for this giveaway! so excited!!

  18. Jade

    Really looking forward to this book! It has such an artsy title and the concept is quite original.

  19. Jen

    I love books with strong female friendships. I think that’s what was most important to me in high school. Yes, the boys were nice, but you couldn’t survive without your friends. There aren’t many strong female bonds in YA these days, or at least not the ones I’ve read, but my favourite will always be Kaylee and Emma from the Soul Screamers series. Thanks for the giveaway!
    Jen recently posted…Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

  20. Clare

    Sounds great – love a book with a strong female friendship at the core of it – hope to read it soon!

  21. Hannah

    I want to read it because it sounds awesome!:D I’ve heard great things about this book!
    Thanks for the giveaway

  22. Gavin

    I can’t wait to read this book. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book.

  23. Kate I.

    “Funnier Sarah Dessen” and “strong female friendship” = color me intrigued. My favorite literary friendship would be the triumvirate of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Female friendship would be Rizzoli and Isles.

  24. Christine T

    I’ve heard good things about this book and the blurb piqued my interests!

  25. Kaitlyn

    I’m excited for this because I loved this author’s other books! And it’s so hard to choose a favorite fictional friendship, but I just love the friendship between Lucy and Reepicheep in the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s so sweet and it’s always been a favorite of mine. :)

  26. Jassie

    I want to read this book because of the blurb itself <3

  27. Lisa (Fic Talk)

    I am so for books that deal with strong female relationships!

    I find that quite a few YA books deal with the bff that brings the other one down, has something snide to say about the other, is the “slutty” bff, ugh, gag me. I’m over that.

    I like to see great relationships because that is what I have. My BFF and I do not live in the same country anymore, but we find a way to deal. Life goes on and we’ve found a way to make it work. This year will be 21 years since we’ve been friends. It’s amazing when I think about it.
    Lisa (Fic Talk) recently posted…Comment on Would you like to review for Fic Talk? by Savannah

  28. Cynthia @ Jellyfish Reads

    This post is awesome! I often complain in my reviews that the author hasn’t really shown me the depth of the friendships in the book. The portrayal of friendships is one of the most important things to me in any book I read. I agree with all of these points here and now I really want to read this book! Thanks for the giveaway! (:
    Cynthia @ Jellyfish Reads recently posted…Review: Pantomime by Laura Lam

  29. Pauline

    I’m interested to know how The Art of War will be shown in the book! This book seems exciting to read :D I love the friendship of Mia and Kim from Gayle Forman’s If I Stay. The two of them were just meant to become friends, no matter what <3
    Pauline recently posted…Review: Without You

  30. Zaira F

    I am so excited to see the friendship and how Lainey will channel her “inner warlord” to get Jason back. Also, Micah and his relationship with Lainey!

    Some of my favorite fictional friendships are Roar and Aria from Under the Never Sky & Will and Jem in The Infernal Devices.

  31. Hasnita Singh

    What interests me about this book is that I love reading books about friendships and it really sounds amusing. My favourite fictional friendship would be the friendship Lissa and Rose share in Vampire Academy series. They’re loyal to each other and would take a bullet for another.

  32. Amenah

    Coming from someone who reads more than she should and writes more than she reads, one of the /hardest/ things I find when it comes to making realistic characters is defining friendships between them. It always ends up sounding forced, or cheesy, or unrealistic, or boring (or ends up accidentally evolving into a romance…) — I’m ALWAYS on the prowl for books with amazing friendships.
    Plus, the story of the book itself sounds really cute. It’s something I’d pick up in the library without a second thought.
    Amenah recently posted…Divergent by Veronica Roth || Book Review

  33. Danna

    I heart nothing but good things about this book! I really want to read this!

  34. Lauren

    I am curious about reading The Art of Lainey because of the emphasis on friendship. That can be hard to portray in a book but it sounds like Paula succeeded!

  35. Julia

    I would like the book to read and share with the girls in my small town. Also, my favorite girl friendship is from the book series Allison Chronicles.

  36. fishgirl182

    Though I love a good romance, I really hate how a lot of books these days don’t have strong female friendships. This is so different than my real life that I can usually spot the lack right away. I love the idea that these two characters are supportive and not competitive, which is a more common theme with female friendships. I definitely want to read this book now!
    fishgirl182 recently posted…Clean Sweep ARC Challenge May 2014

  37. Margaret Gallina

    I’m really interested in this book because i would want to give it to my little sister. She’s in 9th grade and is struggling with friendships.

  38. Moulin

    The story sounds interesting and I’ve heard great things about this book from other bloggers/reviewers as well. Can’t wait to read it! :]

  39. Carina Olsen

    Amazing post you guys. <3 Thank you so much for sharing. I have yet to read The Art of Lainey, but I really, really want to :D I think the cover is really sweet, and I have seen lots of people loving this book. Which is why I want to read it, hih. So glad you liked it Wendy :D (Even bigger reason for me wanting to read it, hih.) I love the post as well. I really love reading about strong female relationships. That is always a plus in books :) Though yeah. It does not happen all the time. Grrr. And omg. Thank you both so much for the amazing giveaway. <3 *Fingers crossed* :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Cress Tuesday #27

  40. Rabiah

    I can’t WAIT to read this one– it sounds SO GOOD <3 and that cover as well!!! AHHH :D Thanks for the amazing giveaway! My favourite fictional friendship would have to be, of course, the Harry-Ron-Hermoine one :P
    Rabiah recently posted…Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

  41. Priscilla

    My favourite fictional friendship is Akiva and Hazael from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series! Who says siblings can’t be friends? :)

    Our female protagonist looks like a headstrong character, which I appreciate!
    Priscilla recently posted…#GetYourWriteOn Prompt II

  42. Emily Childress-Campbell

    I remember growing up how angry I was when female friendship was not represented in movies and books as if the ultimate story was romance. Glad to hear there are authors filling this void.

  43. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I loved this book for so many reasons, though the friendship between Lainey and Bianca was a large aspect of the story I adored. It felt so realistic, with these friends supporting one another and always willing to help mentally/emotionally even if they weren’t always present physically. Stokes managed to build such a true foundation for their friendship, one that will certainly sustain itself, and their conversations were so complex and deep — like conversations I sustain with my friends but are always so absent from literature. It really was perfectly written, so thanks for sharing this post, Wendy! :)
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Just Another…Book Crush (#14): What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

  44. Larissa

    I’ve just read a story where the romance completely and utterly overshadows not only the plot of the story, but also an amazing friendship /: it’s so sad to see a great friendship being tossed to the side in favor of romance. I quite enjoyed reading Paula’s description of the friendship between Lainey and Bianca. I can already tell how organic and realistic their friendship will be.

    Thanks so much for the giveaway! (: I’m definitely interested in this one now that I’m aware of the great friendship portrayed within.
    Larissa recently posted…Review: The Dark World by Cara Lynn Shultz

  45. Vivien

    Oh yay!! I’m so thrilled to hear the good news. Characters are so important to my reading experience. I just read a novel that gave me the feels. Even though I didn’t think the book was written perfectly, the characters just made me fall for the book. And it doesn’t always have to be a happy relationship, because life is just messy. So often I find the messier the better, or at least more memorable.

    One of my favorites that come to mind is Rose and Lissa from the VA. Their friendship always felt so real to me. I often envied it. I also personally love when as a reader we can see the impact of one character on another. Even if they aren’t always around or in a close relationship. A book that comes to mind is Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard. The lasting impression that Mandarin leaves on Grace is one that really spoke to me.

    And really, that’s what I love about reading contemporary novels. They each speak to us so differently. That’s why I have a hard time not reading as many as I can. While they won’t all be stellar, there will certainly be a lot of gems. Some of my all time favorites have been contemporary novels. So glad you enjoyed this one. I’ll be putting it on my radar.

  46. Ann

    My favorite fictional friendship is the one between Locke and Jean on the Gentleman Bastard series

  47. Pili

    I was very curious about this book just by reading the synopsis, but when I’ve been reading about how the book is much more than just a regular contemporary romance and that it is more about Lainey growing as a person and how important the friendship between Lainey and Bianca is to the story… I was totally sold! I already have a Kindle copy preordered!
    My favourite friendship that comes to mind right now is the one between Hermione, Harry and Ron, how they are different and don’t have all that much in common but still compliment each other so well!
    Pili recently posted…Mark This Book Monday: ARC Review of The Falconer by Elizabeth May!!

  48. Sarah F

    I can’t wait to read this book, it sounds so amazing! I love books with great friendships and from what you’ve written Lainey and Bee sound like awesome friends. Thanks for the giveaway!

  49. Maria Cruz

    I love the idea of strong women friendships, most supporting characters turn into love interests or enemies but two besties on a romance hunt and laughs along the way is so original and real. I can’t wait to read it!

  50. Olivia Ngai

    This post makes me so happy! I read too many books now where the romantic relationships start to rule over the main characters, and it seems like there’s no room in there for other kinds of relationships. My favorite female friendships include Vianne and Armande from Chocolat, and Lily and Rosaleen and Lily and August in The Secret Life of Bees.
    Olivia Ngai recently posted…Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware

  51. Sarah F

    My favorite literary friendship has to be Anne and Diana from Anne of Green Gables…such a classic. As a matter of fact I LOVE books that feature strong female friendships which is why I am so excited to get my hands on this book! Great giveaway…thanks so much!

  52. Lori

    I love the Penderwicks series! The relationships between all of the sisters are so relatable!

    • Maria Cruz

      I know what you mean! I love reading about sisters, as I have some of my own and the relationships we have is crazy, not explainable but heartfelt.

  53. Janice

    This hits it right on the head: “…but often the romance in a book tends to overshadow the friendship elements.” I want that balance of romance and strong friendships in my books because life doesn’t start and end with falling in love, there are so many other relationships out there that make up a person’s life.
    Janice recently posted…Cousins

  54. Karin Shaim

    a good friend of mine recommended this book to me so I really want to read it!

  55. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    This sounds fabulous. I love my romance, but a lot of the YAs I’ve read recently have fallen a bit short of my expectations, b/c the romance was all they’ve had going for them. The supporting characters were flat, and when the support is flat, the MCs are never all that they could be. Clearly Stokes understands that. Great post!
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins